Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin
Written by: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski
Directed by: David Bruckner
MPAA Rating: R for some violence/disturbing images, and language including some sexual references
Running Time: 107
Date: 08/20/2021
IMDB

The Night House (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Blueprint Blood

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

While it doesn't completely click in every way, David Bruckner's chiller The Night House still manages some truly mind-bending, soul-shuddering scares, which work largely because of Rebecca Hall's wrenching performance.

As it begins, Beth (Hall) returns to her spacious lake house, having just buried her husband Owen, who took his own life with a gunshot to the head. She's awakened by a knock at the door and discovers wet footprints leading from the lake to her home. Was it a nightmare?

Grieving, she begins drinking and going through Owen's things. She discovers a weird sketchbook, full of odd drawings, such as a mirrored version of their home. The ultra-realistic nightmares continue, growing more and more alarming, as Beth further discovers that her husband may have been having affairs with women who resembled Beth. The mystery deepens when Beth sees the lights of a house across the lake, a house that shouldn't be there.

In its first two-thirds, The Night House employs skillful direction, set decoration, music, and editing to come up with some great shocks. A knock at the door, and Richard and Linda Thompson's song "The Calvary Cross," provide some warm-up scares, but a sequence after Beth gets home from drinking at a bar with friends will make hair stand up on end. A clever use of negative space and mirror images provide more delicious jolts.

As the story begins to sharpen in focus, the scary stuff lessens and questions come up, such as: how could Owen have embarked on such a huge building project without Beth knowing about it? A use of semi-flashbacks to explain things seems a little flat, less interesting than the mystery itself, and a final denouncement just doesn't have the intense impact it was meant to; it's almost like the punchline of a joke.

However, Hall helps sell every scene she's in, conveying indescribably depths of pain and horror, and there's overall more than enough good stuff in The Night House to make it worth a visit.

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