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The House of the Devil

Theatrical release poster, done in the style of a film poster from the 1980s
Directed by Ti West
Produced by Josh Braun
Derek Curl
Roger Kass
Peter Phok
Written by Ti West
Starring Jocelin Donahue
Tom Noonan
Mary Woronov
Music by Jeff Grace
Cinematography Eliot Rockett
Editing by Ti West
Studio Dark Sky Films
Glass Eye Pix
Release date(s) October 30, 2009 United States(limited)[1]
Running time 95 min[2].
Language English

The House of the Devil is a 2009 horror film written, directed, and edited by Ti West, starring Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, and Mary Woronov. It combines elements of both the slasher film and haunted house subgenres while using the "satanic panic" of the 1980s as a central plot element. The film attempts to recreate the style of horror films from the 1970s and 1980s, using similar filming techniques and film technology as those which were used during the era. Unlike other films made in the 1990s and 2000s that attempted to revive the horror genre (for instance, the Scream films), the film does not use satire or irony to convey the story, but plays it straight in order to be as true as possible to the style of the decade's horror films.[3]



College student Samantha Hughes takes on a babysitting job in a remote mansion in order to make the down payment on a one-bedroom apartment she has had her eye on. The pay is good, but after Samantha is taken to the house by her friend, Megan, she realizes that something isn't quite right. While Megan is driving home from dropping off Samantha, she is shot and killed. The old couple who live in the house, Mr. and Mrs. Ulman, confess that they, in fact, do not have any children, and it isn't long before Samantha realizes that she is trapped.[4] She finds photos in a closet that hint that the couple murdered the family that really lived there, as the car driven by the Ulmans is pictured in those photos. She orders a pizza (which, unknown to her, is spiked with drugs) which causes her to pass out after eating some of it. As a lunar eclipse darkens the night sky, her employers carry out a horrific ritual with Samantha at the center. She escapes part of the way through the ritual, but horrific images begin appearing in her mind. When she is chased out of the house by Mr. Ulman, he states that it is too late to reverse it. She threatens to kill him with the gun that Megan was murdered with, and he agrees to die, for he is just a messenger. Instead of shooting him, she shoots herself in the head. The film cuts to her in a hospital bed. A nurse walks in and tells the unconscious Samantha that she will be okay. The nurse then pats Samantha belly and tells Samantha that her baby will be okay as well.[5]

While the year of the film's setting is never stated in the film itself, it is hinted at being 1983 by a scene where Samantha dances while listening to "One Thing Leads to Another" by The Fixx.

The film claims to be based upon true events.[6] However, what actual events it is purportedly based on is not mentioned in the film or in any press releases. This is likely a homage to other horror films of the late 1970s and early 1980s that made such claims (often false or only partially true), such as The Amityville Horror.


Actor Role
Jocelin Donahue Samantha Hughes
Tom Noonan Mr. Ulman
Mary Woronov Mrs. Ulman
Greta Gerwig Megan
AJ Bowen Victor Ulman
Dee Wallace Landlady


The film was shot in Connecticut, USA. Taking place in the 1980s, the film was made with 16mm film, giving it a retro stylistic look that matched the decade.[7] Similarly, some aspects of the culture of the 1980s (i.e. feathered hair, Samantha's 1980 Sony Walkman) are seen in the film as signifiers of the decade.[8] The cinematography of the film also reflects the methods used by directors of the time. For instance, West often has the camera zoom in on characters (rather than dolly in as is now common in film), a technique that was often used in horror films of the 1970s and continued to be used into the 1980s.[9]


The United States premiere was at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 25. It was made available through video on demand on October 1, 2009. The film was given a limited theatrical release in the United States on October 30, 2009.[10][11] The DVD and Blu-Ray of the film were released on February 2, 2010.[12][13] A promotional copy of the film was released on VHS in a clamshell box like the ones that many early VHS films of the 1980s came in.[14][15]


The Soundtrack was released as Double Feature with the score of the I Can See You movie and created from Avantgarde composer Jeff Grace.[16]

  1. Opening (1.10)
  2. Family Photos (2.24)
  3. The View Upstairs (1.45)
  4. Original Inhabitants (3.05)
  5. Meeting Mr. Ulman (1.12)
  6. Keep the Change (1.12)
  7. Footsteps (1.27)
  8. Mother (3.07)
  9. Chalice (0.51)
  10. On the Run (3.45)
  11. Lights Out (3.04)
  12. He's Calling You (1.50)
  13. The House of the Devil (5.49)
  14. Mrs. Ulman (2.04)


The film has been met with mostly positive reviews, scoring 86% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 66 reviews; the site's reviews' consensus is "Though its underlying themes are familiar, House of the Devil effectively sheds the loud and gory cliches of contemporary horror to deliver a tense, slowly building throwback to the fright flicks of decades past."[17] It has also received an overall score of 73 on Metacritic based on 12 reviews, indicating "Generally favorable reviews."[18] Roger Ebert gave it 3 out of 4 stars, complimenting it as being "an introduction for some audience members to the Hitchcockian definition of suspense."[19]

The film won a few awards shortly after its release. It won the 2009 Birmingham Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival award for Best Feature Film. At the 2009 Screamfest it won festival trophies for Best Actress (Jocelin Donahue) and Best Score (Jeff Grace).


External links

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