The cognition of death and the grief that follows seems to be an unsettling idea explored by many horror auteurs in recent years. This cerebral concept, when incited with complex paranormal occurrences, creates the perfect blueprint for modern horror masterpieces.
“The Night House” by David Bruckner delves deep into the psychological aspect of death and signifies the afterlife as a celestial force to follow. This film falls well short of a masterpiece as a result of confusing transitions between a cohesive and chaotic storyline, a storyline that unfortunately is immersive only in its details. While the film resonates in many ways with an electric soundscape that intensifies its horror elements, the experience sadly fails to have a lasting effect after one viewing.
“The Night House” follows a wife named Beth (Rebecca Hall) who was recently widowed after her husband mysteriously killed himself. Beth is then haunted by the ghost of her husband as she copes with grief and the existence of an afterlife. Beth undoubtedly becomes a true character study as she struggles with her grip on reality and the paranormal occurrences ensuing around her. Mixed with alcoholism, Beth is tasked with addressing the daunting outside forces wreaking havoc on her psyche. She must also face her mental escapades as a completely separate mortal being.
As her dead husband slowly starts to visit her from the grave, I cannot help but think of this entire narrative as a giant amalgamation of gaslighting and hysteria. When Beth’s visions begin to worsen, her mental health comes into question, furthering her delusions. At this point, I felt a bit uneasy in a way that became fixed to the film’s scattered storyline. Rather than seeing through to her madness and uncovering canny clues behind her husband’s design, the film instead relies on cheap giveaways made too easy for the audience to recognize.
This does not mean the film wasn’t still absolutely terrifying at moments. The sound design fully enhanced the film’s horror elements creating full-blown ghastly jump scares. Bruckner has this insanely cogent ability to develop a sinister environment with his camera movements alone. This cinematography, blended with Rebecca Hall’s intense performance, allowed the house itself to become a malignant entity. When the environment is controlled so well by the director’s camera work, the audience becomes a slave to the direction of the film. This alone creates the perfect atmosphere for warranted jump scares.
As mentioned earlier, the sound design helped create many aggressive scare sequences for the film. Although this technique can be effective in its approach, I feel that the film’s originality hindered this creative endeavor. Horror films should seek to make their audiences recognize the unsettling nature of life, which is where large-scale sound bites come in handy. However, when the film becomes creative in its scare approach and relentless sound score, it felt a bit too exhausting to carry on with the viewing.
Nevertheless, these problems all stem from the originality of the film which is so great to see in the horror genre. I really hope more theaters will screen “The Night House,” for it is an electric horror thriller unlike any out today.
“The Night House” is out now in select theaters.