THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009)
Section of the cinematic cemetery: ‘80s (but not actually ‘80s) haunted house possession pic
Cause of (premature) death: The director tried to market it as an authentic 1980s flick, giving it the ol’ “based on true events” label and even distributing VHS clamshell box copies of it (I would kill for one of those!). It also had a very limited theatrical release, coming out on video-on-demand before appearing in a select number of movie houses for just a few weeks. And I’m sure it didn’t help that, except for indie darling Greta Gerwig, it has no major stars to speak of.
What its tombstone would read: Someone didn’t tell the college babysitter she’s actually house-sitting a colonial of satanic horrors and might end up dead.
Why it should be revived: The House of the Devil more than achieves the director’s ambitious goal, coming across like a freaky flashback to the golden age of leg warmers, pay phones, haunted house horror and “satanic panic” in both visuals (there’s even freeze frame off-colour credits) and tone. It’s made of old school scare tactics, choosing slow-burning scares, character development and random dance sequences over modern shock-schlock. Although at some points it feels like a supernatural When a Stranger Calls (the original, not the Camilla Belle one, please and thank ya), it plays off your most natural fears—strange noises, closed doors, ominous old people and the not-so-kindness of strangers.