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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Movie Review: Secrets lurk close to home in chilling film

Courtesy+of+Searchlight+Pictures%0ABeth%2C+played+by+Rebecca+Hall%2C+cowers+in+fear+as+she+unravels+the+truth+behind+her%0Ahusband%E2%80%99s+unexpected+death.+%E2%80%9CThe+Night+House%E2%80%9D+released+in+theaters+Aug.+20.
Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures Beth, played by Rebecca Hall, cowers in fear as she unravels the truth behind her husband’s unexpected death. “The Night House” released in theaters Aug. 20.

“The Night House” is a ghost story, but in the tradition of “The Shining,” physical apparitions take a backseat to a strangeness that haunts the makeup of the film itself.

Rebecca Hall stars as Beth, a woman reeling in the aftermath of her husband Owen’s unexpected suicide. We sit with her through hard moments of emptiness as she tries to live alone for the first time in her house by the lake — a house that was built by Owen.

Seeking closure, Beth decides to go through Owen’s computer, only to find dozens of pictures of unfamiliar women, all taken from odd, discrete angles. Even more troubling — each woman looks almost identical to Beth. What begins as an investigation into Owen’s potential infidelity quickly spirals into something far more sinister. Cursed figurines, occult books and a parallel house in the woods that Owen was secretly building all expand the mystery of who he really was, and what he was really doing the night he killed himself.

From a technical standpoint, the direction of the film is masterful. David Bruckner, known for “The Ritual” and “VHS’, moves the camera through the narrative with a deliberate ease, which adds to the sense that this is a handcrafted story. The film uses optical illusion — the odd shape of a pile of clothes, the curved edge of a doorway— in a way that is original and unsettling. There’s a sense of open space as horror. We have all sat in an empty house alone and felt that we weren’t.

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

There’s plenty of striking imagery and original set pieces that will stick with the viewer long after watching. Notably, the film makes brilliant use of jump scares — something usually considered cheap in horror, but done here in a way that serves the story and is genuinely unnerving.

As technically sound as the film is, it would feel empty without the strength of Hall’s performance to fill it. She plays Beth as incredibly guarded, and much of the tension in the film comes from watching that guard fall away as she starts to demand answers. The film hits a stride as Beth delves further and further chaos, which Hall reflects in her performance.

The ending is a problem. For a story that feels so finely constructed, the way things conclude feels much too loose. There are enough hints and suggestions along the way to piece together what’s really happening on a plot level, but Beth is shorted a satisfying conclusion to her arc. There’s a vagueness throughout that lends the film some of its power, and loose ends serve ghost stories well, but this is a case where some tying up could have delivered a stronger impact.

More than just the story of a peculiar kind of haunting, “The Night House” is a heartbreaking exploration of grief, loss and the secrets we keep when we die.

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