THE NIGHT HOUSE (2020)
Starring Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin, Vondie Curtis-Hall, David Abeles, Christina Jackson, Patrick Klein, Crystal Swann, Catherine Weidner, Laura Austin, Jacob Garrett White, Samantha Buck, Lydia Hand, Lea Enslin, Amy Zubieta and Allie McCulloch.
Screenplay by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski.
Directed by David Bruckner.
Distributed by Searchlight Pictures. 108 minutes. Rated R.
It appears that a simple haunting is not enough in modern ghost stories.
There is a spirit that is bedeviling a bereft teacher named Beth (Rebecca Hall), whose husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) had suddenly committed suicide days earlier near their stunning lake home. It seems to be not exactly the ghost of her late husband – although it looks just like him.
So what’s the deal? Who (or what) is haunting her? And how well did she really know her husband anyway? What secrets was he keeping from Beth? Was he having an affair? Was he a secret killer? What’s the deal with the backwards version of their house he seemed to have been building across the lake? What does this have to do with a childhood brush with death? Is it all in her head? Is she imagining everything? Why did he kill himself?
The Night House takes a simple, effective idea for a ghost story and then adds on too many layers, to the point that it is hard to buy the finished product. It had a lot of scary moments, but likely you’ll walk out of the theater wondering what the heck that was all about. Or, even more likely, simply not quite buying into the climax and feeling a little disappointed that the filmmakers painted themselves into a dark corner they could not quite get out of.
Or at least, they could not get out of satisfactorily.
It’s a shame because the acting in The Night House is mostly very good. The majority of the time has Hall alone with her thoughts and her demons (mental as well as literal) and Hall always brings a natural believability to the proceedings, even when she is somewhat let down by the script and filmmaking. (Although for the record, similar stunt work to the parts where Beth is fighting off an unseen spirit were done better in last year’s The Invisible Man.)
Also, there are some quite fine supporting turns here. Sarah Goldberg is terrific as a supportive friend of Beth’s who is trying to get her to leave the house – and her ghosts – behind. Vondie Curtis-Hall also is a welcome presence as a neighbor who has been watching the goings on at the lake house for a while and tries his best to be there for Owen (when he was alive) and now Beth.
Also, almost a decade after starring in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, Stacy Martin is finally able to salvage her career with a chilling and nuanced supporting turn as a local bookstore owner who had been contemplating an affair with Beth’s late husband.
The directing is slick and spooky, with lots of the requisite jump scares and a suitably gloomy and otherworldly aura.
I just wish the story didn’t spin further and further out of control to the point that by the end it made little or no sense.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 20, 2021.