Is it possible for a month on the Blog Collab to focus on new adventures…and somehow not feature a single film contending with a demonic presence or other supernatural being?
Spoiler alert: no. And this week’s pick has the added bonus of serving us back-to-back Rebecca Hall content, switching roles from director to actor this time around.
The Night House
After her husband dies by suicide, teacher Beth is increasingly disturbed by the secrets she uncovers about him and the house they shared.
Following her husband’s death by suicide, Beth is left on her own in a beautiful but creepy house by a lake. To make matters worse, rather eerie & unexplained happenings are all around, starting with footprints emerging from the lake and sounds of shots sending flocks of birds off in a panic.
After returning to work as a teacher a bit too soon, Beth is alarmed to realize she’s having trouble distinguishing between dream and reality. Unable to continue living in the house that her husband Owen built for her, Beth has her eye on new properties…only to drift off and realize she’s been browsing handgun listings the whole time. Considering her husband’s suicide occurred when he rowed out to the middle of the lake and shot himself, it’s a disturbing development to say the least.
Things start to escalate quite quickly in the creep department as Beth finds strange architectural designs of her husband’s of a literally flipped house, she experiences music playing unprompted, and she sees and hears Owen wandering around naked, seemingly calling & texting from beyond the grave. Most upsetting of all to Beth are the pictures of women on his phone…women who look so similar to Beth that it’s difficult to tell the difference.
As Beth processes her grief, she reveals a tremendous amount of guilt related to his death. Frequently struggling with depression and dark thoughts, Beth fears she somehow infected Owen with her mental illness and caused his suicide. In the rather cryptic note he left behind, Owen revealed that Beth was right–there is nothing. His note is a response to an ongoing argument about the afterlife: a teenage Beth was legally dead for 4 minutes and concluded from the experience that there is nothing.
After piecing some of the clues together, Beth manages to track down one of the women who looks disturbingly like her. But was Owen having a series of affairs…or could he have been hiding an even darker secret?
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
I had fun with this one. There are some genuinely creepy moments, and Rebecca Hall is delivering all of the panic and paranoia simmering under the surface. I enjoy that many of the horror elements are related to disturbing things people have done, but there’s a supernatural element that makes things extra unsettling. Though it’s largely a slow unraveling, the brief, disorienting flashes are extremely effective in creating the sense of dread that will ultimately reach a tipping point. I think it’s impossible to give Rebecca Hall enough credit here…or period, to be honest. We’re firm fans here on the Collab.
As a parallel with depression and other forms of mental illness, the film works well. It’s sometimes a bit frustrating that Beth doesn’t have as much agency as a character as I’d like; she’s sort of left to constantly react to things others have done, whether husband or demonic presence. This fits in with the way Beth experiences depression and grief, though it makes for a bit of an underwhelming finale. The “twist” is maybe not as clever as it thinks it is but still creepy enough to be unsettling.