“All houses in which men have lived and suffered and died are haunted houses.” – Mary Roberts Rinehart
Maybe I’m out of the loop a bit considering the last year and half but it feels far too long since that last really impactful horror film was released. The Night House has arrived to fill this void and does so quite convincingly. My initial impression of the film was from a poster that elicited more domestic drama, dare I say something similar to an Unforgettable (ironic title) or The Perfect Guy type of empty thriller that would induce more eye rolling than any real kind of intrigue. In other words I wasn’t exactly hooked from the start. Luckily what they missed with the poster they found with the trailer getting the point across nicely that things were about to get spooky. And I was all for it.
The trailer captured my interest and then mention of director David Bruckner made The Night House a must-see for me. His most recent effort before this was the highly underrated isolation horror, The Ritual (Netflix). Not only is The Ritual a psychological terror, its strengths also lie with the visceral thrills, particularly the design of the ultimate creature of the forest. It is a maniacal design with the only comparison coming to mind at the moment is the bear with a melted face featured in the unforgettable, Annihilation.
The Ritual dealt with guilt over one man’s inaction resulting in the death of a dear friend. The Night House deals with similar emotions of guilt, regret, an ultimate kind of sadness, anger over so many things, a fear of what could be when those we love most leave us forever. One of the most brilliant examples of using grief as the motor pushing a story forward is The Babadook. A modern masterpiece, The Babadook works as well as it does because writer/director Jennifer Kent put that grief, and the rest of her characters’ emotions first before any attempts at creating scares. Losing someone is a terrifying experience, something I know better now than I did when I first saw The Babadook. Death touched me in a way I wasn’t prepared for and if that isn’t frightening I don’t know what is. The Night House approaches this subject in a very similar fashion. And because of this it’s elevated to something more than a throwaway thriller.
The main character is Beth, played by Rebecca Hall, who at the beginning of the story is left abandoned by her husband who quite recently committed suicide. Leaving her lost and without explanation, she wonders why. As she begins to peel away the layers of her husband’s life her question of why he did it turns into a question of who. Who was he? Who was he with? Who made him do it? As those around Beth beg her to let the past stay where it lies, she finds herself obsessed with the idea that maybe her husband wasn’t the man she believed him to be. This thought plagues her mind and begins to shape her immediately rocky present, a reality suddenly without him by her side. Or so she thinks at first. In fact, now that he has left her behind, perhaps she is less alone than ever before. She will become determined to discover if this is a good thing or something else entirely.
Like I said before, Beth’s grief is at the forefront of what drives The Night House. Her gut wrenching change of reality propels her mind into a place feeling as if awake is asleep and vice versa. Things begin to melt in a pot of hysteria as Beth learns more and more, each new piece more haunting than the last. Her negative emotions of not just grief but anger and confusion feed the hunger of something not familiar to Beth, but is all too familiar with her.
I can see The Night House being quite divisive. On one hand, those like myself will appreciate the tension built over time, with moments of genuine terror sprinkled in for good measure. Everyone else will find it uneventful, boring and maybe even confusing. This isn’t your typical, teen oriented horror movie whose only intention is to make you jump in your seat for ninety minutes. The Night House is almost completely without jump scares and what few there are make for true scares rather than empty ones so popular these days. I applaud this movie and its creators for this one factor alone.
It is a slow burn, meant to create tension leading into moments of heightened terror. Rebecca Hall’s performance is convincing and engaging. She emotes the feelings of the audience quite brilliantly as things of a hellish nature rain down upon her. The Night House is yet another reminder that horror, when done properly, is just as viable a genre as any other. I wish certain award ceremonies would realise this too. If you understand what you’re getting into with this particular movie, and you’re okay with it, The Night House is definitely one to see.
Rated R For: some violence/disturbing images, and language including some sexual references
Runtime: 108 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit
Directed By: David Bruckner
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 8/ Acting: 8.5/ Directing: 8/ Visuals: 8
OVERALL: 8.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below:
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