Spoilers: The Night House (2021) review (10/5/21)
Last week I saw The Night House starring Rebecca Hall and directed by David Bruckner. When her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) unexpectedly commits suicide, Beth (Hall) is greifstricken and looking for answers. In her search, she uncovers a dark side to Owen that she was oblivious to. Hall excellently portrays a woman on the edge of greif, anger and confusion. The film lucidly moves between her different stages of grief in a way that simultaneously keeps the plot moving along starting with the acceptance of Owen's death and decides to move out of their house. In the process of moving she discovers stranger journals and pictures on Owen's phone that she never knew about. It seemed that he was having multiple affairs. One night when Beth connects with a friend she reveals that she died for 4 minutes as a teenager and was revitalized but that the experience disturbed her greatly. She discribes the place after life as "the nothing".
Where the film starts to miss the mark is in the personification of this feeling or force of "the nothing". At first random sounds are heard around the house then the stereo randomly turns on in a series of sound jump scares. Then there is a dark low voice directing her around the house, with what seems to be the intention of leading her to Owen in the afterlife. Shortly after that he house seems to start coming alive and she sees silhouettes of house everywhere and at one point is embracing the air implying that Owen is there in spirit. In the last 20 minutes of the movie is where it lost me. She ends up out in a row boat with gun in the same place Owen committed suicide. Owen is sitting with her and reveals to her that he's not Owen but "the nothing" that she escaped when she was a teenager and that Owen has been protecting her by sacrificing other women to this force. The film then hops back and forth between this dark reality in her head and then real life which is actually quite a sunny and beautiful day as her friend runs to her rescue and shakes her out of the dark trance Beth is in.
Just re-reading what I've writen above just shows me how this film tried to end by doing it all when it should have picked a lane and seen it through. The last 3rd of the film becomes kind of a jumbled mess of thriller, haunted house horror, spirit supernatural horror, alternate dimemsion horror, and mental health horror. It's ambicious to try to combine so many elements of those genres into one film and it might have even worked, but when "the nothing" spirit impersonating Owen declares himself "the nothing" and tries to coax Beth into killing herself all mystory is gone, the moster is revealed, and its just not scary or compelling. In the end it's clear that it was all in Beths head but I think they should have leaned into the mirrored dimension aspect of the story and kept the reveal of that it was in Beths head to a minimum instead of a 10 minutes scene of Beth conversing with "the nothing" spirit.
My final impressions are that the first 80% of this film is an edgy thriller with great performaces and tone but like a lot of horror films the intrigue and suspense built up from the beginning runs out of steam by the end as it gets pulled in too many directions. Watching this film made me realize that the expositon of horror/thriller films is often the most interesting part where as revealing of "the monster" in the end can fall flat since it rarely matches up with our own imaginations. Thats probably why horror films that never fully reveal "the monster" tend to be my favorite ones.