The Night House follows a woman grieving the loss of her husband to suicide. As strange and supernatural happenings begin to occur throughout the house her late husband built (and she uncovers secrets amidst the things he left behind), she starts to question her reality and the past 14 years of their marriage.
[This movie was viewed in a movie theater at the time of this review.]
The Night House Review
I have given this preface perhaps a hundred times over the years of writing reviews, but I'll say it again...There are generally two ways to get me to fall in love with a horror film:
Have high quality, clever, and persistent practical effects.
Use horror as a vehicle to tell a powerful story and/or communicate on the human experience/social commentary.
The Night House does the latter. I think an apt comparison on the surface is The Babadook. No, they don't feel like the same film, but they do carry many similarities. They both operate around an entity, they both deal with death, they both tackle very real traumas and human conditions...but The Night House has several key differentiators: Rebecca Hall's lead performance is some of the best horror has to offer, the entity is more ethereal, the mystery is much deeper, and it doesn't have a really annoying kid.
Okay, that last jab is for those that couldn't get past the screaming child in The Babadook...Solidarity, people.
Hall's acting prowess has often been on display but not near often enough in lead roles. This film expresses the need to give her more opportunities. While a horror film at its core, The Night House asks for a lot more from the lead than just terror. Hall carries the weight of tackling suicide and depression in her role as she deals with her own demons and the loss of her husband to suicide. The power of the film resides not only in the mystery, but her ability to carry the majority of the film on her own.
The film does occasionally fall into traditional horror tropes...once we know there's a supernatural element afoot, our protagonist must figure out the truth. But where most horror movies that follow this trend gradually discover the origins of their haunting presence (often with little consequence to the plot's conclusion), this film dives deep into its mystery with much more substance, legitimate twists, and a powerful message. Some of the clues will feel familiar, but much of the impact of the discoveries affect more than just the horror plot, it also shakes the foundation of Hall's perspective of her husband and her life, making it all-the-more engaging and relatable.
The scares (if that's what you're looking for) aren't frequent nor do many of the scares instill much terror, but the film builds its horror through its unsettling and heavy atmosphere. There is rarely a scene from the first onward that doesn't make you feel uncomfortable. You are constantly in wait for something real to drop. And while that doesn't happen with much frequency from a visceral perspective, we are constantly receiving and processing information along with Hall that keeps us enthralled in the story unfolding.
The mystery inevitably concludes with some big reveals that I personally found satisfying. The film's message carries with you long after the credits roll, and the best films usually have that impact. The Night House may not have a particularly high re-watch rate for me, but that would be one of only a few knocks I would have on it. It may require a little patience for the popcorn horror fan for its more plodding structure, but those willing to embrace the story will find it rewarding.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 9/10
Horror Quality: 7/10
Film Quality: 8/10