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  Night House, The Dreams Of Long Shadows
Year: 2020
Director: David Bruckner
Stars: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin, David Abeles, Christina Jackson, Patrick Klein, Crystal Swann, Catherine Weidner, Laura Austin, Jacob Garrett White, Samantha Buck
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Beth (Rebecca Hall) has suffered a real shock over the past few days after her husband committed suicide in a rowing boat on the lake next to the house he built for them both to live in. He was a carpenter by trade, and had given no indication he was anything but happy with his lot, which made his death come out of the blue for his wife. She has no idea how to process this, and immediately begins pushing others away, even her concerned best friend Claire (Sarah Goldberg) and kindly neighbour Mel (Vondie Curtis-Hall) who are trying to do their best for her, but are being shut down by her grief. Yet what if her husband has not completely gone...?

The Night House was directed by David Bruckner, a talented man whose off-kilter chillers had impressed many of those who saw them, but unfortunately were not particularly widely known. This one especially hit a run of bad luck, opening at Sundance only to see its wider release scuppered by the pandemic, so that it was out over a year later by which time its buzz had cooled to the extent that it made hardly any impact at all. Those few who did take a chance on it were united in one observation: Rebecca Hall lifted what boiled down to a rather basic demonic horror into a different, higher realm through one of her typically dedicated performances.

Audiences who had noted Hall's ability may be unsurprised by her knack for making a three-dimensional character out of what could have been an uninspired frightened spouse role, but surprisingly for a consistently excellent career she still flew under most people's radar. Such was the fate of a character actress who garnered leading roles in smaller films like this one, and only appeared in the blockbusters as part of a supporting ensemble, but those who did appreciate her had lent her a cult following that meant anyone noticing her in the credits of a movie they were perhaps unfamiliar with would consider it worth taking a chance on since you were practically guaranteed quality with her there.

She had a few horrors in her canon, presumably because for all the criticism the genre suffered for its treatment of women, it was the rare popular category to afford actresses opportunities to lead a movie and nobody would think it unusual. She had not played any final girls previous to this, that wasn't her style, but the script by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, coupled with some smart, often practical effects that generated some truly unsettling scenes, did give Hall the chance to perform sequences she could get her teeth into, the bit near the start that acts as a method of telling us what happened to her husband a peerlessly acted example of her technique: a little bit humorous, a little bit unsettling, but actually emotionally wrenching for the woman she was playing.

Where The Night House became unstuck was nothing to do with the acting - Goldberg deserved praise in a usually thankless best buddy role for generating a worry for the audience when she is not there to offer a shoulder to cry on - but with the explanation of what was occurring with the supernatural. As Beth turns detective and uncovers more about her deceased husband, we begin to suspect he was up to no good and had possibly invited something nasty into his life, or actively been that something nasty in other women's lives, but the truth was kind of reductive when you examined it. What they did to counter this was to ramp up the mystery angle, so you were unsure of what was true and what was not, obscuring the facts of the case in the hope it would make that mystery all the scarier, and to an extent they pulled that off, but rather than be a warning against suicide, with all Beth's drink consumption it looked more like a warning against alcoholism. Some very fine material here, though, and Hall justified the appreciation she receives. Music by Ben Lovett.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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