Movie Review: ‘The Night House’
Director: David Bruckner
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Stacy Martin, Evan Jonigkeit, Vondie Curtis-Hall
Plot: Beth is forced to process the loss of her husband following an unexpected suicide, only be to be haunted by a mysterious presence that inhabits her house as night.
Review: Right off the bat this movie draws comparisons to Ari Aster’s Hereditary, and it’s clear why people have been drawing this parallel. They both lean into grief as a theme, uses a distinct and isolated house as the setting for supernatural weirdness and confuses the sense of whether we’re dealing with spookiness or a mental break. The two films are structured very differently, with Hereditary seeding the occult concepts from the beginning and invests the audience before dropping some heavy shocks. The Night House brings us in after the tragic events that trigger supernatural events have already taken place, and very slowly introduces the horror elements over a longer period.
We begin the movie with Beth (Hall) arriving home after the funeral of her husband, coming back to a very elaborate, well designed and isolated lakeside house. She returns to her job as a teacher and starts the process of packing up her husbands belongings. Over the course of the film we learn that her husband killed himself and she has no idea what compelled him to do so. Initially the unusual sounds and events happening at night are written off as sleepwalking, the results of heavy drinking and grief, but as they begin to escalate Beth begins to dig into her husbands secrets. Finding photographs of different women on his phone, all of whom bear a strong resemblance to Beth, rises her suspicions, while books on occultism and complex architecture designs has her questioning his sanity.
Eventually the supernatural business begins to escalate, while the people around Beth start to question her mental well being. When Beth finds a duplicate of their house hidden in the woods across the lake, it furthers her determination to find the truth behind her late husband. Walking the line between manic insanity and alcohol-fuelled desperation could make for a grating character. Fortunately, Rebecca Hall is more than capable of carrying such a complex and demanding role. It’s very much her story with her performance as Beth being the strongest aspect of the movie.
The thriller aspects throw a couple of different things our way. During the night we get sound-systems being cranked up, messages written in steamed up windows, weird naked men standing outside, mostly being used to build up the tension. Then we get some disturbing imagery and fairly well crafted jump-scares to keep things lively. If you’re in this for the horror, you won’t find anything especially unique at work here. It’s all well designed and captured, so if you enjoy a haunted house and would like to see it well executed then this is worth your time.
The Night House is a good slow-burn supernatural thriller that does enough to keep us engaged. It’s not a trend-setter, but solid work.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN