The Night House (2021; David Bruckner)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opening today in wide release.
“Do you guys believe in ghosts?”
I can’t stand what I call “noise horror” movies, so take the rest of this with as many grains of salt as you need. By noise horror, I mean the use of sudden, piercing soundtrack spikes to manufacture jump scares. The practice is legion in contemporary horror, but I find it excruciating and unfair. Sneaking up behind someone and kicking their ears in the balls does not a master of suspense make.
For its part, David Bruckner’s quiet-loud-quiet ghost story The Night House features the single loudest and most painful noise horror jump scare I’ve ever experienced. It makes the shrieking clown from It look like Marcel Marceau. However, it catapulted me right out of the movie, and similar moments throughout held me at bay. Unfortunately, my growing dread for the next deafening soundtrack spike undercut Bruckner’s atmospheric accomplishments and an excellent lead performance from Rebecca Hall.
“Everybody has secrets.”
Hall plays Beth, a school teacher struggling with the shocking suicide of Owen, her seemingly happy architect husband. In short order, a series of strange events lead Beth to believe that her husband’s ghost has returned home. Guided by his disturbingly inscrutable suicide note and a mysterious picture, she starts digging into the dirty details of Owen’s life, uncovering brunette doppelgangers, backward houses and more. Of course, even though Beth is presumably wealthy and could easily snoop her dead husband’s laptop from the safety of a hotel room, she acts like a dumb horror movie character and remains in her dark, isolated, clearly haunted lake house for the inevitable tinnitus attack.