The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - THE NIGHT HOUSE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - THE NIGHT HOUSE

the night house review
Haunted by strange sounds and visions, a widow investigates her late husband's secret past.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: David Bruckner

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Stacy Martin, Vondie Curtis Hall, Evan Jonigkeit

the night house poster

The Night House falls into a horror sub-genre I've rarely cared for - the procedural horror. These movies usually involve a protagonist stumbling across some supernatural entity and launching an investigation, leafing through books on the occult or more commonly today, googling for answers. They often feature some wronged ghost trying to get justice from beyond the grave. The godfather of this sort of thing is Peter Medak's 1980 film The Changeling, which many people now hold up as a horror classic. But while that movie does indeed feature an iconic creepy set-piece involving a child's ball, most of it involves George C. Scott investigating like it's an episode of Law & Order. Not for me.

the night house review

In director David Bruckner's The Night House, our sleuth is Beth (Rebecca Hall), a teacher who has returned to work mere days after her hubby Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) blew his brains out. In the weeks after Owen's death, Beth experiences strange visions of young women jumping to their deaths, a sinister whispery voice, phone calls and texts from Owen's cellphone, banging sounds in the house and the stereo playing the same song over and over.

Scrolling through Owen's phone and laptop, she finds pictures of a variety of dark-haired women, all of whom bear a slight resemblance to herself (One of them is played by Stacy Martin, who I've always felt should be cast as Hall's sister at some point, given their similarities). As the protagonists of these films are wont to do, Beth begins to look into her hubby's past.

the night house review

There are some intriguing ideas teased by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski's script, but they're conveyed in a hackneyed manner. The Night House relies far too much on telling rather than showing, with too many important plot points relayed to us through characters confessing secrets to each other. Beth discovers a half-finished house in the woods that's a mirror image of her own home. We only know it's a reversal of her home because she tells us - Bruckner never conveys this information to us in a visual manner.

What Bruckner does do well is construct a few atmospheric sequences in which Beth, and we the audience, are tricked into thinking the outlines of inanimate objects represent some humanoid spook lurking in the house. The film's strengths ultimately are mostly down to the commitment of Hall, who really brings a gravitas to a role that fails to match her talents. Bruckner and Hall aren't afraid to make Beth a little difficult to warm to, and she's a refreshingly flawed human protagonist. Hall keeps us invested in Beth's quest for the truth, but only to a point. At close to two hours, the movie really begins to lurch towards its conclusion, not so much elevated horror as elongated horror.

the night house review

[Spoilers to follow] When it's revealed just what's going on here, the whole endeavour collapses. We learn that Beth once died for four minutes following a car crash in her youth and that feeling cheated out of a soul, the Grim Reaper has been trying to get his hands on her ever since. To fool Death, Owen began constructing a mirror image house in which he takes women who share surface similarities to Beth. There, the Reaper takes over his body and kills them, only to realise he's been duped, causing Owen to seek another victim and repeat the process. What? You're telling us the Grim Reaper can't tell one willowy brunette from another?

The Night House
 is in UK/ROI cinemas now.

2021 movie reviews