The Night House

The Night House ★★½

Jump scares don’t do it for me. Like ever. But boy am I telling you, there’s one here that assaulted me with such pulse-pounding horror I literally thought I was experiencing sleep paralysis (which I’ve suffered with for the last 15 years on and off). This thing radiated deep into my bones, probably the most wickedly crafted jump scare I’ve ever experienced in a theatrical setting. And it worked so well because of how disorienting and aggressively loud, violent and looooooong it lasted. There’s a few other jump scares that are also pretty great, but the one I’m talking about (you’ll know it when you see it) possesses the kind of atmospheric intensity that most horror films rarely, if ever, achieve. 

THE NIGHT HOUSE works up to a certain point before miserably falling apart at the seams, which is a damn shame because the mystery at its core is such a gripping one, boasted by a powerhouse Rebecca Hall performance. It builds towards a conclusion so incredibly dumb and occultishly underwhelming it almost ruins the unique mythology that came before. Still, there’s a lot of good horror on display, the jolts are brutal, the soundscape impressive, and its portrayal of grief was a chilling one to reflect on. 

There’s a shadowy, solipsistic ideology at its core that questions whether we really know the people who are closest to us, how pulling that thread only crumbles our belief in others, ourselves, and maybe even a hope for an after life. When the film captures this worldview through strange dreams, ghostly menace and otherworldly whispers, it’s actually quite creepy and effective. When it veers waaaay into the supernatural, demonic stuff towards the end it sorta deflates everything that came before, which I find so fascinating because I just argued against HEREDITARY, which I loved, but here it never quite came together. While I wouldn’t call the film generally memorable, those few jump scares (and the one in particular) had me riveted, and are worth checking this genre exercise out.

Watched at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

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