The Night House

The Night House ★★★½

I am as tired of "grief is the real horror" horror than anyone, maybe more than anyone, but this did something for me. I think whatever the filmmakers tried to wrap the story up as in the last 5-10 minutes doesn't really work, like trying to shove close a suitcase that's overpacked. Basically, I realize more and more as I watch movies and think about them, I'm gonna love a movie if there's more in there than is wrapped up in the end. Stray ideas and unfinished storylines that make the world of the film feel like a living place, where nothing is really wrapped up "in the end," some thread always comes apart from the bundle before it's bound together and carries on to the next thing. Whenever you start a to do list it's never done, because more things to do are generated by your doing other things, forever. Thats actually how life is, cliche to say, but its true.

Recently I was most struck by this quality in Looking For Mr. Goodbar, which I am in no way comparing to this movie my god lol, but as my expectations are ever lower for this kind of movie, my experience of this specific one was surprisingly positive. and by this kind of movie I mean, you know, horror movies that are really dark, visually, they feature an actress who looks like rebecca hall who delivers some numb and mumbling little lines, its about grief and trauma and actually there is no real horror, its made by some fucking dork in a paperboy cap who thinks hes inspired by Bresson, also on the note of the grief and trauma it literally says nothing about either other than theyre really bad but also unavoidable and you shouldnt kill yourself even though that does seem like a good option when its really bad. These movies ultimately are usually more about aestheticizing the idea of grief, fetishizing the surface of a beautiful woman trapped under the ice of grief, and because of that, usually, I find them repugnant, unforgivably shallow, shameful in their ignorance of their more base impulses.

This movie is .... all of those things. But like Pablo Larrain's Jackie, try as I might, and I really tried, to totally hate it, I just couldn't. Rebecca Hall's performance isn't as weird or unsettling as Natalie Portman's in Jackie but it does recall it. Hall really fascinates me as a performer. Not like I think she's incredible and I ponder over her craft, but it's like shes composed one half of a really good and original actress and one half of a total hack, a screen actress to the core who has stage actress pretensions a la the reigning queen of empty, smugged-over prestige, Frances McDormand. It's like you can see her divided core at war, authentic, thrilling, unintelligible impulses battling for dominance with measured, distanced, copied gestures and inauthentic, actory, anti-human line readings and facial expressions. She thrilled me at times and other times I wanted to be the one to slam her head into the mirror.

Ultimately, this lands close to the top of the heap of films like Thelma, Lamb, Amulet, The Lodge, Hereditary, It Comes At Night, etc. It looks like those movies in a lot of ways but it has a fascinating overstuffed, unfinished, unresolved energy to it. I don't really buy the dont kill yourself ending after 1hr40 of relentless, erotically charged nihilism. The idea of the child Rebecca Hall having this intimate encounter with the yawning, engulfing essence of death, of the oblivion that follows death, and having it wrap itself around her like a cloak, enveloping her, and then unfurling and messing with the person she eventually fully lets into her life, lets touch her spirit ... it works for me. And Hall's performance hits deep enough times that I felt like I could see the really good, lower budget, scuzzier, less direct, and more raw version of this film lying beneath, but I think the film as is isn't unaware of that subterranean material, churning underneath like the river at the bottom of a lake. I don't think for its budget/studio/release/target audience it could have ever gotten there, nor do I think the filmmakers would have wanted to, they wanted to make an uptight, mainstream "arthouse" horror film and they did, succesfully. But other films of this ilk have no darker current. Need more time to think about Rebecca Hall ...

Ryan liked this review