When someone you care about takes their own life, you experience a unique and excruciating kind of grief.
It’s hard enough to deal with the universal sense of loss that follows any death without also experiencing the whirlwind of other emotions that often accompany it, such as the initial jolt of disbelief, the confusion of fury, and the worst of all, the nagging curiosity.
There is a horribly unsatisfied yearning for a truth that will remain a mystery, and yet there are unanswerable, incomprehensibly tough questions that persist.
The Night House Review Mourning Becomes Her
Beth (Rebecca Hall), a schoolteacher, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) takes a boat out on the lake and shoots himself (with a gun she didn’t even know he owned) in David Bruckner’s jarring new film The Night House, which premiered at Sundance in 2020.
From his perplexing riddle of a note (“You were right, there is nothing, nothing is after you”) to the secret life he was leading right under her nose, Beth’s life is inevitably thrown into disarray as she tries to make sense of the chaos he left behind.
Who did she truly wed, and why does it seem like he hasn’t yet gone?
Both the Story And the Manner in Which it is Conveyed Reveal Ambiguity Throughout The Night House.
Beth discovers a second life and home, a spouse who was one thing to her and something quite different to others, all in her desperate hunt for something, anything that would cast light on this terrible darkness that has burrowed its way into her psyche.
She receives clues both in the waking world and in a dreamlike state, and there is also a Hitchcockian duplicate, portrayed by Stacy Martin, who looks identical to Beth.
There is a steady stream of shocking revelations about the wife discovering that her husband isn’t as flawless as she had thought, reminiscent of thrillers from the 1990s and 2000s like Deceived, Double Jeopardy, and What Lies Underneath.
The film’s third act is much more ambitious and less successful than the first two thirds, which include an exquisite if predictable inquiry. While writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski deserve credit for the dramatic turn, it’s one that owes a bit too much to the trend of “elevated horror” in recent years.
This is a pejorative term for films that use fantastical elements to comment on serious topics (examples range from The Babadook to Hereditary to The Witch to Midsommar). As they fumble from the painfully obvious to the annoyingly obtuse in their attempts to give their film a point of view, we find ourselves losing interest.
The fun, chin-stroking drip-drip release of knowledge eventually becomes a leak that Bruckner can’t contain. The movie paints a much more serious picture of events than they actually are, and the story is conveyed with less aplomb and more sloppiness than Hall merits.
It’s her never-better performance that anchors the schlock with a passionate, unyielding mastery of the material and without resorting to histrionics, she’s tremendously adept in communicating the hollowing agony of bereavement, which is what keeps the film afloat even in its rougher moments.
This is A-list material, and it made me question why she’s been so quiet recently, except from a lacklustre cameo in Godzilla v. Kong. It’s also unquestionably magnificent as Bruckner’s capstone work, a significant step up in polish and scale from anything he’s done before (his last film was patchy woodland horror The Ritual).
He takes advantage of the dark corners of his modernist main house and its surrounds to set up a series of frights that would make even the most seasoned horror fan jump out of their seat.
The jumble of effectively nightmare-inducing, if increasingly incoherent, images at the film’s climax suggests he will handle his upcoming remake of Hellraiser with visual flair, so it will be interesting to see what he does with it next.
Mostly because to Hall’s fierce conviction in his delivery, the components that don’t work quite as well in The Night House are nearly outweighed by the clever shocks hidden throughout the story. The house may have wobbly support, but its resident is rock solid.