David Bruckner’s architectural horror stands up to the contemporary challenges of dabbling with ghosts and jump scares.
Left alone in an isolated and cavernous lakeside home after her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) commits suicide, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left with complex feelings of grief and a fierce yearning for answers. As cracks in their marriage begin to show, she starts to uncover a series of disturbing secrets that lead her to question who her husband really was. We then enter an unexpectedly strange, dark and mysterious terrain as she begins to closely examine his belongings.
Sustaining a palpable sense of suspense throughout a horror film is no easy task, but The Night House’s enigmatic sequences of inverted dream states and intricate architectural spaces manage to blur the line between reality and delusion to great effect. Visually, the constant shifts in perspective mark a bold creative choice by director David Bruckner and cinematographer Elisha Christian, who treat this modern haunted house almost as if it were a main character.
Optical illusions and ominous reflections induce a different kind of fear when servicing jump scares. Ben Lovett’s eerie score intensifies the spatially disorienting production design, augmenting the already haunting and claustrophobic atmosphere. There are some tired tropes present – words written on foggy bathroom mirrors, a stereo system waking Beth up in the middle of the night of its own accord while doors slam and lights flicker – but they don’t overshadow the originality of the story.
Although the last half of the film is cluttered and repetitive, The Night House is worth watching for Hall’s outstanding performance. Her elegant portrayal of a tormented widow evokes Michelle Pfeiffer in What Lies Beneath, while both films share similar patterns of suspenseful storytelling.
Published 16 Aug 2021
Promises to haunt audiences and execute shocks with precision.
Rebecca Hall gives a staggering performance.
Intense and well-made, yet the narrative becomes tangled up in itself.