The Night House is a chillingly atmospheric thriller that serves up quite a few heart-thumping scares. Rebecca Hall is fantastic as a grieving wife searching for the answers to a supernatural presence. The film builds great tension then wallops you with menacing imagery. The Night House is visceral and intense without being bloody or gratuitous. The final act leads to an unexpected outcome that may disappoint some audiences. I thought it was very interesting. The film doesn't spoon-feed a rote ending. It's frightening and abstract. Leaving many disturbing possibilities to consider.
The Night House takes place in upstate New York on a beautiful, but remote lake. Beth (Rebecca Hall) is a teacher blindsided by the sudden suicide of her husband, Owen (Evan Jonigkeit). She didn't even know he had a gun. Beth drinks to dull her pain as she packs up his belongings. But late at night in her wretched despair, Beth feels something reaching out to her. The house feels alive with strange noises, shadows, and intermittent outbursts from the stereo.
Beth asks her best friend and co-worker, Claire (Sarah Goldberg), if she believes in ghosts. The mystery deepens when Beth discovers a picture of another woman (Stacy Martin) in her husband's phone; who looks eerily similar to her. Beth's neighbor (Vondie Curtis-Hall) finds her searching the woods. She has seen something across the lake that shouldn't be there. As Beth plunges further down the rabbit hole, the truth behind Owen's death leads to a shocking reveal.
The Night House exploits the basic fears of human nature. It's natural to be afraid when alone in a creepy setting. Anything can be waiting in the dark to strike. The difference here is that the film doesn't succumb to silly horror tropes. It preys on the fragile emotional state of the protagonist. Beth is sad and lonely. She desperately wants to see her beloved again. But she quickly learns that there's something sinister to her otherworldly interactions. The scare factor ramps up significantly. There are legitimate jump out of your seat moments on her quest for the truth.
Rebecca Hall is tremendous in a highly nuanced and multilayered performance. The film succeeds by her believable reactions to the dreaded unknown. Beth continuously evolves throughout the story. At first overcome with sorrow, she steadies her resolve through fierce determination. This isn't a film with silly chases. The jabs come sharp and fast. Owen's secrets lead to an evil she could never have imagined. Hall, especially when she's alone on screen, conveys the raw feelings and terror of fleeting moments.
The last scene is certain to have a few detractors. The Night House takes a different approach to solving the mystery at its core. Director David Bruckner (V/H/S, The Ritual) doesn't give an easy out. He forgoes a neat, bow-tie conclusion for a lingering psychological effect. That's refreshing for the genre and skillfully done here. The Night House is a production of Anton and Phantom Four Films. It will be released theatrically on August 20th by Searchlight Pictures.