Written by Taylor Baker
David Bruckner who rose to some prominence through his work on the anthology short collections V/H/S and cult darling Southbound returns with his sophomore feature follow up to 2017’s The Ritual with The Night House. He taps Rebecca Hall to play Beth whose husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) recently passed away, but the home he built for her remains. And as she haunts it, it seems something may be in the house alongside her.
The Night House has many of the fanciful tropes of the genre at work, but none feel too out of place. You’ve got your mysterious husband who’s died before we enter. His possibly labyrinthine lakeside home left in his wake. Walls of books of mysterious origin. And of course a crucial neighbor character. These each on their own might induce an eye roll. But their cohesive presentation alongside Bruckner’s dexterous tone management keep The Night House engaging.
Elisha Christian serves as cinematographer, his camera sweeps as it did in Columbus along the facade of the titular building, it’s interior, and the very landscape that it bejewels. Alternating between an icy look at the world and a less maudlin style when the sun graces the sky. The claustrophobic interiors when the night comes on are when both film and lenscraft soar. The camera movement frequent but unjerking. Often one step ahead as Beth roams her way up and down the stairs, sidling through rooms, and ever returning back to a well stocked cardboard box of brandy.
Hall returns to the heights of her abilities and reintroduces us to her acerbic wit and straightforward emotionality in her best performance since Christine (though Professor Marston & the Wonder Women is up there.). There seems to be someone or something in the house alongside her, and as we saw in 2020’s The Invisible Man, when you give an incredibly talented actress the opportunity they can spur you alongside quality direction into a deeply emotional experience of thrills and chills even when what may or may not be there remains unscene. Sarah Goldberg (who you hopefully know and love from the HBO Series Barry) plays Claire whose entire job as constructed by the screenwriters is to ground Beth as a typical best friend character. Which isn’t really a bad thing, but frustrating if you like me are a fan and want to see her with more to do.
In order to avoid giving anything significant away that would dampen a first time viewers experience I’ll dance around a few of the major plot points and speak broadly. As noted by a fellow theater goer on our way out of the theater, there’s more than a few lapses in judgement here that are hard to buy into from Hall’s Beth. She’s demonstrated herself a strong, intelligent, and capable woman. It’s hard to believe everything she has to sell us on, and the ending despite the films strong build is a weak sigh. Unwilling to face any of the demons metaphorically or in reality that have churned up during the runtime. The Night House closes with a whimper not a bang. Despite that I’d still recommend it. The first viewing of films like these are thrilling, one that any fledgling or bonafide horror and thriller fan could enjoy.
The Night House Trailer
The Night House played as part of Fantasia 2021 and is currently in theatrical wide release.
You can follow more of Taylor’s work on Letterboxd and Rotten Tomatoes.