Horror Runs Deep in Aquatic Haunter The Deep House (2021)
Title: The Deep House
First Non-Festival Release: June 30, 2021 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Writer: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien David, Julien Maury
Runtime: 85 Minutes
Starring: Camille Rowe, James Jagger, Eric Savin
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Ben (James Jagger) runs a channel online that allows him to share his passion of exploring ruins and other historical sites with the world. Tina (Camille Rowe) is his girlfriend who tags along reluctantly for the ride if only to help get him out of the library. Both historians, they are constantly on the move for the creepiest attractions. After arriving in South France, they make their way to a popular lake which was created by destroying an old village in the 1980s. Initial disappointment in the tourist trap turns to excitement when a local guide (Eric Savin) agrees to take them to an intact house hidden underneath the water in a more remote part of the lake. Curiosity turns to terror when the true nature of the house is revealed to them.
A claustrophobic, high concept horror film, The Deep House elicits underwater scares with found footage finesse.
First and foremost, the set design in The Deep House is perfect. Absolutely perfect. Each room has something instantly uncanny about it that sets off alarm bells before one can find the remaining Easter eggs that up it even further. The house is expansive and broken down like one might expect a home to be underwater if it somehow was also perfectly preserved. It’s because everything looks so recognizable and recently submerged that makes it worthy of scrutiny. Tina and Ben realize this too late.
One of the little things that both excites and irritates is the use of music in the film. In terms of song selection, it’s great but it gets confusing in the terms of integration. The distortion of the music when following the divers’ found footage is excellent. It’s a very odd moment that could be explained by equipment malfunction to the characters but is a very clear indicator something is up to the audience. Unfortunately, the use of score beyond that makes little sense when one considers that most of the film is shot with that idea of it being found footage and not a traditional film.
Speaking of which, the switches between cinema verité and traditional filmmaking are a bit jarring. It sets the narrative up in an odd way. Fluctuating between a found footage and a normal haunted house horror, the choice to make The Deep House do both is confounding to say the least. There are plenty of moments when things creep around in the background or in the corner before disappearing. This is one of the many strengths of The Deep House in terms of creating tension. The speed at which everything moves underwater is slowed down which makes any rapid movement or spatial jumps that much more unnatural and frightening. Overall, it’s a mixed bag that works for the film more than it detracts.
It's the little things that hold back The Deep House from truly reaching the depths of the horror within it. Choosing to go light on story, is an understandable yet huge mistake here. There is so much mythology that could be explored more to really sell why this house is the way it is. Instead, most of the events are left to a couple of clues in the middle section and an exposition dump at the end. What remains is a rather ordinary haunted house film that happens to take place in an extraordinary place. We are left with the idea that evil can be preserved and live on in a new life after something interferes with it. Other than that, it seems like the creativity ran dry.
There’s also nothing special about the characters here. Tina and Ben could be picked up and dropped from any other movie. Ben is the compulsive partner who drives the couple further into peril for his own ambition. He decidedly loves and cares for Tina, but his protective impulses are stymied by his pursuit of fame, followers, and likes, which has become an irritating, albeit realistic, motivation as of recent years. Tina is mostly along for the ride. She supports Ben and wants to be a good partner, but her character really ends there. She isn’t given any other traits to define her. Aside from some hokey possessed voice acting in the last third, there isn’t much to harp on here in terms of acting. Both Jagger and Rowe do a solid job conveying the fear and shock of their situation even if they don’t make their characters extra endearing or interesting.
Unrelenting in underwater terror, The Deep House gets under the skin by employing of effective scares and unique visuals. Living and dying by its concept, The Deep House delivers exactly what it sets out to do, even if it doesn’t fully capitalize on its neat premise. It does rely on plenty of well-worn tropes, both from found footage films and paranormal horror, but still manages to be creepy, which is all one can hope for in a movie with as bonkers an idea as this. Perfect pacing and an uncompromisingly dark and disconcerting tone make it a movie to seek out. Ignore any sinking feeling you may have about this film and seek it out immediately. Just beware that you might be struggling to breathe after the first few scares.
Overall Score? 7/10