Whatever expectations you may have going in to The Night House must be thrown away before viewing. It is much closer to A Ghost Story than That being said, The Night House is an emotionally-gripping horror film that doesn’t resort to simple jump scares and horror tropes to keep audiences engaged. Rather, we have a character study about conquering your own demons that accomplishes what The Invisible Man set out to do last year.
The Night House follows a widow, Beth (Rebecca Hall), who begins to uncover her recently deceased husband’s disturbing secrets.
Rebecca Hall absolutely knocks it out of the park in The Night House. If there was one reason to watch the film, it would have to be for Hall’s performance, which is a delicate balance between the “boy who cried wolf” aspects of her character arc and moments of grief. Everyone grieves differently, and Beth’s drug of choice is alcohol with home movies in between sifting through her deceased husband’s belongings. It is in these moments that Hall shines, and the humanity in her performance elevates the film. The film (rightfully) focuses on Hall’s character for the majority of the runtime, so the supporting cast doesn’t have a lot of time to shine. That said, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Sarah Goldberg do a great job of playing the friend circle that Beth needs in the film. Evan Jonigkeit doesn’t appear on-screen for a lot of the film, but when he is prominently shown towards the end, his performance is brilliant. One of the final scenes on a boat is a quieter one, but it is where Jonigkeit really shines.
Too many horror movies nowadays rely on the jump scares to keep the audience on their toes. While The Night House is guilty of utilizing jump scares, it also relies on imagery and subtle background movements to create tension. Paired with the great score, it makes for some really great scares. The setting of the film is creepy enough, with most of it taking place in the house of Beth’s house on a lake in upstate New York. But that atmosphere and imagery is enhanced with the cinematography. The trailer shows a bit of the trippy transitions such as Beth at the door and then on the couch, but the film has a couple more that are just so well done.
Caution to viewers: the film is a slow-burn, especially in the first forty minutes. There are almost no moments of horror in the first forty minutes to speak of, and this time is instead devoted to following Beth’s grieving process. As Beth begins uncovering more about her deceased husband, the film also begins ramping up. There is a great sequence of horror towards the end that is like going through the scariest haunted house attraction ever that I wish I could have experienced for the first time in a packed theater.
While the ending of The Night House takes a bit of a conventional route, that doesn’t take away from its message. There are a few things that don’t work, such as the ending and a scene of exposition that is ridiculously spoon-fed to the viewer, but that is nitpicking a really great horror film. It is possible that The Night House disappoints audiences similarly to the recently-released The Green Knight considering the marketing sells it as a jump scare-filled horror flick, but that doesn’t take away from the brilliance from both the film and Rebecca Hall’s performance.