The Night House (2021) Tackles the Horrors of Grief in Compelling Supernatural Mystery
Updated: Feb 6
Title: The Night House
First Wide Release: July 15, 2021 (Theatrical Release)
Director: David Bruckner
Writer: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondi Curtis-Hall
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Days after the sudden death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) struggles to pick up the pieces of her life. As she navigates losing the love of her life to suicide, Beth begins to feel a presence in her house. Her friends are sympathetic but do their best to assure Beth that moving on is the best thing she can do for herself, and for the memory of her husband. Her doubt turns into certainty the more she picks and prods inside the house, unpacking away secrets her husband left behind that make her question who he really was in the first place.
The Night House is a tragic and disorienting tale of grief and healing that unnerves as much as it dispirits.
A slow burn supernatural chiller with an agonizingly tense finale, The Night House personifies the immense weight grief pushes on to someone. It explores the way that trauma passes on to others and how they wear, deal, and hide it from those they love. By touching on specific aspects of grief that is rarely seen, or at least executed well, in horror, The Night House flips the script on the standard ghost story.
Rebecca Hall does incredible work here. Leaning more into the shock, the anger, and the betrayal where most would lean into the depressed, Hall deftly conveys the complexities of grief in a way that is often ignored in most films. Her caustic attitude and off-handed bitterness feels more endearing than it would normally because we know the weight of what she is going through in this moment.
Beth and Claire’s relationship is perfect. Beth is constantly teetering between saying what’s on her mind and saying something that will get her in trouble. She also knows this. Claire is always on the same page as Beth and counters the darker impulses Beth wants to explore or indulge. While Claire never gives up, her approach is always supportive through the end. It’s clear that there is frustration with one another but that is pushed aside for the sake of their friendship, which is a great way to show the power of relationships when dealing with grief.
I’ve seen a lot of discontent surrounding the ending, but I love it. The messaging is pitch perfect and it proves for a gratifying conclusion. It is thematically appropriate while still maintaining a level of darkness and ambiguity. I like that not everything is resolved at the end. What needed to come to light does and what comes after can come then. Grief, much like the immediate events after tragedy, is often not neatly settled.
Beyond its compelling story, The Night House is simply a well-made film. Capturing a somber and unsettling tone by way of expertly spliced dream sequences and focused cinematography, The Night House manages to keep pace with large stretches of its runtime devoted to only one character. Any scene involving a mirror is done incredibly well. While horror has always had a predilection for mirrors, The Night House takes that up a notch by way of nerve-wracking shots and dream sequences. The minimalistic effects provide some high-quality scares, particularly in one scene where Beth is convinced she is embracing someone who turns out to be someone far more sinister than she could know.
Much of my criticism is minimal and related only to the story behind the film. It wanders a bit and drops some plot points by the third act without explanation. There still is much to be questioned of Owen and how he was able to find out and do so much over time. By the end, his character arc really hits home the idea that you don’t know what a person is facing until they have reached their breaking point. His note illustrates that even more. The antagonist ends up talking just a bit too much but is still a creative and terrifying thing to face. It only brings the film down ever so slightly. Despite this, The Night House still manages to be a winding and powerful horror film that mesmerizes with its hypnotic story and pulsing visuals.
Not everyone will appreciate the darkness within The Night House, and I count them lucky. The grief that Beth carries acts as a metaphor for the things that change us irrevocably. Always there, but never really there. It might get too on the nose for some, and it might be too much to grasp for others, The Night House makes no apologies for its blunt nature and hopeful twist of the genre. Breathtaking cinematography, a compelling mystery, and one powerhouse performance by Rebecca Hall makes The Night Watch a must watch for horror fans and casual moviegoers alike. It’s a shame it isn’t doing better at the box office because more films should be made like this. If you think you are missing nothing by skipping over this movie, you are sorely mistaken.
Overall Score? 8/10