Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her and the memories of their marriage together. Grief turns to terror when she begins to see haunting visions around the house, and the idyllic life she had with her husband hides terrible secrets...
In the opening twenty minutes of 'The Night House', you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's going to be a quiet drama about grief and memory if you came to it cold.
After all, Rebecca Hall is one of those few actors working today who channels a level of uncomfortable humanity in her performances. She gets at it in a tense scene with an overbearing parent when she blankly reveals the manner of her husband's death to her. We're so inured to seeing poised performances, whereas Hall really gets at the inconsistencies in people, making for a more believable performance.
It's a shame then that she's stuck in what is truly a dull, by-the-numbers psychological horror with a story that you can see coming a mile off, and with a fatal lack of genuine thrills. Without giving too much away, Hall's on-screen husband begins to play a role after his apparent death in the story, but it's in how director David Bruckner deploys it that it gives it all away. In fact, there's a moment or two in 'The Night House' where it becomes too ridiculous to even try and grasp it. While it may be reaching for the likes of 'Hereditary', it shares more in common with Robert Zemeckis' mid-nineties romp 'What Lies Beneath', but it's nowhere near as entertaining as that. Instead, it lumps its way through obvious shock sequences and jump scares, padding out the narrative with diversions into the occult, demonology, mirror universes, before the big reveal comes and it's basically what you thought it was all along.
Other horrors have used the same structure, sure, but few have done with the level of pretentiousness that 'The Night House' has. It's frustrating to see a movie that's this obvious that doesn't have the good taste to either be fun or exciting, or trying to subvert your expectations. Instead, it delivers an exacting psychological thriller that while it may house a compelling performance by Rebecca Hall, it's built on a flimsy story that crumbles in the final act.