Review by Camden Ferrell
The Night House is a new psychological horror film that had its premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It is directed by David Bruckner and is written by the writers of 2017’s Super Dark Times. The movie can be a bit of a slow burn at times, but it’s carried by the phenomenal leading performance from Rebecca Hall.
Beth is a woman who is grieving after the death of her husband. She passes her days in the lakeside home that her late husband built just for her. However, overcome by her nightmares, she begins to uncover secrets about her husband that lead her on a mysterious and troubling path. This is a simple premise that has lots of promise for horror and mystery.
Written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, the script for this movie is justifiably minimal. Especially in the first act, this movie doesn’t have too much dialogue and gives room and liberty for its actors to perform. The little dialogue throughout does a decent job of being expositional without feeling forced. While the script is strong overall, a lot of the enjoyment of the movie comes from its performances.
The supporting cast of the film is decent, but the undeniable standout of this film is the leading performance of Rebecca Hall. She plays the role of the grieving widow so well, and she navigates masterfully through many scenes, perfectly changing style and delivery as needed. Without her performance, it’s hard to say if the movie would work as well as it does.
I enjoyed how the movie didn’t utilize any jump scares to increase tension. It opts to use a more sinister nighttime atmosphere to thrill its audience. The cinematography and score are both also elements that elevate the thrill factor of the movie. It’s not scary as a whole, but it has some moments that are quite tense.
Bruckner’s direction is strong throughout. He excels in the moments of action and tension especially in the film’s final act. He even executes the slower moments fairly well, but unfortunately, there are some moments that are a little too slow for its own good. The slow burn is in the nature of the movie, and it works most of the time, but when it doesn’t work, it’s too noticeable.
Despite the pacing problems with the movie, it does a great job of combining elements of horror and mystery in order to tell a story about one woman’s struggle with grief and closure. It has some pretty shocking twists and thrilling moments that make for an overall enjoyable theater experience.
The Night House may not be groundbreaking, but it features a truly commendable leading turn from Rebecca Hall, and it has some spooky and scary moments. It has some problems with its execution at times, but for those willing to overlook it, they will be treated with a fun horror film.
The Night House is in theaters August 20.