Double Feature: The Night House (2020) & Prey (2022)

The Night House (2020)

Director: David Bruckner

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin

A widow begins to uncover her recently deceased husband’s disturbing secrets. – IMDB

*Originally posted for Friday Film Club*

After the unexpected suicide of her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit), Beth (Rebecca Hall) tries to cope with the loss in the best way she can until odd supernatural events start happening in the lakeside house that he built for her. As she digs deeper, she realizes that her husband has some dark secrets and they are now coming back to haunt her. The Night House is a psychological horror that dives into the themes of grief and afterlife.

The Night House is a film that plays with its setting quite a bit. It is pretty much a one setting film which uses the house and the surrounding areas of the lakeside house. The house itself feels like it has a life of its own especially before the reveal. It becomes a central piece to where the secrets lie in its nooks and crannies literally and figurativel. In fact, some of its most effective scares comes from the uneasiness from the environment and the space that it resides. While the film feels rather generic at the start, the film quickly shows off its more creative side with how it executes the horror element. Much like the cinematography which is quite impressive to bring out the unsettling experience.

The small cast of characters also make The Night House very intriguing as it revolves around a wife discovering these dark secrets of her husband. Rebecca Hall plays the role of Beth who becomes a grieving widow who tries to keep it together. There is a wonderful subtlety to character as the emotions brew in her but she doesn’t always show it on the exterior. She delivers a grounded performance that slowly starts going more put of the control as she starts experiencing what feels like her husband reaching out to her. While her husband Owen played by Evan Jonigkeit appears only in her memory as she starts piecing together before his suicide, Owen also has his own layers that slowly gets revealed.

The Night House is an indie horror gem. The film delivers a creepy and unsettling story and revolves it around the more basic horror design ever but playing it to its max with its surroundings. It creates this well-earned jumpscare moment and earns the later anticipation of what could be lurking in the house itself while playing with what is reality and not.

Prey (2022)

Direcctor (and co-writer): Dan Trachtenberg

Cast: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro, Stormee Kipp, Michelle Thrush, Julian Black Antelope, Stefany Mathias, Bennett Taylor, Mike Paterson

Naru, a skilled warrior of the Comanche Nation, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth. – IMDB

The latest addition to the Predator series, Prey goes back in time to the 1800s to Native Americans tribe when they end up crossing paths with a Predator on the hunt. Being back many years from the first movie, this film is very focused on the hunting elements and the concept between prey and predator. The film features a young female lead who is doubted by her tribe that she is capable however on her initiation, she ends up tracking the Predator. With her dog in tow and her nifty crafting skills along with great tracking skills, she’s a female lead that isn’t a damsel in distress. She does get shocked by this unknown alien creature that she encounters but still uses her wit to try to overcome both the fear and protect her tribe.

Looking at the execution of the film as a whole, the breakdown runs best in a three part breakdown. The first part is a setup where it gives an idea of the strong female lead Naru and the tribe that she resides in (along with how she is viewed in the tribe) while also giving a look on the other side of the spectrum with the Predator as he lands on Earth for his hunt. As the land changes from many skinned and disemboweled ones as well, its quite disgusting to watch overall and does feel at times like it is a bit much and repetitive to get the point across.

However, the film does pick up in the second act as things start to change as the threat of the Predator becomes more apparent. The hunting group meets their own danger and barely escapes when Naru steps up and goes for her initiation of sorts to try to capture whatever beast is endangering the land with her tracking skills. It shows both her competency but also her inexperience as she does show moments of fear. She isn’t a perfect warrior but on in the making. The final act is the best of the film as it builds to the final showdown with a little twist and all decides whether she can come back with her prey.

While Predator series in general is more of an action horror film, Prey takes a rather unique coming of age angle mixed in the plot for a girl who in those days were doubted for her abilities in the tribe and fights for her acceptance as a hunter so she can do more. Overall, the film has a slow setup but once it gets going, the film does take a nice turn of events. Not to mention the cast does a great especially for Amber Midthunder as Naru. Prey might not exactly be the Predator film that a lot of people were hoping for since it does go back in time and it has some pacing flaws, however they did create a really good kick-ass female lead that held up the film.


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