In their 3 Bloody Knife review, Enola Leone King calls The Night House more than a simple ghost story. It's an expansive supernatural hedge maze you're liable to get lost in and it twists, turns and transforms into something more insidious than expected.
Subjectively, The Night House is not a bad film. It's plainly evident that it's a good film, but something about it has us struggling to ascertain if we liked it or not. We're in a sort of limbo, much like Beth (Rebecca Hall, The Awakening), a grieving woman who is in a suspended state of shock and disbelief following the unexpected death of her husband, Owen (Evan Jonigkeit, The Empty Man). Left alone in the lake house he built for her, Beth begins to question everything about the man she thought she knew and the life they spent together as she uncovers his darker urges and disturbing secrets.
Written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, The Night House is a mind-bending and sinister experience that plays with our perception and makes us question reality right along with Beth. Even the film's director, David Bruckner said this about the film's narrative, “As I sought to order the conflicts and the metaphors, dig into the mechanics of the story and what my responsibilities would be as a director, I continually got lost in the subterranean regions of the narrative, which was as confounding as it was exciting.” At it's conclusion, what we're left with is a feeling of being utterly confounded despite knowing how all the pieces fit together.
"All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses."
This is so much more than a simple ghost story or paranormal occurrences in a haunted house. It's an expansive supernatural hedge maze you're liable to get lost in when it's twists and turns lead you slowly down the darkest possible path. Just when you think you've figured it out, you're left with only more questions as the narrative transforms into something more insidious and Beth unravels the truth.
The Night House marked our first venture back to the theatre for an afternoon matinee. We're just lucky we weren't holding our popcorn because as surely as this film made our skin tingle with fear, a few perfectly timed moments also gave us a startling jolt. We felt increasing ill at ease and out of step as the film unraveled.
We felt Beth's consuming and nearly crushing grief wholeheartedly as she immersed herself in memories, drinking in excess to drown out the pain, confusion and loneliness associated with Owen's absence. She becomes convinced that she's in contact with his lingering spirit despite her cynical beliefs following her prior experience with death. Beth begins to see shadows, receive audio and visual messages from the beyond and experience what could be explained away as sleep waking or some other perceived out of body experience. Is her grief causing her to manifest the spirit of her dead husband because she doesn't want to be alone? The nefarious force haunting Beth is revealed in the end, but while the truth was intriguing it left a lot to be desired.
"You were right. There is nothing. Nothing is after you. You are safe now."
The Night House marked our first venture back to the theatre for an afternoon matinee. We're just lucky we weren't holding our popcorn because as surely as this film made our skin tingle with fear as Beth is consumed by supernatural experiences in the light and the dark, a few perfectly timed moments also gave us a startling jolt. Those moments are the shock to the system that every phobophile loves about watching a horror film.
As good as Hall's hauntingly beautiful portrayal of a grieving widow, the sullen score, the overall languid tone and the film's eerie manifestations are, the conclusion falls terribly flat. Let's face it, a bad ending can really ruin the entire experience. That's why we're left conflicted about how we truly feel about the film. Despite inherently knowing it's noteworthy and at the very least should be applauded for it's ambition to do something different. We just aren't satisfied and that may unfortunately be irrevocable. However, we have hope and plan to do another viewing because we'd like it to change our initial impressions of the film.
The Night House is now playing in theatres.