Writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski along with director David Bruckner create “The Night House,” a chilling atmospheric horror flick starring Rebecca Hall. While the story has more holes in it than a moth-eaten sweater—if you look at it at a superficial level—you can’t deny the fact that it hooks you, sends shivers down your spine on a frequent basis, and perhaps is even a metaphor for depression and the grip it has on our main character, Beth (Hall).
Beth’s husband Owen has committed suicide on a small row boat where their dream house was being built. The devastation she exhibits is palpable and we know her love of Owen was as deep as the Grand Canyon. Trying to push forward, Beth, a teacher, goes back to her duties, but her husband’s death has changed her. One of the best scenes in the film happens early on as she discusses with a student’s mother a grade the boy got in speech class. Her response is priceless and a scene I am sure teachers will most certainly enjoy. Leaning on her colleague and best friend Claire (Sarah Goldberg), Beth confides that she is experiencing strange events at night ranging from phone calls from Owen, seeing and sensing someone—perhaps him—in the house. And as Beth delves more deeply into Owen’s past, she discovers some rather dark and disturbing secrets.
The trajectory of the film is what you would expect in a horror film, but what stands out is not only Hall’s skilled delivery of a broken woman in search of answers, but the overall effect of the film. There aren’t any silly jump-scares, but the film delivers a visceral punch that elicits goosebumps to form and run down your back and your arms. Deft direction and skilled cinematography are key players in any horror film, but to pull the viewer into the film and allow us to feel the effects is sheer brilliance.
Unfortunately, the screenplay has too many red herrings and unfulfilled threads of stories which are never neatly tied up. However, this doesn’t take away from our connection to Beth and in finding out why he killed himself and whether or not her nightly episodes are just a figment of her imagination or are they real. It’s truly a mystery/thriller that ends with a few more questions than it should, but still, on many levels, leaves you satisfied.
Digging more deeply into this film, we learn early on that Beth wrestles with her own dark demons of depression. You can’t help but wonder if her near death experience and the “dark holes” she feels within her are actually a projection of what it feels like to deal with depression and “dark thoughts.” Owen seemed to have been her stabilization factor and with him gone, the dark holes get bigger and bigger, pulling her into an abyss.
Either way you look at this film, it’s a chilling thriller. While the story needed to wrap up a few loose ends—it felt as if it ended too early with the final scene missing the perfect camera angle—it still delivers the requisite goose bumps with characters we care about and a story that hooks us.