Saturday, June 19, 2010

Satanic Panic!

I adore horror movies. I think that horror, as a genre, really gets to the heart of what the movie-watching experience is all about: a breathless suspension of reality mediated by fear, curiosity, confusion, and irrational impulses. In recent years, something altogether tragic has happened to the genre: it stopped taking itself seriously. Due in no small part to a smug, self-aware trilogy of films from the mid-1990s which attempted to revive horror through satire, I came to appreciate even more the classic thrills provided by movies of the late 1970s and early 1980s, films whose terror relied on satanic panic, haunted houses, vulnerable babysitters, evil children, and menacing musical scores. The House of the Devil has restored my faith. A true period film in every sense, this fantastic little movie plays homage to decades of great horror by going back to basics, even if it wears its influences, ranging from Hitchcock to Polanski to Argento on its sleeve. Shot in 16mm, the film features an instrumental version of The Cars' "Moving in Stereo" over the freeze-framed intro titles, a Margot Kidder/Jessica Harper/Jamie Lee Curtis-esque protagonist, and the incomparable Mary Woronov as the film's satan-worshipping matriarch. Not once does the film feel like parody. Amazing.