In theaters August 20
Beth (Rebecca Hall) has recently lost her husband to suicide. As she struggles with coming to grips with her loss, she begins having disturbing dreams and strange occurrences at her home.
Unsure of whether her experiences are real or caused by her grief and drinking, Beth begins searching her husband’s belongings.
There she finds more questions than answers. It takes a disturbing visit to the night house for Beth to find an unwanted truth that reveals more about her past than future.
“The Night House” is more a typical horror film than atypical, which is unfortunate since the memorable climax could have been more impactful, had the narrative been stronger.
I sometimes write about how a story’s journey is more important than the destination. Although the destination is the strength of this film, the journey to that destination is disappointing and could have made this film a true keeper had it told a story. What is presented is a series of horror jump-scares and tired tropes that are meant to keep us tense and “in the dark” as to what is happening.
Beth is stressed, depressed, grieving and generally in a bad place mentally. Her state of mind is used to sow doubt with her coworkers and friends – but viewers know better since we’ve seen this setup literally hundreds of times before. Startlingly loud noises to create jump-scares, as well as simple conventions to create vulnerability indeed keep us on the edge of our seats, but there is no substance behind these scares. The plot has no real story, no true characterization and becomes one long set up for an interesting ending – that’s not enough.
One of the main weaknesses of this film is Beth herself. Hall’s acting skills are not in question here. She is a skilled actress. It’s the writing that fails. Beth comes across as aloof, not quite pitiable, nor is she likeable. We never see her cry or make smart decisions – if you hear footsteps on the floor above you when in an empty house, don’t investigate the dark rooms, just leave! This is the kind of frustrating writing that drives my opinion lower and lower. Add to this pedestrian dialogue that doesn’t define characters or move the story forward in memorable ways.
“The Night House” leaves audiences in the dark, failing to shed light upon a memorable conclusion until it’s too late to care.