The Night House
- Katherine McLaughlin
- 19 August 2021
Rebecca Hall impresses as a grieving widow in this creepy supernatural horror from David Bruckner
In The Night House Rebecca Hall stars as Beth, a school teacher and recent widow who goes in search of answers after her husband's suicide. Directed by David Bruckner (The Ritual) with a screenplay by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, this creepy, supernatural horror proves nastily effective as it blends reality and nightmarish invention into exquisitely crafted frights. It might not add up to a satisfying conclusion – with the trashy twists harking back to What Lies Beneath – but, in the moment, it makes for suspenseful, if occasionally ridiculous viewing.
Much of the terrifying action takes place in a grand lake house, where Beth wanders aimlessly, processing her grief in solitude. She spends sleepless nights lost to dark thoughts, with the consumption of copious amounts of expensive brandy and desperately sad phone calls to her best friend and colleague Claire (Sarah Goldberg) providing some respite from her agony. Bruckner displays ample flair in his navigation of Beth's labyrinthine home. He builds an eerie ambience whilst setting up the tense scares, following his protagonist closely as she picks through the layers of her relationship by searching the property, lake and surrounding woodland for clues as to why her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) chose to end his life.
Hall's performance is deeply unnerving, nailing the simmering anger and confusion of sudden loss, with her determined young widow lashing out at those around her in frustration. Her ordeal is intensified further as the puzzling narrative unfolds, and she learns more about her husband's interest in the occult. It's at this juncture where The Night House steps into murky waters, delving into weightier themes and struggling to adequately pull it off. The film is at its strongest when the focus is on Beth's internal battle, with Hall exploring her psychological distress with haunting sophistication.
The Night House, Filmhouse, Thursday 19 August, 9.30pm, as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival; general release in cinemas from Friday 20 August.