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The Night House Does Just About Everything Right

Image courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

The Night House is giving me flashbacks to 2018 when some of my favorite YouTube critics visibly struggled to review Avengers: Infinity War without spoiling it. That movie had so many surprises that it was tough to even describe its plot without giving away too many key moments, and this one is very similar. It’s best to go into this film as blind as possible, so part of me almost wants to just tell you to trust me that it’s great and then end the review right there. But I know I can’t do that, so I’ll try my best to give you the absolute bare minimum and then let you find out the rest for yourselves.

Directed by David Bruckner and starring Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Evan Jonigkeit, The Night House is about a woman named Beth whose husband has just committed suicide. In fact, the movie begins with her returning home after the funeral, so this was a very recent tragedy. Soon afterwards, she starts having really strange and creepy dreams, and when she begins to dig through her late husband’s belongings to find the source of these nightmares, she uncovers some very dark and disturbing secrets that make her question everything she thought she knew about him.

The Night House is one of the best horror films I’ve seen all year, and while it does just about everything right, there are three areas in particular where it really shines. Let’s start by talking about Rebecca Hall’s performance as Beth. The acting in this movie is really good all around, but she’s on another level. From the very first time she steps onto the screen, you totally believe that she just lost her husband a few days ago.

It’s tough to put it into words, but she doesn’t merely convey her character’s emotions the way an actor would for any old role. She acts them out the way a recent widow would. For example, Beth is a teacher, and when the mother of one of her students visits her to discuss the grade the kid got in her class, you can tell that she has bigger things on her mind than a boy’s grade in a high school class.

Beth holding a weird, creepy doll
Image courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

Even when she doesn’t say it explicitly, you can just see it on her face and in her body language, and she’s like that throughout the entire movie. She somehow manages to capture the subtle ways intense grief can influence a person’s behavior and attitude, and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch.

Secondly, we have the horror. Unlike way too many genre films these days, The Night House doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares you can see coming a mile away. Instead, it makes you feel the inherent creepiness of the situations Beth finds herself in, and it wisely lets that feeling do most of the heavy lifting. 

That being said, this movie does have a handful of jump scares, but don’t worry. Even if you’re not a huge fan of this kind of horror, I think you’re going to like it here. These scares come out of nowhere and hit you when you least expect it, so they make you jump out of your seat like few others I’ve ever seen. On top of that, several of these are genuinely scary (not just startling) as well, so they give you the best of both worlds.

Last but not least, we have the mystery. At first, it seems like The Night House is going to be just another haunted house movie, but you quickly realize that there’s a lot more here than meets the eye. Once Beth begins to uncover her husband’s secrets, the intrigue increases exponentially every few minutes.

Beth looking scared
Image courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

The more she finds out, the crazier the story gets, and when she finally starts to find some answers, they just raise more questions. People often like to compare great mysteries to onions, but that metaphor doesn’t do this film justice. The Night House is more like a hydra. If you answer one question, two more take its place.

Then, when everything comes together in the end, it makes perfect sense. In fact, the answer actually ends up being pretty simple, but it’s completely satisfying. The final scene even turns the story into a touching allegory for what it’s like to grieve and how we should deal with it, so it gives you some legitimate meaning to go along with the great entertainment.

On the flipside, there was one tiny thing about The Night House that I wished were a little bit different. As much as I love the ending, it’s somewhat abrupt and anticlimactic. I get what the filmmakers were going for thematically, but story-wise, it seems like the film should’ve gone on just a little bit longer.

However, in the grand scheme of things, that’s really more of a nitpick than a genuine issue with the movie. On the whole, The Night House is a great watch from beginning to end, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay in my top ten list for the rest of 2021. It has a great lead performance from Rebecca Hall, some super effective scares, and probably the best mystery I’ve seen all year. So if you’re a horror fan, I highly, highly recommend that you go check this one out. You’ll be glad you did.

The Night House is playing in movie theaters right now.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today. He blogs at Embrace Your Fears.

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