A foreboding horror with an underwhelming ending
Have you ever been woken up by things going bump in the night? It’s usually the case that it’s just a cat or the next-door neighbours inexplicably moving furniture around at 3 in the morning! But what if it was something more? What if it was something far more sinister? And no, we’re not talking about the in-laws suddenly deciding to move themselves in while you are sleeping!
We are, of course, talking about ghosts. And why should we be discussing this? Well, yet another haunted house movie has hit streaming services. The Night House is available to watch on Disney+ now.
The Night House is a psychological horror tale starring Rebecca Hall, an actress who is no stranger to films that are mysterious and bone-chilling, having already appeared in 2009’s Dorian Gray and 2011’s The Awakening. She is a highly talented actress, as we’re sure you’ll agree. But is The Night House worthy of her talents? Well, the answer isn’t an easy one as while the script allows her to deliver a suitably terrific performance, the overall film is not as good as it could have been.
Directed by David Bruckner (The Ritual), the film certainly seems quite promising at the start. Hall stars as Beth, a teacher, whose husband Owen took his own life a few days before the start of the film’s story. Forced to live alone in the creepy and remote lake-house that she once shared with her partner, we watch as she tries to come to terms with his demise. Why would he kill himself? We aren’t given the answer immediately, but for Beth, it’s a real mystery, as her husband didn’t show any signs of distress in the days leading up to his death.
Needless to say, the film doesn’t spend a lot of time milking the emotional consequences of the tragedy. Things take a more spooky turn when Beth begins to experience signs of the paranormal, including thudding noises around the home, supernatural visions, and the sound of her hi-fi system mysteriously turning itself on.
Beth also hears the whispers of somebody speaking to her and as far as she can make out, the voice appears to be that of her late husband. When messages also come through from him on Messenger, this seems to be confirmation of this.
The setup is certainly a good one, albeit a little familiar. We have already seen its like in other horror films, as well as in less spooky fare, such as the Demi Moore/Patrick Swayze movie, Ghost. There are no scenes of sensual pottery making in The Night House, however.
While we are reminded of other entries in the haunted house genre, the film does take a few turns towards the unexpected as the story continues. Cryptic suicide notes, female phantoms, and the indication that something evil resides in the lake-house, all help to ramp up the tension and sense of mystery as the film progresses. Hall performs admirably throughout, showcasing a full range of emotions, from sadness and grief to facial expressions that silently scream out feelings of terror.
Sadly, The Night House doesn’t deliver on its premise. While there is more to Beth’s husband than we are initially led to believe, there isn’t enough explanation to justify the secrets that both we and Beth discover. Quite clearly, Owen wasn’t all that he seemed but the reasons behind his behaviour both before and after his death are never properly explored.
I’m trying hard to avoid plot spoilers here. With a film that has so many twists and turns, it would be wrong to go into detail on the events that befall Beth and the people around her. To understand more, you really need to see the film yourself. And on one level, you may get some enjoyment from it. There are several good jump scares, alongside a deep sense of foreboding that might lure you in to Beth’s predicament.
On the other hand, the film is drawn out longer than it needs to be and the final resolution may leave you feeling dissatisfied. It’s still worth watching for Rebecca Hall, who plays a rare horror film heroine that doesn’t attempt to run away from the horrors that she encounters. However, despite her excellent performance, the film as a whole is slightly underwhelming.
If you’re happy to walk away from The Night House without an easy resolution, you may be happier with the film than I was. But if you’re looking for something with the power to keep you awake at night, you may be left wanting.
Verdict - 6.5/10