The movie focuses a lot on a character centric plot and challenging the psyche of our main character Beth. For such a heavy focus on characters, that means a good acting set of skills required and I think the cast did and exquisite job of bringing their characters to life. Vondie Curtis-Hall does well in his role as the concerned neighbor, nothing too over the top or a masterpiece, but certainly a good chemistry for the time he is on screen. Goldberg as the best friend has her elements as well, and I liked the more serious conversations of that friend trying to snap the main character out of her potential psychosis to get her back on track. It's really Rebecca Hall though who gets the most shout outs given she is practically a one woman show. Hall has to do a lot of acting and reacting with herself, and I'm impressed in the levels of human emotion she pulls out in her time on screen. Drunk stupors and rage over the guilt of her loss, has that balance between forlorn and animalistic carnage that felt very realistic. Her ability to get lost in the fog of depression and piecing the clues together to try and overcome the said grief that plagues her. And of course the pure terror she gets in the potential of being haunted was a smashing success for this reviewer. Hall's acting is the keystone to much of the mood of the movie and I was very happy to have a strong lead play the central role
What worked for the horror element of this movie is just how realistic the haunting feels compared to so many of the other films in the genre. Beth's journey is not in some desolate town, a dank cave, or abandoned warehouse that she stupidly tried to conquer. No, the film is in her home, and that element of safety is quickly compromised as we watch the paranormal activity subtly climb in and challenge her comfort in this very dark time. The slight noise changes, the hint of something in the dark, and those familiar signs are brilliantly carved out to push your creep factor up, perhaps to the point of wanting to sleep with a light on when you get home. The realistic approach certainly keeps that element going and you just wonder what the next blanket will be ripped away during the course of the film.
What also helps add to that element of horror is the presentation this movie leans heavily on. If you read the premise, you'll see that The Night House is all about challenging the psyche of our leading lady, as every time the horror elements happen she wakes up and wonders if it is a dream. Psychological thrillers can do this element brilliantly under the right direction and I think Bruckner succeeds in keeping you guessing if it's real or not. Rather than doing it to the level to mess with your mind and distract you from the other story elements, they keep the challenge under control allowing you to still dive into the other elements of the story and the mystery beneath it. Speaking of which....
The Mystery/Layering Elements:
The Night House has an interesting mystery that is ever evolving, always baiting you further to uncover the truth between the opening events of the movie. Every act of the movie gives you a little more insight into the mystery, but wrapping it up in the psych component mentioned above. As the truth starts to come to light, the feeling of the movie continues to change as you determine what is really plaguing Beth's life and is it real. The film gets a nod to the curvy story it's telling, with leads helping guide one way and then changing to be a twist that feels very much like a decent drama book. I liked the tale's teases that were never too diverting or out of whack to screw up the pacing and focus of the tale, so well done there.
That artistic feeling is indeed still baked into the movie, but not to the point of consuming the entire film and getting rid of the elements that make horrors entertaining. Beth's journey may indeed one part happening in the real world, but it's also a nice dive into how people face the darker fathoms of life. The doubt, the searching, focusing on what is next while battling the past and what is missing is a deeper dive into human pieces that again works into the subconsciousness of the story without getting in the way. So well done.
Somewhat Predictable: Though there are "twists" thrown in, the tale is rather a straightforward shot that you can flesh out rather quickly. Horror elements struggle in the unique aspect given the volume and time the genre has existed, so don't expect the levels of mind blown that Hereditary did.
The Pace is Slow and A Bit Boring:
I think the category speaks for itself, but this is a movie that does not necessarily move in a style that will keep most people awake at night. Fans of the horror movie where there is a victim every 10 minutes are not going to enjoy this film, nor will the audience looking for jump scares or a monster appearing frequently like something from the Syfy channel. The Night House has a pacing that again feels much like a book, working to build the moment and character up, while setting the scenes up for a truly challenging experience. And though it accomplishes this well, I think a few more elements of the other horror movies could have been included to keep the pace up and give us some excitement instead of just slogging through like we had. Not the worst pace by far, but just something to tweak in the future.
Uncomfortable, but Not Truly Scary:
The movie is not the scariest piece to come to the Big Screen, and did not leave my mind reeling in fright/shock at what came. Fans of this film are again going to be subjected to more story than scares and I can't say this movie's ending really had me on the edge of my seat. When the truth finally reveals itself, you'll appreciate the characters more than the scary element, which was a bit underwhelming given all the potential it had. Though the atmosphere is creepy and kept in theme with the movie, I do have to say I would have liked a little more pizazz in the final revelation and the divisive ending it may bring to the audience.
The Night House succeeds in many levels as being an alternative approach to the horror movie genre. A fantastic central lead is the true backbone of the movie and Hall's performance and nearly one woman act gets a high round of applause from this reviewer. The tale itself is stacked in more details and layered with elements that together form an engaging mystery, a bit of a thriller/drama, with some horror undertones, something I very much enjoyed in my time with this film. Take in the creepy atmosphere alongside the presentation of real vs. Not real and you again get a combination that only further elevates the movie. However, there are still some edges to have shaved, primarily the fact the movie's scare factor is not that impressive and the pacing feels a bit slower given the potential they tried to build up. As the truth is revealed, it takes a bit more of the psychological side that fits with the tale, but does not leave your mind blown or scarred in the process. Sure , you might sleep a little better at night, but that wow factor was missing for me in the long run, especially with the potentially ambiguous ending. Still the film gets some nods for quality and points for not taking too long to tell this deeper tale. My scores are:
Movie Overall: 6.0.