We support Rebecca Hall’s mystery of who her dead husband really was.
Independent features that provide horror or fantasy genres tend to be polarizing with critics and audiences. In a recent example, David Lowery’s fantasy “The Green Knight” got a C+, but even I knew some people who liked it for what it was. To me, it was an absorbing experience. I know this first paragraph of the following review sounds routine, but that’s what I observe.
In the independent horror film “The Night House,” released by Searchlight Pictures (a marginally better name than 20th Century Studios since Disney bought out Fox), there are thought-provoking elements that leaves me pondering on its true nature. Rebecca Hall plays the lead character Beth, who starts to go deeper into the life she thought her husband had, but it ends up being darker.
As the film begins, she’s a college teacher dealing with the suicidal death of her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit). He took his boat out on the lake and grabbed a gun that she didn’t even know he had and shot himself in the head. She still lives in the lake house he built, until she can sell it, but she begins to sense a presence in it. She dreams about him texting her and standing in the nude on the lake. Despite warnings from her friend Claire (Sarah Goldberg) and neighbor Mel (Vondie Curtis-Hall), she begins searching around his valuables, including his cell phone and mythical books, to try to make sense of things. And the next dream takes her to another house that looks like her’s, but backwards.
It’s almost if she went into some kind of mirror world, because she sees herself. Or is it herself? Or is it somebody else?
She always knew Owen was a good person, but given some of the evidence she stumbles upon, was he really? And does he have something to hide that resorted in his final message to Beth with no “Love, Owen” or “XOXO?”
The only two people she can get better info about (if not the whole story) are Mel and a bookstore employee named Madelyne (Stacy Martin), whom Owen knew.
I wish “The Night House” could have brought us deeper into the mirror world, which seems a bit vague, but it pays off in the end, when Beth finds out what’s really going on. Hall is quite exceptional with a similar tone I’ve seen in Carey Mulligan in “Promising Young Woman,” because at times, she seems wisecracking and at times, she’s serious. She just wants to know what her husband got himself into and what she’s getting herself into.
I also admired the supporting work from Goldberg, Curtis-Hall, and Martin, because of how they connect with Hall’s character and how they try to warn her about the dangers of digging into her husband’s life.
I’m sure I’ve told you this before, but when I watch horror movies, I usually cover my ears to prevent myself from getting a heart attack if something scary popped out. My mom learned that lesson when she saw Tim Burton’s take on “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” And I was so relaxed by “The Night House’s” atmosphere, that I didn’t cover my ears, and as a result, a scary noise came up. This was an unpredictable moment, which I won’t spoil.
“The Night House” is a thrilling and questionable entry from director David Bruckner (“V/H/S,” “Southbound”), producer David S. Goyer (the “Dark Knight” trilogy), and writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski; all of whom know what they’re getting their leading lady into better than I could. Seeing such films as these are quite interesting.