Covid killed my go-to neighborhood movie theater so now I’m starting to frequent the brand new fancy movie joint they shoved into our local mall. It’s all right I guess, maybe even a little easier to get to via subway but I’m not welcoming the place into my heart just yet. There I was sitting down in the perfect seat that I acquired from the do-it-yourself kiosk when a very large dude sat right next to me with a huge tub of popcorn he was devouring in the style of notorious muppet Cookie Monster. This was not going to work for me as I can barely stand sitting next to friends and family let alone a complete stranger. No offense to the zealous popcorn fan but I had to change seats. Sadly, that new seat turned out to have already been selected by a gaggle of teen girls and eventually I ended up in an awkward corner too close to the screen wondering if a semi-full theater was even remotely safe and reminiscing about the good old days when ya just sat anywhere and matinees were three bucks instead of ten.
Anyway, I had a psychic feeling that the non-flashy, unassuming THE NIGHT HOUSE would be a good bet because I was so impressed with director David Bruckner’s excellent take on Adam Neville’s novel THE RITUAL. It didn’t hurt that I am also a big fan of star Rebecca Hall’s earlier film concerning a haunting, THE AWAKENING (2011). As it turns out, THE NIGHT HOUSE is an impressive collaboration between a remarkably skilled director and a truly talented actress. It’s a film that’s haunting in every sense of the word and I’m still kind of stunned at the level it unflinchingly stares into the abyss. There’s a visual, almost subliminal M.C. Escher meets HOUSE OF LEAVES aspect to the flick that is nearly maddening and yet exquisitely subtle. This flick somehow finds the perfect uncanny pitch for a haunting tale and even in a crowded theater, I have to admit to getting legit spooked.
Much like THE RITUAL, THE NIGHT HOUSE is a deep dive into the treacherous waters of grief and the undercurrents of guilt and anger lurking within. Hall portrays Beth, a woman who has recently lost her spouse in the darkest and hardest to process of ways. Now her every night is spent wondering why her husband killed himself, why was he building a mirror image of their house across the lake and whether or not she’s going insane as her dreams begin to overlap with her reality. Hall is brilliant and relatable every step of the way and her character is refreshingly impatient, testy, snarky and seemingly all around exhausted with existing. We come to find that Beth herself had once been in an accident that left her dead for several minutes and the nothingness she encountered exasperates her grieving process even further. This is some fascinating existential horror that profoundly chills to the bone. Is it worth risking your own life to see in a theater? Maybe not. The good news is that THE NIGHT HOUSE will be arriving on VOD services in early October and this is one movie that may actually be better watched at home, late at night, under a blanket, preferably during a storm.