The Night House is a twisty new mystery film from horror director David Bruckner (The Ritual, V/H/S) that almost feels like a riff on The Invisible Man. The cinematography is equally as gorgeous as the lakeside setting, making the most effective part of the film the locale itself. Rebecca Hall absolutely slays her role as Beth. I did find one element of the story to be lackluster when looking back on The Night House as a whole, yet I did have an entertaining time watching Beth piece together the many mysteries.
Mere days after the sudden suicide of her hunky husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit), Beth begins to experience strange phenomena in the home he meticulously designed from scratch. His sleepwalking seems to have passed over to Beth, as she suffers from increasingly unnerving nightmares and visions. Married for 14 years, it turns out that Beth did not know much about Owen’s shady other life. Owen was filled with secrets—Beth’s obsession begins as she goes through her husband’s things in preparation of selling the home. A picture of a woman that looks identical to Beth on Owen’s phone is the catalyst for a rabbit hole of shocking revelations. How well did she really know her husband? Beth begins to feel his presence as a physical manifestation—a ghost perhaps?
Doubles! Decoys! Ghosts! The occult! The Night House picks so many lanes at once that it spins in circles. Because of this, coupled with a sparse amount of genuinely terrifying scenes, it all comes up a little empty. It creates a mystery box of questions right from the outset, but withholds showing any of its cards for far too long.
Though the movie introduces all of these bold topics, such as life after death, it fails to do anything with them thanks to the direction it takes late in the game. I did, however, love the whole story of Beth’s brush with death, and that she saw “nothing” while being pronounced dead for four minutes. It presents a scary and cynical worldview that sent a chill down my spine. There are so many interesting ideas and directions this could have taken, so I was a tad disappointed to find that it chose the most predictable lane of all. Intricate character drama and unraveling mysteries take center stage, especially as The Night House approaches its final lap. While I did not love it (I think Brucker’s The Ritual remains my favorite film from the director), I found The Night House to be a thrilling good time when it actually gets around to the supernatural elements.
The Night House screened at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival, and spooks its way to theaters everywhere on Friday, August 20th.