I do enjoy horror movies centering around real or supposed "Satanism." Not the Satanism of the Church of Satan, which is fascinating in its own right, but the movie kind. You know, seemingly "normal" people (often senior citizens) engaging in dark arts meant to bring about something evil through a ritual of some sort. The movies pretty much follow the same pattern, but it's a pattern that works.
Enter the 2009 The House of the Devil.
This film looks like an '80s horror movie. From hairstyles to cinematography, everything about it screams that it was made when Back to the Future was on everyone's mind. It's an effect that feels both out of place and perfectly at home at the same time. Even the plot feels like you've seen it before ... because you have.
A babysitter takes a job under strange circumstances at a strange house inhabited by strange people. She then finds herself part of a Satanic (again, movie Satan) ritual during an eclipse. The end has the usual "surprise" awaiting viewers. It's the same plot that's been used before, but it feels kind different because there hasn't really been a movie like this in quite some time. Granted, there have been other movies dealing with similar themes recently (The Last Exorcism, for example), but they all look modern. Director/writer Ti West understands what people who grew up with horror movies in the '80s remember and love, and he faithfully reproduces it here. It is unapologetic, too. It doesn't make social commentary. It isn't cynical. It follows the formula to the proverbial "T," and that makes it work.
I saw this movie over a month ago and I keep revisiting it mentally. Dissecting it; thinking about why it works so well. I streamed it over Netflix and had some issues with lag here and there, but stuck with it, and am thoroughly glad I did. While I usually like my films darker, I can appreciate exactly what West did here. Rarely do you find a director who sets out to do something and pulls it off without a hitch. Watch this, and if you don't think you're watching something from the '80s, well, you never watched a horror movie from that time period.
Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this movie for free. Click on a link will possibly earn me a commission. Hiring babysitters will usually cause bloodshed.
-Doug Brunell (America's Favorite Son)