The Night House

The Night House ★★★★

Making a massive step forward in his craft from the Ritual, David Bruckner has really impressed me with his sophmore feature. Where the Ritual had promise in how Bruckner established a dreadful tone but failed to follows through in many departments, the Night House doubles down in tone and excels in many of those weaker parts of his debut.

To start, I think what might contribute the most to the crushingly oppressive tone that makes this the most visceral horror movie I've seen since It Follows, is Rebecca Hall's performance. She has such an intensity here that really drew me into her character's emotional state. Where I was disappointed in how Midnight Mass failed to execute producing horror from the characters, the Night House is driven by this concept and executes it really well. By doing this, the horror is made actually scary by capitalizing on the investment created in the character through the elements of filmmaking.

Visuals were certainly a key element that drove the effectiveness of the horror. Its not particularly showy in the way a James Wan joint has intricate camera moves and super moody lighting, instead being mostly subdued and observational. This mundanity of the imagery only further amplifies the dread, esspecially once that space becomes hostile.

Working to boost the impact of the visuals, the editing here is super sharp. The observational style is often interrupted by the relentless rhythm of the pace. It isn't some non-stop horror ride, don't get that impression. But it has this really unpredictable pace once it gets going that really kept me on edge. Sudden bursts of horrorific imagery function less as jump scares and more like the viewer is being tortured in the same way Beth is. And this is ultimately the glue that holds finely tuned nightmare together

An element that really exemplifies the effectiveness of these visuals, are how the horror elements were shot and integrated. Some of the tricks and framing function so well at suddenly revealing the horror at the perfect moments. Without spoiling, my mind goes to the way the the human figure reveals itself in the house. That visual is so clever, well-used, and horrific, and I wish it were used more early on honestly. There aren't tons of really intensely scary scenes, but there are a good amount and they all function to make the movie better.

The last element and one I would be amiss not mentioning is the sound. Just like all the other elements in the movie, it draws us further into Beth's mental state. The folly is so thorough and mixed perfectly for keeping attention on Beth's surroundings. And where a more traditional contemporary horror film would abuse the loudness of a scare, what I appreicate here is that when its loud, its loud. And it's not gonna stop for a bit. This really helps to build to that sudden tension in scary scenes in this film. It also just actually makes it scary opposed to startling.

The measured nature of the horror and the maturity of the storytelling are undoubtly what I was most happy to see with Bruckner's second film. It's improved in every way and gone way beyond what I expected. Where generally considered scary movies like Hereditary or the Conjuring don't get to me, it takes an It Follows or Angst or the Shining to get to me. Its something about that attention to form mirroring content. When a horror film can so perfectly marry the investment in the film with the delivery of the horror, it is some of the most effective filmmaking there is.