It’s the end of October, the clocks have turned back, and the nights are now drawing in which means it’s the perfect time of year to settle down with a scary movie. The early onset of the dark makes for the perfect environment to watch one of this year’s strongest horror titles, The Night House. Set in the wake of the death of schoolteacher Beth’s (Rebecca Hall) husband, Owen (Evan Jonigkeit), The Night House joins Beth as she tries to hold her life together, but she finds her attempts at returning to normality thwarted by a strange presence in her home. Convinced that Owen is trying to communicate, Beth becomes consumed by deciphering his message and in doing so uncovers some very disturbing secrets.
If you missed The Night House at the cinema then unfortunately you have missed out on the optimum viewing setting for the film. That being said, if you wait until dark and watch with the lights down low then you might be able to replicate similar viewing conditions. With a title such as The Night House, the story obviously mainly takes place at night, which is what makes a dark setting so vital. Director David Bruckner relishes playing in the dark and creates a wonderfully eerie environment. Bruckner captures that unsettling quiet that is only found in the dead of night and dials it up to eleven in order to create some really uncomfortable moments. The sustained dread and tension crafted here is second to none. In terms of intensity, horror films don’t get much better. The Night House plays on the viewer’s anxieties to the point of leaving them fearful of uttering a breath for fear of conjuring the malevolence circling Beth. Although almost two hours in length, The Night House passes by in the blink of an eye, with Bruckner keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat from the first moment to last.
Crafting the right balance of tension is only half of the job however. In order to sell what has been constructed on screen you need a capable lead, and Rebecca Hall is simply sensational. Hall effortlessly guides the audience through Beth’s grief and trauma. What makes the character of Beth so engaging is that she is strong. Beth isn’t a meek or feeble person; she has clearly experience trauma in her life, but has used her experience to empower herself, making her a formidable woman to encounter. Her grief, and the unexpected manner in which Owen died, have opened up old wounds, but she is consciously committed to not letting her life unravel. She’s incredulous in her behaviour, immediately throwing herself back into work and socialising with colleagues. Rather than it be Beth who feels strange in these situations, it is those with Beth who feel awkward. It’s an impressive and resilient approach to life, but also an incredibly complex one. The intricacies of the character would not shine as brightly as they do were it not for Hall’s embodiment of Beth and her many layers. This is the type of character that warrants exploration, investigation and future analysis, setting Beth apart as much more than your standard horror heroine.
Bruckner’s The Ritual is one of the most criminally under seen horrors of the last ten years. The film, based on a novel by Adam Nevill, is a gutsy woodland-set folk horror that ventures into some very strange situations. If you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend seeking it out. Next, Bruckner is involved in the Hellraiser mini-series, and given the clear references to Clive Barker (creator of the Hellraiser world) it could be something spectacular. In The Night House, Bruckner has captured the very essence of Clive Barker’s literature. If you’ve read a Barker book or too, you’ll pick up these bloodcurdling elements, Bruckner utilises them to hammer home the grief and trauma of the story. Compounded by the ever increasing suspense, these alarming additions help to work the nerves into a frenzy.
The Night House is the quickest way to spend nearly two hours, maintaining maximum tension and dread from minute one. Add to that an award-worthy performance from Rebecca Hall and some strong Clive Barker vibes, and you have the perfect film to keep you up all night.
The Night House is available to watch on Disney+ now.