The Night House - Now Streaming Review
Director: David Bruckner
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Golding, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin
Written by: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski
Produced by: John Zois, Keith Levine, David S. Goyer
Cinematography by: Elisha Christian
Original Score by: Ben Lovett
A widow begins to uncover her recently deceased husband's disturbing secrets.
Sometimes the gravest horror is experienced in the agonizing aftermath of sudden loss. And what often catapults that horror to its highest plateau is when the crippling grief shares the same space as unsettling anger. That’s what Beth (Rebecca Hall) is going through when we first meet her at the beginning of David Brucker’s taut and enigmatic ‘The Night House’.
If you like your ghost stories to be a tad more complex and elevated (yes I went there, sorry not sorry) then this gorgeously shot, unravelling mystery just might be your cup of tea. Or your glass of neat brandy. Whatever you prefer and Rebecca Hall’s character drinks lots of brandy here. And who could blame her. Beth has just lost her husband in a tragic suicide and now she must continue to just live her life in their unusually crafted self-built lake house, complete with ceiling high glass windows and creaky floorboards. It’s a stunning set piece and you can tell David Bruckner and Elisha Christian had so much fun floating around from room to room doing what any good ghost story should do, make the audience look beyond the actor to see if somebody is hiding in the background. I’m kidding obviously because it’s really difficult to take your eyes off Rebecca Hall at any point during the film which makes the scares extra special.
Hall manages to keep the film afloat even during some of it’s less tense moments. She has the amazing ability to drift seamlessly from emotion to emotion with genuine humanity, never giving off the impression that she is simply performing.
We’ve seen a lot of this before and it’s always a problematic task to successfully reach beyond the formulaic tropes in modern horror films. We get a few loud jump scares. We get the eerie foreshadowing. We get the inevitable questioning of reality. Nightmares that allude to something that has happened or is happening in real life. The film does just enough to keep reminding us that this is a ghost story but it’s when it slowly peels back the layers after Beth gradually discovers some disturbing secrets about her deceased husband, that the story can truly live on it’s own.
There’s some genuinely tense moments and a sequence in the bathroom involving a shattered mirror that is insanely creepy. It’s a script filled with ambitious concepts that don’t all quite follow through to their conclusion. It flirts with the occult. It teases the notion of the uncanny. The final “twist” might have made more impact if the revelation had been alluded to more earlier on in the film rather than (what felt like) just a throwaway conversation. It still slaps pretty hard though and works really well as a metaphor for suicidal thoughts in the wake of a traumatic life event. We never quite know what is real and what is hallucination and that’s where the magic lies. Beth’s husband killed himself being haunted by an entity called Nothing and now Beth herself is feeling “nothing”.
Props to writing duo Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski whose stand-out indie ‘Super Dark Times’ from 2017 is brutally overlooked. The pair have teamed with Bruckner once again to work on the upcoming adaptation of Clive Barker’s classic ‘The Hellbound Heart’ with trans actor Jamie Clayton stepping into the lead cenobite shoes previously filled by Doug Bradley. As a huge fan of the original 1987 version I have full faith in the trio based on what they deliver here. There's also a cool little nod to 'Hellraiser' in the guise of a statuette that Beth finds amongst her husbands belongings.
It’s unlikely to make a huge impact commercially or be revered by a wider audience but you certainly won’t feel “nothing” after watching ‘The Night House’ especially if you’ve suffered from depression. It’s a thought provoking, atmospheric, psychological horror that creeps up on you and might even stay with you for a long time after.
- Gavin Logan