The House of the Devil appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not bad, the transfer usually looked pretty average.
Sharpness was up and down, as the movie exhibited inconsistent levels of clarity. Overall, close-ups boasted good definition but wider shots suffered from mild to moderate softness. Some light edge enhancement didn’t help, and artifacts made the image a bit messy at times. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but mild/moderate edge enhancement appeared throughout the movie.
Source flaws were an occasional issue. Devil came with a lot of grain; it was thick enough to be a distraction at times. However, I didn’t really hold this against the transfer, as I figured the heavy grain was a stylistic choice as well as one that resulted from the use of Super 16mm stock. Sporadic instances of specks and marks also materialized, though not in a pervasive manner. I wondered if these were also intentional ala Grindhouse, but since they cropped up infrequently – and most of them appeared very early – I didn’t think so. The print defects weren’t a major concern, but they did appear more than expected.
Colors weren’t much of a concern in this fairly monochromatic affair. Given the nature of the story, I didn’t expect dynamic hues, and the film tended toward a subdued brownish look much of the time. What colors we found seemed decent but unexceptional. Blacks tended to appear somewhat loose and inky, though, and shadows were often too dark. That was an issue given the fact that so much of the film took place in low-light interiors. All in all, there was enough positive material on display for a “C-”, but it wasn’t an inspiring presentation.
Though not especially ambitious, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Devil seemed more satisfactory. Like many horror movies, it mostly went with creepy atmosphere. A few action/scare sequences brought the track to life in a more active manner, but these were infrequent. Instead, the mix usually focused on general environment, and that side of things worked well. The audio used the speakers in a natural manner that created a good soundscape.
Music also featured nice stereo imaging, and the surrounds contributed to the ambience. The back channels didn’t have a lot to do, but that added to the film’s aura. The whole package connected together in a reasonably involving manner.
Audio quality was positive. Music showed nice range and clarity, while effects offered good accuracy and punch. The smattering of loud scenes showed solid definition, and they lacked distortion. Speech was also concise and natural. Nothing here dazzled, but it achieved its modest goals.
We find a good array of extras here, and these start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from writer/director/editor Ti West and actor Jocelin Donahue. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at pacing and story, cast and performances, sets and locations, music and editing, period details, costumes, and production design.
West does most of the talking here; Donahue isn’t an infrequent participant and she adds some good notes, but she doesn’t have nearly as much to say. West gives us a pretty good overview of the production, as he digs into a mix of informative subjects. The track lacks the spark that would make it truly absorbing, but it covers enough bases to merit a listen.
For the second commentary, we hear from Ti West, producers Larry Fessenden and Peter Phok, and sound designer Graham Reznick. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific chat that examines… pretty much the same topics discussed in the prior chat. This one adds a few more technical details like camerawork and sound design, but expect similar subject matter.
And also expect a lot of the same information. West still talks a lot and he repeats more than a few details from the previous commentary. This one also suffers from poor recording; in an ironic twist, sound designer Reznick sits too far from the mic and is almost inaudible at times. While the commentary isn’t a total dud, it tends to be redundant and not especially compelling.
Two featurettes follow. In The House of the Devil runs 13 minutes, 33 seconds and takes us to the set. It includes few comments from the filmmakers; instead, it mostly pairs rough “behind the scenes” footage with music and raw audio. I normally like this sort of material, but I don’t think “In” reveals much of interest. We get some good remarks from the script supervisor, but most of the shots seem pedestrian and don’t really give us an intriguing glimpse of the production.
Behind The House of the Devil goes for four minutes, 41 seconds and features notes from West, Donahue, and actors AJ Bowen, Mary Woronov, Tom Noonan and Gretta Gerwig. “Behind” throws out various thoughts about story, style, and characters. “Behind” is too brief to tell us much, so don’t expect to learn anything memorable here.
Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes 40 seconds. We find “Sam’s Side of the Phone Call” (2:36), “Megan’s Side of the Phone Call” (3:01) and “Mother in the Attic” (1:03). The first two are essentially the same scene but shot in two different places. “Phone Call” offers superfluous exposition that would’ve made a slow movie even more tedious. “Mother” provides a little uneventful footage of that creepy character.
A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Deadgirl, Plague Town, Stake Land and Bitter Feast. The trailer for House also appears.
I’ve read a bunch of positive reviews for The House of the Devil. I can’t help but wonder if those folks saw a different movie than the one I watched – or if they just can’t tell the difference between “deliberate pacing” and “mind-numbing boredom”. I found nothing but the latter in this slow, tedious and painful exercise in dullness. The DVD provides mediocre – but appropriate – picture and audio as well as a moderately positive set of supplements. I have no big complaints about this release, but the movie itself couldn’t possibly be more boring and tiresome.