If there's one thing that really bothers me with horror films, it's wasted potential. So many creative and intriguing ideas are introduced in The Night House, but without any of the payoff. Despite a strong performance from Rebecca Hall, this film is little more than a slightly more psychological mixture of Final Destination and You Should Have Left. And that's the last thing I wanted this one to be. Critics were raving about this one, calling it the best American horror film since Hereditary. While it isn't terrible, it is certainly not a masterpiece.
Beth (Hall) is in mourning. A week prior, her loving husband Owen (Jonigkeit) killed himself. Beth begins to feel a presence in her home. She sees footprints outside, sees shadows moving inside her house. Sleep paralysis is brought up, then abandoned immediately. There are several truly creepy moments that gave this one some bonus points, but most of the negative stuff comes from the abrupt and unnecessarily confusing ending. The nature of the spirit that's attached itself to Beth is intriguing, but ultimately fruitless in its bland and hard to follow motivations. I felt that exploring the idea that her husband was a dangerous killer was far more interesting.
The Night House is another high profile horror film that's trying way too hard to also be a drama. There used to be a time when horror movies were fun. Monsters, killers, ghosts, aliens, demons, hungry hungry cannibals, and so much more. They weren't always metaphors for grief, rape, or depression. Sometimes it's okay to just watch a ghost scare the shit out of someone for two hours. Somewhere along the line, horror filmmakers forgot about that and began to focus so much energy on trying to impress critics that have never respected them anyway. Just food for thought.
For all of the various high-profile horror sequels and films catching whatever current trend is happening which get me excited, I’m even more of a sucker for the more original stuff that gets movie theater releases. Even if it’s something which finds a unique spin on a well-worn subgenre, I get pretty excited. Mainly due to the idea of being able to go into a movie without any preconceived notions of what it should be. Which is where we find The Night House in. A new horror film which promised a unique take on the supernatural subgenre backed by some talent both in front of and behind the camera. Talent which held this film all the way through until the incredibly muddled and confusing ending.
Rebecca Hall has always been an actress I’ve liked and feel like she hasn’t gotten her due yet. Hopefully, things change here. She delivers a tremendous performance in what is, essentially, a one woman show. There are other people she interacts with, but this is her film. And she delivers. You feel her grief of having to deal with the recent suicide of her husband while also uncovering a possible life he had kept secret from her. This is a performance I truly hope doesn’t get ignored. As for behind the camera, David Bruckner is no stranger to the genre. He has directed several things I’ve really enjoyed and displays a demonstration of skill here with the scares not seen in his prior films. Several times, he draws out the suspense until you can’t take it anymore and he finally breaks it with a well-timed scare. Bruckner is one of the best when it comes to modern horror, and this should get him talked about more. Unfortunately, a good chunk of this goodwill was taken from me during the film’s conclusion. One which tried to simultaneously put the final nail in the coffin of its theme of grief while wrapping everything up. Problem is, it just muddled up everything. In turn, it made me go back to question certain plot elements and how this is meant to be a cathartic ending.
This film really had me. I was all in. The theme of grief was incredibly well handled and engaging. Hall gave a terrific performance. And Bruckner showed true control and mastery during the film’s numerous scare scenes. Yet, all of this was lost on me thanks to an incredibly confusing ending. One which just kind of muddled everything up it had so beautifully built to. Close, but no cigar.