The Night House joins a long line of horror films that use the genre to tackle the exploration of grief. Hereditary, Midsommar and The Babadook have all explored the trauma of loss and how that need to have closure or know there is something more can open a door to something far more dangerous.
Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. She tries as best she can to keep together-but then the dreams come. Disturbing visions of a presence in the house call to her, beckoning with a ghostly allure. But the harsh light of day washes away any proof of a haunting. Against the advice of her friends, she begins digging into his belongings, yearning for answers.
One of the main strengths of the aforementioned films is the incredible lead performances they have drawn from their actresses. For example Toni Collette, Essie Davis and Rebecca Hall’s name deserves to be mentioned in that category. She delivers a heart-wrenching performance as Beth. A woman completely broken by the death of her husband and desperate for a sign that there is more than nothing out there. This desperation, combined with isolation and a worrying descent into alcoholism, allows for the seeds of doubt to be sown. Not only in her own mind but the audience. Is there a presence in the house that she should believe is real or is the presence in the house because she wants to believe its real?
Director David Bruckner has proven he can generate a genuine sense of dread and tension from a singular location. In The Ritual it was the woods. Making the viewer think there was danger lurking behind every tree. Using exemplary production, art and set design, the titular house that was once a home becomes an unfamiliar place. The architecture seemingly allowing places for evil to manifest.
Once Beth begins to dig into her husband’s past, which includes the construction of the house itself, she begins to believe there is something truly supernatural behind what she is experiencing.
The film works best when it is a straight up haunted house movie. When the third act takes a violent swerve into psychological thriller, What Lies Beneath-territory, the foundations became a little shaky. However the rock-solid performance of Hall will keep you invested to the dramatic conclusion.
The Night House is definitely worth seeing on the big screen. If nothing else for the fact that watching it at home is likely to want to make you check into a hotel for the night!
The Night House is in cinemas from August 20th
Director: David Bruckner
Stars: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Stacy Martin,Vondie Curtis-Hall
Runtime: 108 minutes