Strange noises and dreams torment a recent widow in The Night House.
Beth (Rebecca Hall) and Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) shared an idyllic marriage in the lakeside home that he built by hand for the two of them. Their fairy-tale romance takes a dark, unexpected turn when Owen dies suddenly, leaving Beth to pick up the pieces on her own.
No sooner does she return home from his service when their home begins to emit mystifying, almost haunting, sounds. Each new morning, Beth wakes to the realization that she’s been sleepwalking. Perhaps the strange noises are all just a dream. Perhaps it’s just her way of coping. Perhaps there’s something more sinister lurking just behind the shadows and sounds that come from the darkness.
To simply classify The Night House as a horror film does this work a major disservice. This is a psychological thriller that goes far beyond the standard jump scares and bloodbaths of your average horror film. The plot methodically seeps into every dark corner of your mind, slowly exposing its every weakness. Beth’s vulnerability is your vulnerability. It infects you in much the same way as films like 1976’s original The Omen does — by keeping one foot firmly planted in reality while the other steps carefully into the surreal.
The power of the film comes almost entirely from Hall’s performance. How she ended up in this film is a bit of a surprise and a concern. Everyone else is fairly forgettable, with the exception of Vondie Curtis-Hall as Beth’s sympathetic next-door neighbor. It’s Hall that sells you on the premise and keeps you invested in the outcome. The score, shots and framing are all little more than serviceable. The same goes for the rest of the cast.
The only thing holding it back is a bit of a convoluted plot device that doesn’t fully add up, at least not on a first viewing. I’m not even sure that I fully understand it all, but that doesn’t really matter. The film takes you on a ride that you’re eager to revisit and contemplate further.