The Night House (2020)

Quick Synopsis: Beth (Rebecca Hall) is trying to recover from her husband’s suicide but her progress is halted by discovering thousands of images on his phone of women who look like her, and that he built an exact copy of their house.

This is an interesting film. In some films, you’re a passive viewer, aware that you’re watching films on a two-dimensional screen. Then there are films like this, films which feel like they surround you like you’re a part of the world the film takes place in, making you feel like you’ve been sucked into the screen. Part of that is the sound, the mixing job for this is superb, it really helps place you in the world.

The script itself is pretty intense too. It’s one of those films where even if I didn’t watch the film I’d want to know the story. So like if it turned out that the director was actually a terrible person and I couldn’t justify paying to watch the film, I would still read the story synopsis to see what happens. The trailer was just that intriguing. I was curious as to how it would end and what would happen. Thankfully it doesn’t disappoint. The way you see it unravel is marvellous and you’re hooked from the first moment. It’s a satisfying mystery, one that you as an audience member WANT to get to the bottom of, one that actively engages you. It helps that the conclusion is satisfying, it’s something that’s hinted at so makes sense, and also redeems someone but not really.

On the downside, it is all predicated on deliberately vague instructions. When her husband committed suicide he left a note that said “There is nothing. Nothing is after you”. Now, spoilers, “nothing” is the name of a demon that is after the main character. There must have been a clearer way of saying that and it feels like it was only written for the “reveal”. I mean, it is still satisfying to watch but it is a bit weird.

There are two people responsible for this film working. The first one is obviously Rebecca Hall, who has always had a lot of promise but somehow manages to find slightly disappointing roles (Iron Man 3, Godzilla Vs. Kong, Dorian Gray), in this she lives up to the potential you always knew she had. She plays a character dealing with intense personal loss, and that loss is written through every fibre of her performance. So even in the horror moments, you are always fully aware that this is a character tinged with sadness and regret. It’s the kind of performance that would be talked about for oscar nominations if they didn’t hate horror movies for some reason.

The other person: David Bruckner. He’s mainly known for doing segments in films such as VHS (where he directed Amateur Night), The Signal, and Southbound. This is actually only his second feature-length. His first was The Ritual, which was a cracking piece of cinema and I always assumed was directed by a Brit. His directing carries the air of someone who has been doing this for decades. The wonderful thing about his style is he doesn’t direct them through the frame of traditional horror with the focus on scares, he treats them first and foremost as cinema. So he uses colours and shapes to create shots which are basically paintings, using space and darkness not to create fear, but to tell you a story about the characters. His films are the kind of ones you want to pause and analyse and discuss every detail. This means that when he does get to the horror moments, they’re impactful because they don’t feel like they take place in a horror movie, they feel like they take place in a standard drama, so the horror has kind of invaded the drama universe. This is how horror works in reality, scary things happen in ordinary lives, and it’s the ordinary which makes the horror scarier.

So yeah, I would highly recommend watching this film. I sadly missed the chance to see this at the cinema, but it is available on Disney+ weirdly enough and is well worth checking out.

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