Directed by: David Bruckner
Premise: A recently widowed woman (Rebecca Hall) investigates her late husband’s life after his suicide. She discovers an identical house in the woods nearby and begins to suspect that a supernatural presence is haunting her home.
What Works: The Night House is an example of supernatural and psychological horror externalizing ambiguous concepts, in this case grief. The film begins just after a funeral as a widowed woman tries to wrap her head around her husband’s suicide and looks for an explanation. This investigation leads the widow down a path of discovery as she uncovers her husband’s secrets and rediscovers who he was. The film is a mystery in several overlapping ways. It is primarily a ghost story with the widow believing that the spirit of her deceased spouse is still present in her house. The haunting might be real or it might be a psychological delusion and the filmmakers do an excellent job maintaining the ambiguity in ways that keep the audience guessing. The haunting is paralleled with the widow’s investigation of her husband’s private life. She discovers a half-completed house that is a mirror image of her own and the clues point to nefarious conclusions. This investigative story is intertwined with the potential haunting and developments in each subplot complicate the other. The Night House succeeds because all of its elements are aligned. The subtleties of its excellent script are matched by the cinematic execution and the performances. The Night House is shot in ways that turn every shadow into a potential supernatural presence and the film has a spooky atmosphere. The film is led by Rebecca Hall in the lead role. Hall does this kind of character well as seen in 2016’s Christine and Hall’s performance in The Night House is vivid. We share her confusion and can feel her anxiety and depression. Hall’s performance and the filmmaking visualize the way grief and depression can overtake and rearrange our sense of reality. The Night House goes deeper than the average ghost story and it allows for a variety of readings that makes the movie rewatchable.
What Doesn’t: The Night House is about a woman trying to figure out who her late husband actually was but the film ultimately keeps him at a distance. We get the what and some of the why but not enough to complete the portrait of this character. The mystery of the husband’s true nature is part of the point of the movie but The Night House offers a significant reveal about his activities that warrants more exploration than the film provides.
Bottom Line: The Night House is a smart and craftily made psychological horror picture. It’s suspenseful and offers the scares of a haunted house picture while also exploring something deeper about grief.
Episode: #886 (August 29, 2021)