The House of the Devil

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The House of the Devil
The House of the Devil.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Neil Kellerhouse
Directed byTi West
Produced by
Written byTi West
Music byJeff Grace
CinematographyEliot Rockett
Edited byTi West
Distributed byMPI Media Group
Release date
  • April 25, 2009 (2009-04-25) (Tribeca)
  • October 30, 2009 (2009-10-30) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$101,215[3]

The House of the Devil is a 2009 American horror film written, directed, and edited by Ti West, starring Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, A. J. Bowen, and Dee Wallace.

The plot concerns a young college student who is hired as a babysitter at an isolated house and is soon caught up in bizarre and dangerous events as she fights for her life.

The film 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 pays homage to horror films of the 1970s and 1980s, recreating the style of films of that era using filming techniques and similar technology to what was used then. The film's opening text claims that it is based upon true events, a technique used in some horror films, such as The Amityville Horror and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.


In the 1980s, college student Samantha Hughes inspects a house she wishes to rent. Due to Samantha reminding her of her own daughter, the landlady forgoes a deposit in favor of one month's rent in advance. Samantha is struggling financially, so she takes on a babysitting job for Mr. Ulman and his wife. Ulman asks to meet her but stands her up, later apologizing and offering to pay double the original salary. Samantha accepts and gets a ride to the remote mansion from her best friend, Megan. At the house, Mr. Ulman pulls her aside and reveals that he does not have any children to be monitored; although he has a child, his son is now grown. The babysitting job is to attend to his wife's ailing mother, whom he refers to as "able-bodied." Samantha balks but finally agrees when she is offered $400 for the job, a significant increase in her pay. Megan immediately leaves, citing Ulman's lies and peculiar behavior, but she reluctantly promises to pick up Samantha later. Before the Ulmans depart, Samantha speaks with Mrs. Ulman, who tells her they are from "the desert."

On the way home, Megan stops in her car to smoke a cigarette. When her lighter will not work, a stranger appears out of nowhere, startling her, and lights her cigarette for her. When Megan reveals that she is not the babysitter hired by the Ulmans, the stranger abruptly shoots and kills her. Samantha orders a pizza from a number that Mr. Ulman had repeatedly recommended she call. While waiting for the delivery, she dances around the house while listening to her Walkman, accidentally breaking a vase in the process. While cleaning up the mess, she discovers a cupboard filled with old family photographs. In one photograph, a different family than the Ulmans stands next to the Volvo she and Megan saw upon pulling up to the house. Later, three corpses are shown in one of the rooms, with the implication that they are the family in the photograph and the true residents of the house.

Samantha, shaken by a number of issues at the house and by the sudden arrival of the pizza she ordered (delivered by the same man that killed Megan), dials 911, but tells the operator that it was an accidental call. Drugs in the pizza eventually cause Samantha to pass out, just as she discovers activity behind a door leading to the third floor. When she comes to, she finds that she has been bound and gagged in the center of a Pentagram. As a lunar eclipse darkens the night sky, Mr. and Mrs. Ulman, along with the stranger, who is their son Victor, begin a bizarre ritual. Mother is revealed to be a grotesque, witch-like figure. As part of the ritual she slices Samantha's arm and pours the blood into a goat skull. She uses the blood to draw occult symbols on Samantha's stomach and forehead, and forces Samantha to drink her blood from the skull.

Samantha manages to escape halfway through the ritual, and finds Megan's bloody corpse in the kitchen. She kills Mrs. Ulman and Victor, but horrific images of Mother begin appearing in her mind. Mr. Ulman chases her out of the house and through a nearby cemetery. There, he tells her she was chosen and that it is her destiny to accept "him." Samantha threatens him with the gun used to kill Megan, but Ulman passively accepts his fate, claiming to be a messenger and gloating that she is too late. Instead of shooting him, she shoots herself in the head, to Ulman's horror. The scene cuts to a broadcast about the strange lunar eclipse the night before, which has confounded scientists due to its abrupt ending, as Samantha is revealed to be in a hospital bed, her head in bandages. A nurse walks in and pats the unconscious Samantha on the stomach, reassuring her that "You will be just fine. Both of you."


Additionally, Lena Dunham voices a 911 operator and writer-director Ti West appears as a teacher.


The film was shot in Connecticut. Taking place in the 1980s, the film was made with 16mm film, giving it a retro stylistic look that matched the decade.[4] Similarly, some aspects of the culture of the 1980s (i.e. feathered hair, Samantha's 1980 Sony Walkman, The Fixx's 1983 song "One Thing Leads to Another", The Greg Kihn Band's 1981 song "The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'Em)", and the Volvo 240 sedan) are seen in the film as signifiers of the decade.[5] 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.[6] Other stylistic signifiers include opening credits (which became less common in films in the decades after the 1980s) in yellow font accompanied by freeze-frames and the closing credits being played over a still image of the final scene.


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.[7][8] The DVD and Blu-ray of the film were released on February 2, 2010.[9][10] 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.[11][12]


The soundtrack for The House of the Devil was released in November 2009 as a double feature with the score of I Can See You, both by composer Jeff Grace.[13]

  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)

Tracks from 15 to 26 comprise the soundtrack for I Can See You.


The film received a score of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 98 reviews; the site's consensus states that "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."[14] It also received an aggregate score of 73 on Metacritic, based on 18 critic ratings, indicating "Generally favorable reviews."[15]

Roger Ebert gave it 3 out of 4 stars, complimenting its use of subtlety and tension as being "an introduction for some audience members to the Hitchcockian definition of suspense."[16] Oliver Smith of 7films similarly compared it to staples of the genre, praising that "as the great horror films of past days, such as The Omen or Rosemary’s Baby, The House of the Devil is a slow-burning horror film".[17] Kevin Sommerfield from Slasher Studios gave the film four out of four stars, commenting that the film is "not just a nostalgia piece for director Ti West, one of the best horror directors working today", but that it also reflected "how horror movies should be made".[18]

Self-proclaimed redneck film critic Joe Bob Briggs has praised the film as "just a superb slow-burn, extremely well-crafted movie."[19]

In a review for Salon, Stephanie Zacharek indicated that she liked the movie, declaring it "clever" and "somewhat a novelty". Zacharek perceived it as "obviously made with love", though conceding that the film is likely "not going to change the face or direction of horror filmmaking in any drastic way"[20].

Some critics were less kind, critiquing the pacing or originality of the film. Kyle Smith of the New York Post admitted that it was "creepy", but that it took "a little too long to arrive" at its climatic culmination. Kirk Honeycutt from The Hollywood Reporter judged the film to be derivative, rather than flatteringly imitative, calling the film and its genre "banal"[21].

The film won a few awards shortly after its release, but was largely absent from most major competitions and film festivals, and from the public eye, possibly due to its limited theatrical release and low budget. It won the 2009 Birmingham Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival award for Best Feature Film. At 2009 Screamfest, it won festival trophies for Best Actress (Jocelin Donahue) and Best Score (Jeff Grace).[22]

Venue Year Award Result
Birmingham Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival 2009 (Sept 25th-27th) Best Feature Film Won
Chicago International Film Festival (45th) 2009 (Oct 8th-22nd) After Dark Competition Nominated
Screamfest Horror Film Festival (9th) 2009 (Oct 16th-25th) Best Actress (Jocelin Donahue) Won
Best Musical Score (Jeff Grace)
Fangoria Chainsaw Awards 2010 Best Supporting Actor (Tom Noonan) Nominated
Best Score (Jeff Grace)
Independent Spirit Awards (25th) 2010 (March 5th) Producers Award Larry Fessenden Nominated
Saturn Awards (36th) 2010 (June 24th) Best DVD Release Nominated
Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival 2010 (July 15th-25th) Best of Puchon (Ti West) Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Longworth, Karina (April 20, 2009). "Ti West Interview, The House of the Devil, Tribeca 2009". Archived from the original on April 24, 2009.
  2. ^ Brown, Philip (2012-01-30). "Director Ti West on The Innkeepers and the Current State of the Horror Genre | TMR". Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  3. ^ "The House of the Devil (2009)". Box Office Mojo. 2009-12-31. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  4. ^ Zimmerman, Sam. "Terrifyingly Gnarly #18 – HOUSE OF THE DEVIL’s A.J. BOWEN". Fangoria. October 28, 2009.
  5. ^ "New Viral Ad: The House of the Devil -- Looking for a Babysitter". DreadCentral.
  6. ^ Tobias, Scott. "The New Cult Canon: The House of the Devil". The AV Club. February 25, 2010.
  7. ^ "Video: Take a Trip Through 'The House of the Devil'". 2009-10-08. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  8. ^ "Video Interview: 'House of the Devil' Director Ti West and Star Jocelin Donahue". 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  9. ^ Barton, Steve (2009-12-02). "DVD and Blu-ray Art and Specs for Ti West's The House of the Devil". Dread Central. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  10. ^ "Updated 'House of the Devil' DVD/Blu-ray Specs". 2010-01-06. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  11. ^ "The Coolest Promo Ever? 'The House of the Devil' on VHS!". 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  12. ^ Barton, Steve (2010-01-07). "Badass House of the Devil Collectible VHS". Dread Central. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  13. ^ Barton, Steve (2009-11-14). "New Double-Feature Soundtrack Coming: The House of the Devil / I Can See You". Dread Central. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  14. ^ "The House of the Devil". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  15. ^ House of the Devil, The. Metacritic. Retrieved November 8, 2009.
  16. ^ Boone, Steven. "The House of the Devil Movie Review (2009) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  17. ^ 7 Disquietingly Moody Horror Films Archived 2011-11-04 at the Wayback Machine. "7films". October 1, 2011
  18. ^ "The Best 80's Horror Movie Made In 2009: "House of the Devil" Review". Slasher Studios. 2011-03-13. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  19. ^ Wardlaw, Matt, "Joe Bob Briggs, Who Speaks on Wednesday at the Capitol Theatre, Talks About His 'Outlaw' Approach to Writing About Film," Cleveland Scene (Oct. 3, 2019)
  20. ^ ""The House of the Devil": Creepy, stylish fun". Salon. 2009-10-30. Retrieved 2019-10-22.
  21. ^ "The House of the Devil -- Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-10-22.
  22. ^ The House of The Devil Review and Screamfest Awards. Retrieved June 4, 2010.

External links[edit]