“The Night House” provides sinister atmosphere, lacks coherence

Noah Grabianski, A&E Editor

It’s undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact upon Hollywood and the modern film industry. With so many movies getting released on streaming services, it’s easy to miss out on some of the movies still being released solely in theaters. Horror director David Bruckner’s newest film, “The Night House,” is such a movie. After some delays, the film was released on Aug. 20, 2021, despite originally being screened at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 14, 2020. “The Night House” centers around Beth, portrayed by Rebecca Hall, a young woman recently widowed after the sudden and unexplained suicide of her husband of 14 years. As she processes her grief, she begins to uncover the secrets that he’s hidden in the house he built for them. It’s a solid psychological horror, but culminates in a lackluster finale.

The film has an intriguing premise and a first half that engages the viewer and wraps them into the story. Unlike some horror movies, “The Night House” starts off quickly, leaving the bulk of the movie to show Beth unraveling the mysteries left behind by her husband, which could also reveal the reason behind his death. This mystery is presented through the lens of horror, however, as we see the young protagonist haunted by a mysterious presence in her house. 

For the most part, the story is put together pretty well, and not much is left unexplained as it moves along. In contrast, however, the ending is somewhat anticlimactic, and leaves a lot of the pieces for the viewer to put together themselves. The audience isn’t stupid, of course, but at the same time, some of the explanations are left to blink-and-you-miss-it details that people could miss.

The real star of “The Night House” is Rebecca Hall. She’s clearly devoted to delivering a riveting performance as the haunted young widow. For the majority of the film, she’s on her own in scenes, carrying the movie and striking the extremes of terror and fear into her audience. Even when she’s surrounded by others, she still shines as the most outstanding performer in the film. Fellow cast members Vondie Curtis-Hall and Evan Jonigkeit also deliver notable performances as Beth’s neighbor and deceased husband, respectively. 

Production-wise, nothing much stands out about “The Night House.” However, a combination of clever camerawork and sound design combine to make some of the scariest scenes that the film boasts. Another of the movie’s high points is the lighting, which unconventionally adds to the movie’s haunting atmosphere. While at first it highlights the loneliness Beth feels, it slowly shifts to show that she may not be alone in her community as she once thought. At some points, the lighting shifts to make it appear as though there is someone or something standing behind her, just peering over her shoulder. However, the lighting especially shines in the film’s last twenty or so minutes, as a brilliant, red full moon is used to signify Beth’s crossing between reality and an almost trance-like state. 

There’s a lot more to “The Night House” than appears on the surface, but it isn’t really enough to set it apart from the other films being released right around this time. The film is worth a watch for anybody looking for a solid psychological horror. If that doesn’t sound like something for you, then it’s just not worth the money.