In the middle of the night last night, I could’ve swore that my roommate was dropping off something in my room. Mind you, I was probably in some sort of sleepy daze, but I could’ve swore that he was stood right by my bed. Yet when I called out his name, I had the room to myself. At 3 in the morning, this was all the more creepy because I attended a screening of The Night House a few hours prior, and the film is creepy in similar ways.
The Night House is probably the most effectively creepy film I’ve seen since Leigh Wannell’s excellent The Invisible Man. It’s probably also the best movie I’ve seen all month. Here is a film that is genuinely creepy, in ways that have perhaps been done before, but probably haven’t been done much better. It’s an engaging mystery that sinks its hooks into you early on; it’s a freaky little number in which all of its jump scares are beautifully earned; and it’s even the kind of movie that, upon reflection, is about more than it originally appears.
Front and center is a pretty superb performance from Rebecca Hall. Here’s an actress I’ve always firmly believed in, going back all the way to Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. She’s well known in my eyes, but it also feels rare whenever she gets to headline a movie and truly show her range. Well folks, if you’re not aboard the Rebecca Hall hype train, The Night House would be a great time to hop on. She kills here, displaying quite the range. She can be snarky and sassy, she can be a bit frightening, but at her core, like us, she’s scared s**tless about what is happening around her (or, who is there).
Here she plays Beth, a teacher who lives in a beautiful lakeside home built by her husband, Owen. We know that she is eager to get out of there, and in a scene early on, she explains that her husband committed suicide just a week prior. This scene is a great example of what a force Hall can be, as she reveals this information to a total Karen who was upset with her son’s grade in the class. How someone returns to work that quickly is a mystery to me, but she’s also a little on the unusual side.
Anyways, Beth begins sensing that maybe she isn’t alone in the house. Is it a ghost? Is her husband trying to send a message? Typically a fake-out dream sequence can be a little on the annoying side, yet it’s used effectively in The Night House because we aren’t sure if what we’re seeing is reality. Beth soon begins to wonder if her husband was leading a double life, not just in terms of affairs, but maybe something sinister (his suicide came as a total surprise to her, which was the first indicator). This might not sound like anything remarkable, but there is only so much that can be given away in the plot department.
The Night House isn’t one of those movies with a big monster or anything. What’s so chilling about it is that it’s about what isn’t there. This is a film that will leave you breathless with tension, simply due to the very silence present in her house. We don’t know what Beth is up against, but we’re afraid to find out with her. Yet if you’re easily affected by things that go bump in the night, or simply the sound of your floorboards creaking, this film will give you the willies.
The screening I attended of this film was totally empty, besides my roommate and I. Which is a shame, because a movie this good is certainly worth seeing, and in a theatre. Yet I’m also sort of relieved nobody else was in there, because we screamed. Twice. I’m not usually a chicken when it comes to this kind of stuff, but the jump scares are used so effectively here, as is the imagery. When the “presence” makes its first physical appearance (if you can call it that), it is so jarringly creepy, you’ll want to see this film again with someone else just to see their reaction. It’s that good.
The film is directed by David Bruckner, who has made a few other horror films I haven’t seen. Maybe I should. This film is so well made, and yet creep factor aside, it is also very intriguing and creative. I know my plot synopsis didn’t sound like anything remarkable, but this is one of those cases where the film should really just speak for itself. The combination of the plotting and the craftsmanship, as well as the performances, really sell this thing.
The Night House held me in its grip from beginning to end. It’s a very effective and haunting little movie that deserves to find its crowd. Yet it’s also a horror movie that achieves not just large ideas and unforgettable imagery, but it’s also a movie with something to say. It doesn’t shove what it’s saying down your throat, either. The film can be seen as an allegory about depression and grief- not 100% sure if it was the intention, but I’m about 99% sure it is, and the more you sit on the movie, the more sense it makes. It’s one of the most intriguing movies of the summer, and one of the best; an end of the summer smash.