The Night House (2020)

The Night House may not be perfect, but it takes some chances and has a nice puzzle at its heart that makes sense the further you go into the movie. It fits nearly into that sub-genre of a genre, the giallo where a woman is either gaslighting herself, being gaslit or going slowly insane (for more, see Footprints on the MoonThe Perfume of the Lady in BlackThe Psychic and Lizard In a Woman’s Skin).

It also would work well within the seventies style of film — Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a high mark, but it shoots for it — where things happen slowly and then the end races you through the conclusion. Once the puzzle box is opened, things get wild in a hurry.

I first took notice of Rebecca Hall in Christine, a movie I didn’t like but loved her in it. She anchors this movie and makes it work, often through the sheer determination of her commitment to the activities around her. Sure, she’s dealing with the suicide death of her husband, but she’s also pushing against the ridiculousness of it all, such as students pushing for better grades and fellow teachers wanting to know details but too ashamed to ask. Some of it becomes humor to her. And yet, so much more of it is horror, as a mirror house seems to exist in the woods by her home.

Her husband’s phone keeps texting and calling her. Music randomly blares. Dreams are filled with his image and voice. And when she finds his phone, she finds pictures of women who are not her, but look exactly like she does.

The sound design is incredible. The editing is perfect. The effects and the way they work hand-in-hand with the cinematography is what others films should aspire to. And the plotting and the maze it leads you down can be forgiven when it loses its way sometimes, because unlike the glut of Blumhouse dreck, this movie will not overly explain itself to you. And that ending, as the two houses come together and time gets played backward? Wow.

The more I think about this movie, the more I like it. I’m used to being let down by endings and modern horror falling apart by the end. This one hits the landing and effortlessly brings in a very human story of grief without hammering home its point and remembering that at heart, this is a horror movie, and horror movies are supposed to scare us, not just preach at us.

Director David Bruckner is going to be making the new Hellraiser and if this is any indication, that movie is going to be interesting.

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