Directed by David Bruckner.
Starring Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall.
Horror, US, 108 minutes, certificate 15.

Released in the UK in cinemas by Searchlight Pictures August 20th


Recently widowed Beth is struggling with the grief brought on by her husband Owen’s sudden suicide. Aside from the expected anguish and sorrow that Beth has to deal with she soon starts experiencing events in the large river side house that Owen built that have her questioning if Owen may still be around in some fashion. Further questions about Owen are raised when Beth discovers architectural plans for another house identical to her own but in reverse and with several maze-like designs added. When pictures of women similar to herself are discovered on his phone Beth starts to wonder about this seemingly secret life and how it seems to be tied to an incident from her own past before meeting Owen.


Following up the folk horror of 2017’s THE RITUAL, David Bruckner directs this neat spin on the woman in peril story. Where that previous film gradually evolved into something else Bruckner repeats the trick again here with maybe even more impressive results. Small in scale it may be but the atmosphere of dread and terror that is induced here shows that Bruckner could be more deserving of a more elevated rank among the more celebrated directors working in big screen horror today. In fact, THE NIGHT HOUSE seems like the perfect antidote to the overblown histrionics of the likes of THE CONJURING franchises. One sequence here provides a great example of Bruckner’s talent in staging shocks with a number of perfectly executed scares that arrive in quick succession in one scene showing off the directors’ skill in utilising empty space on screen and perfectly timed audio that had members of the audience of the screening I attended shrieking out loud.


Rebecca Hall gives her well written character an equally impressive sense of depth and life with her performance here. Beth comes across as far more than a woman under threat here. Her understandably weary nature bolstered by a sense of sarcasm that provides the film with a sense of levity that does not feel out of place with the films otherwise foreboding atmosphere. Hall conveys her complex character expertly, often alone on screen (or is she?) for lengthy sections at a time getting across her inner turmoil through subtle physical acting without the aid for expository or extraneous dialogue.


As noted earlier Bruckner could be more of a celebrated talent after this, along with the film’s screenwriters Luke Piotrowski and Ben Collins. That they are all collaborating once more on their next project is exciting news even before you take in the fact that their next project is the reboot of HELLRAISER. It is an enticing prospect especially when viewing this film and the more disturbing elements that are contained within it.


THE NIGHT HOUSE feels like a rarity, the kind of mid-level budget self-contained horror/thriller that all too rarely finds room on a cinema screen these days amongst the multiple franchises that swarm the multiplex. Although not as large in scale as the bigger budgeted horror franchises, ideas surface in the latter stages of this film suggesting a kind of cosmic and existential horror that is all too rare in horror cinema to go along with its more familiar yet expertly executed elements. This is just one of a number of reasons that THE NIGHT HOUSE should be celebrated and seen on the big screen if you get the opportunity.


Iain MacLeod


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