80 / 100
Watchable Minutes : 90 / 108. I saw this movie with a friend (Drew from Who’s in the Box!) and we both agreed that this movie was just a little too long.
Trailer Comparison : The trailer for Night House is pretty on par with the actual movie. It communicated the dread and tension you would feel watching the actual movie accurately, without giving away too many of the scares.
Movie or Film : I consider all of the horror genre to sit in the movie category.
- Run time : 1 hr 48 minutes
- Studio : Fox Searchlight
- Director : David Bruckner
- Where to Watch : In Theaters
Mourning the sudden death of her husband, Beth wanders the lakeside house that he built for their family before his death. Struggling to keep herself together, Beth soon starts to dream of a mysterious presence that seems to be calling to her. Unable to resist, Beth begins to question her late husband’s true motives in life.
I’m not the biggest fan of horror movies because I’m a gigantic weenie when it comes to getting scared. I can handle dread and tension like in A Quiet Place I and II, but that’s not outright scary. Movies like the original Conjuring or Insidious really get my heart rate up because I get genuinely scared, so I’m not really the biggest fan of the genre. However, I do have a morbid curiosity about horror movies and I really only end up seeing maybe one or two a year (previously saw The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It) and not much more than that. With this being the second horror movie I’ve seen this year and probably the last one, I did end up enjoying this movie more than I thought I would.
Beth is a grieving widow who has recently lost her husband Owen. His death has left her angry and confused because she was the one who had outwardly struggled with depression and dark thoughts. Owen always seemed to be able to bring her out of any ruts, but his sudden death by suicide with a secret handgun has left her confused and shaken in her beliefs towards her husband. Not long after his funeral, Beth begins to have strange dreams and unnatural experiences. One night she notices that there is a light in the woods on the opposite shore of the lake where she lives. Desperate to find answers, Beth recklessly treks through the woods to find the source of the light and is confronted by her neighbor Mel, who tells her that she shouldn’t be wandering in the woods alone. Not willing to listen to his advice, Beth continues her journey through the woods and discovers a decrepit shack hidden in the dense foliage. As she explores her discovery, Beth notices that the layout of the shack is exactly the same as the house she currently lives in on the other side of the lake. Now fully confused and enraged at her deceased husband, Beth goes back home and starts to dig into Owen’s possessions to find some sort of clue as to his mental state and what he was really up to before he died.
Without giving away the rest of the story and the payoff, The Night House has a refreshingly original story. There is mystery aplenty and just a pinch of the occult because you can’t really do modern horror without a bit of that in my opinion. The story moves along quickly and doesn’t really drag except for a few scenes, as mentioned in the watchable minutes section above. The Night House is unique in how it conveys information to the audience. David Bruckner (VHS, The Ritual) opts for a “Show, Don’t Tell” style. A more cliché approach would have been for Beth to consult some sort of figure in the occult community or to watch a 480p YouTube video on voodoo dolls or something. Bruckner instead chose to have Beth discover the information on her own and quite literally just show it on the screen as she was reading one of Owen’s books. This method works if the audience is invested enough to actually read what the character is reading, which wasn’t a problem in my case because the story was engrossing enough to keep me interested.
Visually, The Night House is a pretty standard horror movie. Lots of smooth, slow shots that creep along with the characters leaving the frame intermittently. One shot that sticks out to me in particular was a shot of the moon and it looked grainy and pixelated , like it was captured on an iPhone with a maxed out zoom. In terms of set design, the houses that Beth explored were both spacious and claustrophobic at the same time and created feelings of comfort and horror depending on the angle of the camera. I felt like there was something lurking around every corner at night but felt cozy during the day. The stark contrast of the day house and the night house (I can’t help it) made the movie that much more entertaining and enjoyable. Like many horror movies, the color red and dim fires were used to drive the audience’s train of thought towards demonic plot devices. I went and saw this movie in the theater and the big screen definitely helped accentuate the visuals I just mentioned and also made the soundscape really noticeable. There were moments where it was dead silent and moments that were so loud it made my ears hurt for a second. Overall, The Night House does not disappoint in the A/V department.
Lastly, the casting. I feel that I’m very forgiving on my acting critiques because I can’t act and certainly don’t think that I could ever do better but I didn’t need to be forgiving with The Night House. I’m not super familiar with Rebecca Hall, nor the rest of the cast for that matter. I was genuinely impressed with her performance though. She made me believe she was hurt and upset more than scared. She was hopeful and desperate, but not stupid or overly scream queen-ish. The deadpan delivery of some lines made me feel that she was hollow and grieving, which is exactly how Beth should have felt. The supporting cast of Sarah Goldberg as Beth’s friend Claire and Vondie Curtis-Hall as Mel worked well with Hall’s performance. Goldberg was good at playing the concerned best friend without being an echo chamber for Hall’s grief. Curtis-Hall had less screen time, but filled a needed void as the concerned neighbor who was completely external to the supernatural aspect of the story, but very internal to the grief and loss part of the story. His character would have left a significant hole in the overall story if he was omitted.
The Night House is a solid summer horror movie with an excellent cast and a unique story. The horror will make you want to look away but the mystery will make it so you can’t. Rebecca Hall delivers an awesome performance as Beth and the direction of David Bruckner makes this one of the better movies of the summer.
If you like this, check out :
- The Conjuring
- The Shining