Creepy, though not truly chilling is this upstate New York-set horror/thriller starring Britain’s Rebecca Hall.
The slender, attractive accomplished thespian (who’s dabbled in this arena if you want to find 2012s The Awakening) does well to convey a sense of grief, guilt and resentment, albeit in brusque strokes.
The performer in such noted films as Frost/Nixon and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, as well as Ben Affleck’s The Town is high-school instructor Beth having to deal with the aftermath of the suicide of architect husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit).
A seemingly placid presence in her life has left her in quite a dislocated place. Even at a very modernistic secluded lakeside residence he designed for them Beth’s mental health issues stemming from a childhood accident will lead to startling revelations (at least for her).
This reality-blurring tale may connect with audiences in tune with more commercial, arguably more coherent tales like the recent remake of The Invisible Man or the Michelle Pfeiffer/Harrison Ford film What Lies Beneath.
Of course, the unsettling mood is augmented by things like muddy footsteps leading to home from the dock, ending up on the floor after sleepwalking, the powerful stereo system playing the couple’s wedding song. Peculiar texts fixations on those resembling her have also gone past her nerves in what appears for a while to e character-driven.
David Bruckner’s direction knocks on the door with familiar jump-scares maximized by its audio component, imparting an ethereal feel with occasional muffling (viewers might find one sequence ear-splitting rather than ‘hair-raising’). A steely Beth goes against advise of co-worker Claire (a fine Sarah Goldberg) and retired neighbor Mel (Vondie Curtis-Hall) that will lead to all things sinister, but a strange, corresponding finale to what looked to have to meaty psychological prowess.
The Night House has been fashioned for a desired demographic by scribes Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski in a way that wants to be provocatively haunting, but leaves one a little upset for what it might have been. Still, deserved recognition goes to a fairly polished technical effort (through light and shadows) and mostly to the hard-working, often undervalued Hall who offers watchable headiness to what becomes a muddled fright fest.