The Night House (CREDIT: Searchlight Pictures)

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Evan Jonigkeit, Vondie Curtis Hall, Stacy Martin

Director: David Bruckner

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: R for Creepy Sequences and Salty Language

Release Date: August 20, 2021 (Theaters)

Can we ever really know the people closest to us as well as we think we do? Not when there’s a demonic possession lurking around your home! (Which is what I think The Night House is saying.) Rebecca Hall plays Beth, a high school teacher who lives on her own in a lake house now that her seemingly well-adjusted husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) has killed himself. And honestly? That’s some spot-on casting. Hall excels at doing her damnedest to remain mentally put-together while suddenly becoming beset by all-consuming skepticism. We can believe that she will never give up on the search for the truth but also that she is too flummoxed to ever see it clearly. It’s a purposely erratic approach that might be too maddening for some audiences, but for my money, Hall holds it all together sufficiently, and director David Bruckner has plenty to offer in the creeps department.

For most of its running time, The Night House appears to be hurtling headlong towards a clear explanation for all the strange goings-on. Why does Owen shoot himself in the head? What’s the meaning of the enigmatic note he left behind? When Beth is dreaming, what’s the deal with the alternate dimension she seems to be entering and its attendant mirror image house? And what about that mysterious woman (or women?) Owen was surreptitiously hanging out with who looks just like Beth? Is this some sort of Vertigo situation? The best I can figure is that Owen has fallen prey to some sort of evil supernatural entity that is now threatening Beth’s life. But I’m not entirely sure if that’s correct. That vagueness can be frustrating for some, but I appreciate it to a certain extent, because it means that this is nowhere near your standard devil-made-me-do-it story.

The easiest metaphorical read is that Beth is a victim of all-consuming depression, but her situation resists easy interpretation. She offhandedly mentions past mental health struggles without going into too much detail, and while she seems distressed now, she doesn’t come off as particularly depressed. More like obsessed, which is certainly understandable in light of her husband’s suicide. Ultimately, The Night House is writing its own new language of psychological anguish, in which Beth’s waking hours lose all their stability, while her subconscious is beset by a creatively disruptive force. It ends exactly where it needs to without having to definitively clear up the mystery.

The Night House is Recommended If You Like: Vertigo, Insidious, possibly The One I Love? (I haven’t seen it, but the premise seems to have some similarities)

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Nightmares