Movie Review: The Night House

Photo: searchlight pictures

There was a bit of buzz about this horror film, because at Sundance it ended up selling to a studio for $12 million. It also stars Rebecca Hall. On screen, her facial expressions always seems to bug me, but she always shows up in movies I enjoy -- The Gift, The Town, Christine, and the underseen films Everything Must Go, Please Give, and The Dinner (and I’d recommend you rent any of those last three instead of going to see this contrived mess that uses many horror movie tropes). 

Hall plays Beth, a teacher who is reeling from the suicide of her architect husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit). 

Side note: I want someone to research what professions characters most often have in movies. Architect would be near the top.

When Beth shows up at school for a meeting, and then has to deal with a parent angry at the grade her son got -- it’s brilliant. And I was hoping for more moments like that. Even the cheesy jump scare they had (which scared me more than any scene I’ve ever seen on screen), showed me that this was capable of being a horror film, and a picture adults and teens would enjoy. 

When the ghost of her husband starts showing up, with the stereo blasting Richard Thompson songs, it’s still intriguing. When she starts looking at her husband’s cell phone, she wonders about all the photos of various women. They’re all taken of the women out in public, and they’re fully clothed, and looking a lot like Beth. Her friend astutely points out, “Well, he has a type. There are worse things to find on your husband’s phone.”

It was great to see stage/character actor Vondie Curtis-Hall as the nice neighbor. And Elisha Christian gives us some beautiful and moody cinematography. And while you’re enjoying those aspects you start to realize...this film is kind of taking a long time to get there. Nothing worse than realizing you’re a bit bored watching a movie (and the friend I brought with me, a buddy in town from Belgium, was even more bored). 

There were a few too many things that happened in this that took me out of what could have been an interesting story. Friends making comments to a grieving widow that I don’t think they would have; a woman showing up at Beth’s house with some information about her dead husband. Or, just the fact that Beth knows her house is haunted, yet she stays there. Haven’t we been yelling at women in horror movies for 50 years now, “Don’t go in that dark basement!!!!”

Oh, and if she has discovered all these secrets about her husband, why near the end is she calling his name, yearning for him to hold her? This isn’t Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in Ghost. This is a guy who did some questionable things, so...when that mist comes off the lake like something from The Fog...maybe grab a can of Raid to keep his spirit at bay.

Rebecca Hall’s performance is enough to make it a halfway decent thriller, but it was a lost opportunity on what could’ve been a cool story. The 3rd act is just such a complete mess.

2 stars out of 5.

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