Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Night House, or: We Believe in Nothing

*Spoilers follow*

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 Film:

The Night House


David Bruckner

The Premise:

After her husband dies by suicide, teacher Beth is increasingly disturbed by the secrets she uncovers about him and the house they shared.

The Ramble:

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.

A woman stands at the edge of a dock on a lake, looking back at a rowboat.

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.

A woman holds her phone in a dark room, looking ahead with trepidation.

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?

The Rating:

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.

Would my blog wife cherish the house built by this one or burn it to the ground without hesitation? Read her review to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Permission, or: Just Get a Cat Instead

We’re kicking off April with a tried and true Blog Free month as part of our precisely planned and impressively elaborate themes.  Okay, mostly out of laziness and an unwillingness to commit to a specific theme long-term.  Which, given this week’s pick, is perhaps surprisingly on the nose?

The Film:


The Premise:

Childhood sweethearts spice up their relationship by pursuing sexual affairs on the side with…permission.

The Ramble:

Brooklyn hipsters, young and in love, seem ready to settle down.  Anna and Will have known each other since childhood and have been in love ever since.  While Will owns an incredibly hipster-y carpentry business with his bff Reece, Anna is a grad student focusing on music performance.  On a side note:  Reece is also the serious boyfriend of Hale, Anna’s brother.

Just before Will decides to propose at dinner with the four assembled, Reece decides to be a complete tool.  Before settling down with Hale, Reece made quite a few notches in his belt and adopts a bit of a condescending know-it-all attitude to Anna and Will’s commitment to each other.  In reality, Reece is merely shifting the subject from his own relationship issues with Hale, unknowingly setting all four on an incredibly stupid journey of narcissism and poor decisions.

A woman with a perfectly groomed bob talks to a man at a party.
“I have really nice hair and some cool hipster clothes but am an absolute dipshit at decisions.”

Though Anna and Will initially laugh off Reece’s suggestion that they sleep with other people, Anna keeps coming back to the idea and is rather keen on it.  They both believe the idea of monogamy is BS and question the idea that a relationship could be so fragile that it would be ruined by a sexual affair.  After some consideration, they decide to give this whole idiotic idea a try, reasoning that it isn’t really an affair if they give each other permission to pursue other sexual relationships.

Predictably, this is much more difficult than anticipated.  Almost immediately, Anna feels an emotional connection to the guy she hooks up with, Dane.  Like Anna, Dane is a musician, plus he also makes her breakfast at night because he knows she won’t stay until morning.  Initially, Anna and Will decided against seeing any of their hook ups again, but the two quickly scratch that rule.

Meanwhile, Will finds a romantic partner in the form of Lydia, played perfectly by Gina Gershon.  Lydia buys a table from Will, who delivers it to her late at night, which is a euphemism but also a real thing that happens in this film.

A fully clothed woman and man wearing only towels lie on a rug in a messy room, holding hands
Prob one of the more unique affairs on film.

I have neglected Hale and Reece’s relationship drama, which centers around Hale’s wish to start a family and Reece’s reluctance to do so.  Though I find all of the leads insufferable in their own ways, Reece is an exceptionally horrible douchebag who refuses to even talk to Hale about this.  As the two seem to grow farther apart, Hale meets a father with a young child at the park and grows more attached to the idea of having a child.

A man sitting on a park bench holds a young child, sitting next to another man (aka actor Jason Sudeikis).
Also featuring a rather pointless appearance by Jason Sudeikis?

At a certain point, Will wants to stop with the arrangement he and Anna have made and get back to their life as it was before they forgot how to be adults.  But can they ever go back to the way things were?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Those PPHs are mostly for Rebecca Hall’s hair in this, which is gorgeous.  I don’t think there’s any room to complain about the acting either, but the supporting characters far outshine the leads.  We get much too close for comfort with our main four, who treat each other horrendously and all seem to be quite removed from reality.

I’m annoyed because I completely support the ideas Anna and Will discuss dealing with sexual liberation, monogamy, and non-traditional relationships.  However, up to this point they have been the most fucking monogamous couple ever–as much as they may think of themselves as free spirits in this context, they have very much internalized societal norms surrounding relationships.

With both sets of relationships, the film seems to explore what happens when partners no longer want the same thing–if indeed, it’s possible for both to truly want the same thing from their relationship.  That’s another element here too–expectations for relationships and what they will (or will not) fulfill.  Better bet?  Just get a fucking cat/dog/literally anything besides a pointlessly stupid human.

My main problem with this film really boils down to how often I sympathized with men throughout.  I hate how bad I felt for both Will and Dane, who of course don’t inherently deserve Anna’s (or any woman’s) love.  However, it’s difficult to see her completely disregard their feelings and deny any wrongdoing.  Though I don’t think she’s initially aware of her interest in exploring other possibilities outside of the relationship, Anna nevertheless comes across as incredibly manipulative almost to the point of being a sociopath.  Admittedly I’m also a sucker for anyone who makes breakfast at any and all hours.

Would Christa…deliver a table to this one or ditch it for a day out at the dog park?  Read her review here to find out!