The Night House

By Joanna Langfield

Smart enough to feel almost plausible, fun enough to have me screaming “Get out of that house!”, this one is my kind of thriller, until it isn’t.

The terrific Rebecca Hall elevates what becomes a pretty standard horror pic, bringing guts and relatability to the role of the newly widowed Beth, a woman left with real life and what may be otherworldly questions that haunt her. She and Owen had such a perfect life, in the beautiful house he built for them on an upstate New York lake. Why did he choose to die? And what are those strange noises she’s hearing when nobody else is around?

Director David Bruckner, who’s served up this kind of thing before, knows how to set up the aimed for chills. We like Beth. And, like her few friends and neighbors, we care about her. But, of course, the action happens at night, when there’s nobody else around, when Beth is alone in an angularly modern house on an especially desolate lake. For most of the picture, we’re as puzzled as she is. Why is the deck door unlatched? Who left those bloody footprints? And why is the stereo blasting her awake in the middle of the night, urging her to come outside? But, pretty soon, the script settles for the usual horror tropes, and what started out as a promising dramatic piece delivers the usual, somewhat muddled kind of explanations.

The real fun for me here is watching Hall, who is a cathartic hoot when she’s pissed off and emotionally tugging when she melts into a grief stricken mass of confusion. I shudder to think what this film would have been like had another actress taken the lead. But, thankfully, we have Hall and we are all the better for it.