House of the Devil is a technically impressive imitation of ’70s horror movies (some of which I quite enjoy! I’ll watch the hell out of Black Christmas, say), but in the end, it just doesn’t amount to much.
It has a few nice moments (the sudden death in the car in the graveyard gave me hope!), but was mostly a whole lot of empty time-filling. I just don’t find ’70s hair and clothes and furnishings diverting enough to make up for the lack of… much of anything at all happening. I’ve often said the greatest sin of art is to be boring…. and both myself and my longtime horror-watching partner Katrina found it dull dull dull. If it had been a half-hour-long short, it would have been great, though. (I’ve watched and enjoyed some of writer/director Ti West’s other shorts, especially “Second Honeymoon” from V/H/S.)
It was way too much about form and not enough about content, basically.
Many viewers loved it, which may be an indication that my brain is rotted and my attention span degraded and that I don’t have the patience for slow rising tension… except I’ll happily watch, like, a found-footage movie that has 70 minutes of doors creaking and curtains twitching and ten minutes of actual monsterghostdemon action, so I don’t think that’s it. I suspect the real reason this one didn’t work for me is just that I’ve just got the wrong set of nostalgia receptors.
We also watched the first episode of the Scream TV series, and while it too is largely an homage to old horror (namely its namesake, that most ’90s of slasher franchises), it also managed to be fresh and lively and self-aware in a way that I found charming and entertaining. (The cast is way too damn white, though.) We’ll keep watching it.