The Night House is a mind-bending horror thriller from director David Bruckner, the man behind horrors such as 2017’s The Ritual and 2012’s V/H/S. With a trailer that looked intriguing yet a tad confusing, I was a little sceptical about how this would play out and I’m afraid to say that despite having a decent idea, the execution and the plot developments of this film just don’t make any sense.
The film follows Beth (Rebecca Hall), a newly widowed teacher living in an isolated house located on a lake. Her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) recently committed suicide by taking their boat out into the middle of the lake and shooting himself. Beth is struggling to come to terms with Owen’s death which came as a huge shock to her after 14 years of marriage. Still living in the lake house that Owen himself designed and built for them, Beth tries to move on by returning to work and clearing out the house, with the help of best friend Claire (Sarah Goldberg) and neighbour Mal (Vondie Curtis-Hall).
However, while packing up some of Owen’s things, Beth discovers some unusual drawings and books that she never knew Owen had, including some illustrations that appear to show a mirror image of their own house. She becomes more suspicious after she finds a picture on Owen’s phone of a woman who looks incredibly like her but isn’t. Beth also shares with her friends that Owen left a suicide note, one that makes little sense to them but has a deeper meaning to Beth and relates back to a serious accident she had as a teenager. As the days’ pass, Beth becomes increasingly paranoid and mistrustful about Owen when she discovers photos of yet more similar looking women on his computer and a secret house he had been building on the opposite side of the lake. Things begin to spiral out of control when supernatural goings-on start to occur in the house that seem to indicate Owen may not be as gone as Beth believes.
There are aspects of The Night House that are very well executed. There are some incredibly tense and creepy moments that had me almost cowering behind my hands, however, some of these moments are spoilt by loud jump scares. I hate jump scares, especially those that only make you jump because of a loud noise occurring at the same time. I feel like they’re an incredibly cheap tool and I much prefer a film that doesn’t employ such obvious methods. Fortunately for The Night House, there are only a handful of jump scares and the rest of the horror comes from genuinely scary and eerie scenes. The film is also buoyed by an incredible performance by Rebecca Hall, who virtually carries the entire thing on her own. She plays a woman consumed by grief perfectly and often without words, where the emotions are shown on her face without ever saying a word.
However, despite this, the film unfolds at far too slow a pace for my liking. In between the creepy moments and Hall’s performative scenes, I actually found the film quite dull and it takes far too long to get to the point and reveal what’s truly going on. And worst of all, the big reveal is incredibly disappointing as it’s just nonsensical. Without revealing any spoilers, the basic plot behind what is going on is fine, it makes sense and is actually quite a good idea. The problem is that the finer detail of what/why/who/how and their motives appears to be sadly lacking. There is an attempt to explain this but it’s so full of holes that it’s difficult to even consider.
The Night House had a lot of promise, especially with some decent horror and a great performance from Rebecca Hall. However, a slow pace and incredibly poor execution of the plot resolution made this very difficult to swallow.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!