Published on August 23rd, 2021 | by Dan Nicholls0
The Night House
The Night House coulda been a contender! It’s got the right horror moves, until a few reveals too many chip away at its potential greatness.
After her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) shoots himself in a boat on a lake, Beth (Rebecca Hall) begins to have ghostly encounters at their idyllic home on a peaceful lake. Creaks in the night, whispered voices, electronics turning themselves on and off – it’s a full-on haunted house experience. Depressed and medicated with alcohol, Beth chooses not to run from these paranormal intrusions but to welcome them. She begs for help from beyond to heal but the responses she receives lead her down an investigative path to some dark, disturbing secrets.
These secrets involve mythology, voodoo, parallel lives, windows, mirrors, and duplicate houses. Pretty interesting stuff that mostly gels together into a spooky suspense that keeps you guessing. But when all is revealed you’d wish the filmmakers hadn’t stretched so hard to dig up something ‘new’ to show when the real scary stuff is right there in front of them. And so is the curse of being trapped in The Night House – you’re right there in the thick of some heavy business but the meaning behind the struggle just lets you down.
This one gets so, so close to a home run. Rebecca Hall’s performance is the stuff that horror champions would shout to the heavens about and the atmosphere is steadily spooky throughout. There are enough genuinely freaky moments that it earns its bonafides as a horror film alongside its more protracted psychological drama elements. Director David Bruckner knows how to keep us hooked in the story until the big surprises are revealed. The screenplay, written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, is a tad snappier than most of its ilk.
It is very disappointing that The Night House stumbles over its own feet in the home stretch. One surprise is enough, one twist is all we need to pull the rug out from under our feet. But adding another layer on top of it just disrupts the temperature of the finely-calibrated picture that came before it.
The Night House won’t make many waves and won’t be particularly memorable, save for Rebecca Hall’s superb performance (which a bunch of Film Twitter folks will champion for recognition during awards season to no avail). A deeply conflicted character with such committed representation deserves more agency in the outcome of her journey than Beth is given and it’s a shame to see someone formerly so strong get sort of knocked down at the knees.
This will be the type of arthouse horror that will undoubtedly find a niche fanbase but general audiences are going to overlook. Getting 75% of the way there seems like it would be enough to sustain a favorable recommendation but getting the wind instantly sucked out of your sails causes the crash back to earth to hurt that much more. Technically accomplished and playing with some uniquely interesting themes, The Night House might get on base but doesn’t put points on the board.