The proximity of nothingnessArt & Culture | Mark Warburton 17 Oct 2021
David Bruckner is known for approaching horror from fresh angles; whether it be an update on Carpenterian menace in Southbound (2015), or the premonitory tech-anxiety of The Signal (2007). A director with latent talent, he looks poised to breakthrough with a reimagining of Clive Barker’s iconic Hellraiser (1987).
Bruckner’s latest endeavor, The Night House (2020), is a subtle, unpredictable tale that weaves relatable themes of trust and sacrifice with a supernatural presence; both metaphysical and literal in its 'nothingness'. The success of the film's narrative lies in its reluctance to ape the hackneyed subgenre of spectral home invasion, while keeping the door open for startling twists and space in which 3 dimensional characters - especially Beth, played by Rebecca Hall - are allowed to breathe, adding weight to the story.
The film's success stems from a collective effort: its writing duo, Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, are economical: keeping the story moving, avoiding bloat and filler. Their dialogue is natural and contributes to the tangibility of even periphery figures. It cannot be overstated, however, how much Rebecca Hall's stellar performance contributes to the overall sense of urgency in Night House. Her mannerisms and facial expressions are exquisite in conveying emotional range, vital for the film’s dependency on psychological horror.
Stylistically, the film meticulously combines the antagonist, its surroundings, and the titular house, often using peculiar angles, concise framing, and optical illusions to allude to its presence. The house - and its inverse twin - become appendages - hosts of the nothingness itself. The sound design, in particular, spotlights the distension of wood and cracking beams, further cementing the central motif.
Brucker has curated an impressive array of writers and technicians. If he continues to attract quality actors, he will rapidly become a premier horror director. Night House won't appeal to gore hounds or jump scare enthusiasts, but it is a quality film: rare in its nuanced fusion of human drama and weird fiction tropes.