Beth’s husband (Hall’s) has committed suicide and is not doing well.
Drinking, sad music, angry. At home, in the house he really designed and built, he could barely do it. A smiling photo of her husband Owen (Evan Yonigkite); Another framed photo shows Beth looking sad and thinking. There is a lake next to the house. They have docks and rowboats. He pulled the boat into the water, then put a gun to his head.
He left a note, a mysterious poem. One night he was alone and unhappy when he heard a knock. That must have been more than a gust of wind at the gate. There were wet stains from the door down the stairs to the pier over the water. Did something supernatural happen, or were these hallucinatory visions of drowsiness inspired by sadness and alcohol? Who knows.
Beth went to work the next day and got a glance from a coworker. Who told us she would be back early. He’s a teacher. The school year is over. He has elementary grades. Her friend Claire (Sarah Goldberg) will do it for her, but Beth says she must be busy. A woman comes in to discuss what she believes is an unfair assessment of her child. And Beth strengthens her argument: “My husband shot himself in the head last Thursday.”
There was anger and bitterness in his voice, an unwillingness to conform to subtlety. Stupid as a hammer. Was he always like this? We found out that he had died and been brought back to life, which traumatized him. The fact was, the wound had evaporated, and he couldn’t cover it up. Sometimes, he describes what happened to Owen with small gestures: gun-shaped fingers, “guilty,” he said next to his face. It hurts so bad. What does he need? What can we do for you? Who knows.
Ghost oddities, however, are not a one-off phenomenon.
The sad song of life and death, strange shadows and further traces appeared an ominous presence floated. A strange light shone on the other side of the lake, where there was no home. He digs through Owen’s stuff, finding some strange books that seem vaguely occult.
Drawings for the “reverse floor plan” version of the house; a cell phone photo of a woman who looks like Beth, but isn’t Beth. By pointing to a laptop, and several other photos of a brown-skinned woman who looks just like her. The secret deepens during a walk around the lake to the double house. Across the street, hidden in the woods, unfinished, covered with tarpaulin. Was it real, or did Beth not see reality? That’s right: who knows. After all, we have herpes.
There’s a scene deep in the film where Beth, in the eyes of the tornado. It unleashes the accumulated pain and grief of a disorienting supernatural tail. At that point, Hall cuts through the bullshit – downright scary, but still bullshit – and supports the process in real terms.
Strong emotion. It had to happen, so the film didn’t lose us in a wave of unusual but also obscure ghost jokes. The film is hard to crack and doesn’t settle for the usual tales of vengeful ghosts or warnings. Tip: Google “caerdroia” – the subject of one of Owen’s quirky books – for part of The Night House quirks puzzle piece.
Or if the internet rabbit hole isn’t your thing:
You can appreciate the eerie atmosphere that director David Buckner created with the sound design. The location – especially this house – and the disturbing song by Richard and Linda Thompson, “The Calvary Cross”.
Hall’s characterization of a terrified woman is extraordinary. By turning Beth’s brutal directness and barbaric demeanour into yet another way of building walls around you. It’s a raw take from the mental illness research. We’re used to seeing in movies, the complexity of which lends it authenticity.
It’s also a new take on the old cliché of not getting to know other people. It will take some time for the film to fully decipher. Whether it weaves a myriad of mystical threads into one tight narrative. This might make more sense with a second watch, and Hall’s work almost ensures it will be a rewarding experience.
“The Night House” is a psychologically thoughtful and terrifying tale of a ghost thriller.