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Confessions of a Cinephile – The Night House (2021)

Column written by David Garrett

  • Film: The Night House
  • Year: 2020
  • Director: David Bruckner
  • Writer: Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski
  • Starring: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg and Vondie Curtis-Hall

Review:

This was a movie that was getting quite the push. I’ve been going to the theater a lot as of late and both I go to were showing the trailer. It was even popping up on streaming services with commercials as well. Jaime and I got the chance to see this when the Gateway Film Center had an advanced screening to which we were able to get passes. To get into the movie itself, a widow begins to uncover her recently deceased husband’s disturbing secrets.

We start after the funeral of Owen (Evan Jonigkeit). He was married to Beth (Rebecca Hall) and she returns to the house they shared. It is even more interesting that he built the house as well. As someone who just lost their spouse, she is struggling. She has a restless night. There is a knock at the door and when she looks out, she thinks she sees someone. The problem is that there is no one there.

Beth is a teacher and she shows up late to meeting. Her best friend is also a teacher in Claire (Sarah Goldberg). She is shocked to see Beth, but Claire is glad she is keeping busy. We get an interesting scene from here where Beth is looking at things on her computer, glances at the clock and then shocked by a knock at her classroom door. She lost time and there’s a search for handguns on the screen of her laptop. She has a testy talk with the mother of one of her students from there.

More creepy things happen to her as well. She finds a watery footprint on the stairs up from their dock. Music turns on in the middle of the night. She also gets a phone call from her dead husband’s phone. When she looks out to the lake, she believes she sees him standing there, naked. This causes her to find his phone in the items she is getting rid of, but there isn’t a text or call from him. What she does find though is a picture of a woman that looks a lot like her.

This causes her to look more into things where Claire tells her not to. She believes that Beth should just let sleeping dogs lie. Things get quite weird when one night she gets into the boat and sees a house much like hers across the lake. The problem is we’ve seen earlier there is no house over there, just woods. The more she digs, the darker things become and her husband might not have been the man she originally thought.

That is where I’m going to leave my recap as I don’t want to spoil this movie. I also believe that people should seek this out. I had quite the experience in seeing this movie. If you know me, I’m sucked into the story. This movie pulls us in at first with the emotion. We have Beth who thought things were good between her and Owen. He was the rock. She was the one who dealt with depression, but he is the one who killed himself. Plus, there is a line in the trailer that he did it with a gun she didn’t know he had. There is more to this story though.

There are elements here of the supernatural. Owen has a sketchbook for plans as it seems like he was a foreman or worked construction or he was an architect, something along those lines. As Beth goes through it, it seems normal. The deeper she goes though she finds plans like their house, just a mirror to it. She also finds that he had books about the occult. This is something else she didn’t know her husband was into. What I like is that there is a way to look at this as a supernatural thing. We could be dealing with a mirror of our own world where we have our characters, but just a darker version of them. This could be parallel worlds as well here. Another thing is that there could be a darker entity that Beth fears is after her. There is another way to look at this movie as well.

The other way would be that this movie is an allegory for depression. Beth admits that she deals with this. Owen was her rock, but I could see that her condition could have worn on him. There is also the idea that the things he is doing could also have weighed on him, leading him to do what he did. This dark entity that Beth believes she sees could be her depression as a manifestation. All the supernatural things happen to her only. At the end of the movie, this is what I told Jaime where she believes it is the other explanation that it is supernatural. What I like here is that the movie allows you to decide.

What I think makes this movie work though is the performance from Hall. She does great at being this character that just has had her world shattered. She is trying to hold things together. In dealing with her grief we see her get angry and then depressed. It is things I’ve gone through myself and it makes it more believable. Goldberg is solid as her friend who wants to be there for her, but Beth isn’t ready. The same can be said for Vondie Curtis-Hall who is taking on the character of Mel, a family friend. Jonigkiet is interesting as Owen. He is dead at the beginning, but we see things play out with him. He has an intense look. Aside from that, I thought the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.

Next, I’ll go to the cinematography, effects and the soundtrack. For the former, they do some good things with the atmosphere. The framing works for things and part of the effects come into play there as well. We are getting dream sequences or hallucinates that made for some creepy imaginary we see. I think both of these aspects work together and are effective. The atmosphere is also built by the soundtrack and sound design. There is a jump-scare in this movie that got me. It made my chest hurt actually. This made me think back to the last time one worked this well and it happened with After Midnight when I saw that in the theater. They are much different in what they did, but still were effective.

So then in conclusion here, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. We have an interesting story here of dealing with a realistic tragedy. It is then being taken into a potential supernatural way of looking at things. I like the commentary here regardless of how you read the movie. The acting from Hall is great and the rest of the cast helps direct her to where she ends up. The atmosphere is solid with how things are framed, the effects used and the soundtrack to build on that. This has been one of the better movies from this year. I’d rate this as a good movie that is bordering on being great.

My Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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