Chalk it up to personal preference, but modern horror is completely underwhelming. Sure, much of the moralty found in classics of the genre delves into the realm of extreme fundamentalism, but the best films sink into the slow and steady build to a level of chaos that is equal parts sensually visceral and psychologically disturbing. If a film leaves me questioning, “How could this happen?” then it’s typically hit it’s mark.
Modern horror, increasingly referred to as “nu-horror,” rarely touches upon these fundamentals. Instead, they substitute plot, tension, and character-development for senseless gore and violence. True, the house that Saw built harkens back to aspects of older gore-heavy classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it sacrifices the macabre, the gothic Americana if you will, that somehow justified the gore. Even the remakes of these classics eschew substance over piles of defiled and carved-up bodies.Which is a long-winded way of getting to director Ti West‘s latest film, The House of the Devil.
A few days ago, a group of friends emailed me about a horror movie night they were planning. They’d compiled a short list of films to consider, and I added to their list. While it ran through the pre-requisite canon of horror, it still lacked anything recent worth watching. In hindsight, I should have included The Strangers, but spaced on it at the time.
Unable to attend, I found myself scrambling to work in some horror film viewing over the Halloween weekend. After re-watching The Gate on cable, I decided to crack open The House of the Devil, which is available in limited release and more interesting Video On Demand (Comcast, U-verse, and more).
West is gaining traction with his retro throwback style and approach, but to his credit the proclivity to homage never crosses into style over substance — think more Death Proof than Planet Terror here. He continues the trend with Devil, and never wavers throughout the film.