Shocked at the unexpected death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakefront house he built for her and the memories of their marriage together. Mourning turns into terror when she begins to have haunting visions around the house, and the idyllic life she has had with her husband hides terrible secrets …
In the first twenty minutes of ‘The Night House’, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it would be a silent drama of grief and memory if you came to it cold.
After all, Rebecca Hall is one of those rare actresses in business today who channels an uncomfortable level of humanity into her performances. She achieves this in a tense scene with a bossy parent when she bluntly reveals to him how her husband died. We’re so used to seeing performances put down, that Hall really does tackle people’s inconsistencies, which makes the performance more believable.
It’s a shame then that she’s stuck in what is truly a boring, dull psychological horror with a story you can see coming a mile away and with a fatal lack of thrill. Without saying too much, Hall’s on-screen husband begins to play a role after his apparent death in the story, but that’s in the way director David Bruckner deploys it that it gives everything. In fact, there’s a point or two in ‘The Night House’ where it gets too ridiculous to try and grab it. While it can achieve tastes like “Hereditary,” it shares more in common with Robert Zemeckis’ “What Lies Beneath” in the mid-90s, but it’s nowhere near as entertaining as it sounds. Instead, he weaves his way through obvious shock sequences and leap fears, completing the narrative with diversions into the occult, demonology, the mirror universes, before the great revelation arrives and that’s basically what you thought it was from the start.
Other Horrors have used the same structure, of course, but few have done with the level of pretension that “The Night House” has. It’s frustrating to see such an obvious movie that doesn’t have the good taste of being fun or exciting, or trying to subvert your expectations. Instead, it delivers a demanding psychological thriller which, while it may house a compelling performance by Rebecca Hall, is built on a fragile story that crumbles in the final act.