The Night House [Fantasia Review]

The Night House image of Beth (Rebecca Hall) and an invisible presence

The Night House looks at grief through horror elements but is more about the psychological toll loss can take.

The Night House, directed by David Bruckner, written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, played at Fantasia International Film Festival and stars Rebecca Hall as Beth, dealing with the loss of her husband, Owen (Evan Jonigkeit). The film does a fantastic job of using the environment as a threatening, insidious presence via optics. Rebecca Hall plays the grief-stricken widow well, and the atmosphere leaves audiences senses dialed to eleven. The tension builds through unnerving sound effects with arresting yet chilling optics and a heroine we sympathize and cheer on. The only issue I had as a horror fan is it wasn’t scary enough. 

The oppressive feel of The Night House resides in Beth as well. The atmosphere is like an outward manifestation of Beth’s grief and anger as she struggles to deal with Owen’s death while unraveling a mystery she didn’t know existed. It is already traumatic enough for a loved one to die, but the pain increases when you realize you didn’t know them. Yet, there’s a release found in anger that allows us to keep the pain at bay. At least for a little while. 

Cast Brings Their A Game

The Night House image of Beth (Rebecca Hall), through the windows, looking at a book on a desk.
The Night House. Courtesy of Fantasia Film Festival.

Rebecca Hall is brilliant in the role. She skates between emotions with ease and shows the confusion, anger, and hurt felt when someone you love decides to take their own life. The question of whether there was a sign haunts Beth as much as the mystery. Beth’s frustration doesn’t solely stem from the puzzle, so much as a need to do something. The other characters, such as her friends and coworkers, also do great in their side roles. It’s fascinating and tragic how so few understand how to handle loss. 

In particular, coworker Heather (Christina Jackson) made me unsure whether to laugh or scream from her questions. They feel a palpable awkwardness around Beth also because they are judging her responses. Claire (Sarah Goldberg) tries to provide comfort to Beth but also struggles with how. Sarah Goldberg conveys the uncertainty well. She’s not the friend we become frustrated with because we can see how she cares for Beth. 

Predictable At Times, But Visuals & Music Astounds

Some of the hints in the film were easy to discern, so it was disappointing to figure things that fast. However, The Night House still keeps that tension because we want to see how and when Beth discovers everything. Plus, the optics keep audiences uncertain. Audiences will feel like they’re back to watching The Haunting of Hill House as they will eye the background for a glimpse of something. I only jumped at one scene, despite the tension held throughout. Avid horror watchers may not tremble, but it still clasps the audience’s interest. 

The music, especially their wedding song, fits in The Night House. The song is earthy, guttural with that passion and underlying pain in the instruments. The instrumental version is soft with a pang of nostalgia. Music composer Ben Lovett brought the emotions home via sound. You can hear the music in your head and recall a particular scene in the film. Not all music soundtracks pull that off. 

More Than Enough To Make It Worthwhile
The Night House trailer via Youtube.

The Night House looks at grief through horror elements but is more about the psychological toll loss can take. There may never be another horror film that leaves you side-eyeing every single nook and cranny. From walls, pillars, glass, and shelves, they will forever be suspicious. The Night House instills that level of paranoia.

Not to mention creepy, creaking sounds to blatant “we’re here” blaring music is off-putting in the best way. While it didn’t scare me as much as I’d hoped, the atmosphere was superb and drenched the environment itself in fear and dread. Audiences will shudder at the events unfolding. And looking around the home will become a harrowing experience. Especially thanks to that ending.

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