THE NIGHT HOUSE. Supernatural horror about mourning
The Night House’s screenwriters are Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, and the director is David Bruckner, a horror filmmaker best known so far from the mediocre Ritual (2017) and a single film segment to the even weaker V/H/S (2012). His The Night House , a combination of supernatural horror and psychological thriller, proves, however, that the director has grown since then and has learned his lesson from horror cinema, and is now well on his way to creating an interesting horror portfolio
Teacher Beth (Rebecca Hall) has just lost her husband to a sudden suicide – one day Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) just walked out of their lake house, got in a boat, swam out onto the lake and shot himself with a gun right in the mouth. Devastated by the unexpected death of her husband, a woman drinks her sorrows away. At night, she suffers from realistic nightmares, and strange things happen in her house – the music player turns on by itself and the floor creaks as if someone walked on it. Convinced that the spirit of her lover is trying to tell her something, Beth starts going through her husband’s belongings and soon begins to discover disturbing facts about his life that she had no idea about before. From the image of a loving, warm man, the image of a calculating cheater and manipulator begins to emerge.
Although this brief description of the plot probably does not surprise you with anything new, and Bruckner uses the standard repertoire of horror movies – a haunted house in a desolate but picturesque place, creaking floors and a secret that the main character must discover, The Night House grabs your attention from the very beginning. Not only with a good distribution of accents and constant tension with not trivial jump scares, but above all with an interesting treatment of the subject of mourning.
Losing a loved one and bereavement is a very grateful starting point for horror films, eagerly taken up by filmmakers, from Don’t Look Now (1973), through Babadook (2014), to Hereditary (2018). Losing a loved one, and thus losing a sense of security and joy, can be scarier than imaginary monsters. The Night House focuses on the character’s grief as well as her mental health. Having experienced depressive episodes in the past, Beth’s condition deteriorates again after her husband’s death. This is a character perfectly portrayed by Rebecca Hall, extremely credible in the role of a woman in mourning. Hall eschews playing only one sad note. Driven to the brink of endurance and trying to cope with her own emotions, Beth relieves herself with sarcasm and anger (and often looking into the bottle), and unexplained phenomena in her house fill her with terror and hope at the same time. Beth cries helplessly and laughs hysterically. Rebecca Hall brilliantly plays these conflicting emotions on screen, creating a nuanced portrayal of a woman in mourning.
The great advantage of The Night House is that it can be read in two ways – as a universal story about dealing with mourning after losing a loved one or as a fictional, supernatural horror film. These two planes are of course connected in the screenplay by Collins and Piotrowski, which, although not devoid of shortcomings, intrigues and, above all, really scares. This is partly due to Hall’s acting, which lends credibility to the situation in which the heroine finds herself, but also to the set design of an isolated house with large windows overlooking the lake. Appropriate shots, in which objects in the house seem to arrange themselves in someone’s silhouette, perfectly build tension. All in all, House of the Night is a solid film that will surely interest all horror movie fans.