November 1st, 2013: House of the Devil (2009)

House of the Devil

Cast and Crew:  Lena Dunham

What It’s About:  College student and neat-freak good-girl Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) desperately wants to move out of the dorm she shares with her slutty, slovenly roommate Heather (Heather Robb.  Her prospective landlady (Dee Wallace) agrees to take just the first month’s rent, but Sam still can’t afford it.  When she sees a flier advertising a baby sitting opportunity, she calls from a pay phone-and somehow gets called immediately back.  Mr. Ullman (Tom Noonan) arranges to pick her up-and never shows.

Sam’s friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) is outraged, but when Ullman calls again, saying the other girl “didn’t work out”, Sam agrees to take the job over Megan’s objections.  Megan drives Sam out to the isolated house where the Ullmans live, and, when Ullman explains that there isn’t a child, only Mrs. Ullman’s (Mary Woronov) elderly mother.  Mrs. Ullman wants someone on hand in case her mother needs help while the couple is out observing that night’s unusual lunar eclipse.  Megan again tells Sam to abandon the job, but she refuses, because Mr. Ullman offers her $400 to stay.  Of course, not everything as it seems…

Why Watch it Today?: Ti West works very hard to make House of the Devil evoke 1980s horror films, even to the point of choosing a very 80s subject:  suburban devil worship (and the related concept of Satanic ritual abuse), the fear of which was ignited with the publication of Michelle Remembers on this date  in 1980.  The book (and the cottage industry of publishing similar works and helping people remember “repressed memories” it helped create) has been criticized and debunked, but some of the beliefs it spread live on in the minds of conspiracy theorists.  You can read our full review of House of the Devil here.

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