Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit), Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. She tries as best she can to keep it together; but then nightmares come. Disturbing visions of a presence in the house calling to her, beckoning her with a ghostly allure. Against the advice of her friends, she begins digging into her husband’s belongings, yearning for answers. What she finds are secrets both strange and disturbing; a mystery she’s determined to unravel.
Beth is feverishly confrontational, interrogating the world around her in a way we understand but could barely keep up with. Often, we feel less like we're in her shoes and more like we're watching someone we care about teeter on the edge of a cliff. What’s particularly scary about it's that the forces attacking Beth are exploiting her grief, using that wound to enter her world. There’s a solitary, eerie atmosphere that we might expect in a genre movie. But in this case, it’s often the result of Beth seeking out the thing that frightens her rather than running from it, which creates opportunities to subvert the usual genre expectations. She's being haunted but is witty and dangerous and you don’t sit there going get out of the house! Because she’s saying ‘this is my house. Come and get me. Come on'! Beth is a woman bound by her doubts and fears after all. The idea of using decoys of both Beth and her home to trick the Entity away from it's target feeels within various magical traditions. Because Beth is seeking out an entity, it inherently creates a sense of uneasiness and suspense over what she might find. And the more we care for Beth, the more heightened the suspense. The film plays on the notion we’ve all experienced where you wake up in the middle of the night and think you see something amidst the shadows, then realize your eyes are playing tricks on you. The result is that these subtle manipulations leave the audience feeling unsteady and unsure of what they’re seeing, which is exactly the state of mind that Beth descends into. The character swings wildly from confrontation and fatalistic wit to extreme vulnerability and a yearning for connection, often several times within the same scene.
In Beth’s case she was left to wonder if she ever knew the man she was married to. It takes that idea and pushes it to extremes. 'The Calvary Cross' ironically serves as Beth’s wedding song with dark and ominous lyrics. The song later startles her awake one morning following her husband’s death, providing a stark juxtaposition between the unrivaled bliss of a wedding day and of the paralyzing misery of a loved one’s passing. Just as Beth wrestles with the absence of Owen, her mind begins to play tricks on her. And ultimately, the film is about watching a woman come to terms with something life destroying and working out how to accept it, let it go and survive it. Sometimes, especially in the wake of hardship or tragedy, people want to feel bad. They need to. To wallow and wrap themselves in their pain. It’s better than feeling nothing. Beth loved her husband. She lost him. Now, against her better judgment, she finds herself falling for the absence of him. As Beth begins to question everything in the wake of Owen’s death, who he was and who they're together, his architectural constructions evolve. We see the idyllic lakeside home turn into an uncanny reverse structure across the lake, only to descend into a literal labyrinth as Beth gives in to madness. The best genre stories use elements of the fantastic to illustrate relatable concepts or emotions. We’ve all been in 'The Night House' at one time or other. We’ve all feel the sense of dislocation.
As such, we know the house has to have character. To be recognizable. And, a place Owen built full of his things. Like Owen himself, the house becomes a bit of a mystery to Beth. The house is both a monument to Owen’s love and, when we introduce its mirror image, a monument to the secrets and darkness he was harboring. The house, in this case, takes on an ominous life of it's own, integral to the plot and the unraveling mystery. It becomes clear that this is not a safe space and being there's a hurtful reminder to Beth of the life she has lost. It's important to portray the house as an integral representation of the relationship between Beth and Owen. The film constructs a history of the marriage up to present day, focusing on the details of their daily routines to create a momentary snapshot of their lives; like a museum depicting the final days of their marriage. As an audience, we follow Beth back and forth, until we don’t know what’s real anymore. The amount of alcohol she consumes throughout the story just further clouds our vision. The couple’s past is viewed through old home video footage that Beth watches while she drinks alone late into the night. However, every other character that surrounds her is wearing patterns. Her friend Claire (Sarah Goldberg) wears patterned tops, as well as everyone at the school Beth works at and her neighbor Mel (Vondie Curtis-Hall).
"The Night House" is inspired and shaped by actual mythology, specifically 'Welsh' turf mazes and an 'Egyptian' voodoo doll from 'The 4th Century A.D'. currently housed in 'The Louvre'. 'Welsh' shepherds built simple mazes called 'Caerdroia' on hilltops to perform ritual dances. 'Caerdroia' literally translates to 'Walls Of Troy', which is a reference to the city of 'Greek' myth whose streets were simple enough for the enemy to enter, but ultimately too complex for them to find their way out. On the topic of turf maze the labyrinths served as a unique and tangible means of spell craft, the ambulatory equivalent of a chant. The idea that space or movement through space could have just as much ritual power as magic words is intriguing. Ultimately, the deeper meaning of these mazes becomes the driving force behind the irony of the house itself. A maze built to confound malevolent forces, and your own home in the aftermath of tragedy as a maze that confounds you. The space is familiar but it’s wrong. Owen built a house to lose what was haunting him, but left Beth lost and haunted in the house he built for her.
We always beennattracted to the horror genre. Something about the script lingers. The script is supernatural puzzle that's slowly unlocked by a combination of demons and duplicates. The conflicts and the metaphors dig into the mechanics of the story, continually get lost in the subterranean regions of the narrative, which is as confounding as it's exciting. On the surface, there's a compelling mystery about one woman’s recently deceased husband and the question of whether we can ever truly know our loved ones. There's the awkwardness of grief, and the responsibilities we've for one another in times of emotional peril. And, of course, there's the ghost story; the kind that plays fast and loose with haunt tropes in the way that any horror fan would have a blast running with. The story is like a labyrinth that you enter at your own risk, a harrowing tale of unraveling that carried at least a few dark, quiet truths. A ghost story with shades of gothic romance, and a portrait of a deeply troubled marriage. It’s a mysterious and harrowing tale of unravelling; a labyrinth that you enter at your own peril. "The Night House' is a descent into madness through the classic lens of a haunted house film. The film leaves sinister clues throughout; an undecipherable suicide note, multiple photos of unknown women, reverse architectural plans, and a disturbing sculpture found in a secret location.
"The Night House" tackles themes of grief, depression, self-destruction, and the sacredness of relationships. The film explores the many ways we affect one another in a relationship; how vulnerable we can be to each other’s demons and the facades we maintain. The story explores the universal themes of mortality and the afterlife, whether you can ever truly know someone, the tendency people have toward darkness and self-destructive behavior, depression, anxiety. Being unable to understand what’s real is simply more frightening than the thing that’s out to get you. "The Night House" is a terrifying, chilling ghost story that reflects our fraught times. It’s about what frightens you most. It's the idea that ghosts actually exist, or the realization that they don’t.