There’s something about a well done haunted house film that just really taps into what makes horror so special and captivating for me. Take a normal day, normal people, and then insert them into a place that should be safe – a home. The home can be inhabited or abandoned, but either way it feels somehow safe because it was tamed. That’s what we do when we take up space in a place and call it a home – we tame it. It’s not unfamiliar any longer, it’s suddenly a part of the family. It hears our laughter, our cries, our love, our hate, and our secrets. The home knows everything about us, even the things we hide from ourselves. Naturally it feels like deep betrayal when a home turns on us or when we realize something was hiding within the home and living there perhaps even before we were. There’s something deeply creepy about the idea of being watched by unseen eyes and let’s face it, these spirits are rarely ever the kind to do your housework for you.
One of the great things about haunted house films is that they give filmmakers the opportunity to have fun. Set design, lighting, sound design, suspense, music, special effects, and above all else, the ‘tease’, all of these things are on full display and give a filmmaker the opportunity to have fun. Yes, we’ve all seen haunted house films, and have seen some that make you wonder why someone would ever bother making another, but there’s always more to say and more ways and new ways to make it. The plate is set, it’s all a matter of what you choose to do, it’s all just right there waiting for you to mold it into shape.
Cut to THE DEEP HOUSE, a newer haunted house film with an utterly creepy premise that just can’t deliver on the promise.
THE DEEP HOUSE follows two young people as they investigate creepy and abandoned buildings with the (boyfriend’s) hope of becoming YouTube celebrities. When they learn of a house that was abandoned in an area that was flooded to make a lake, they (the boyfriend) decide that this is the perfect opportunity to take their channel to the next level. They pack up they start trying to train themselves to hold their breath (and fail), get their gear together, and hire a local to take them out to the lake and the house. The man they hire is nice enough but seems a little strange (imagine that – a ‘local’ in a movie that is weird to the out of towners, SHOCKING!) but takes them safely to the serene looking lake and directs them to where the house is and will wait for their return.
The couple have one tank of oxygen a piece and one hour of breathe time so they have to be mindful about this excursion, but their excitement tamps down their fears enough to lead them deep into the water to find their underwater house. The house is just where the man pointed them to, down some stairs, past a family mausoleum owned by the owners of the house, and past a gate marked with strange totems. The two press on and find that the house is completely closed off and locked. It strikes them as strange that the house has been closed up and secured as it has been, but they manage to find an attic window that opens and slide inside there.
The house looks like it was just abandoned, with nothing rusted and everything looking as if it was but waiting to be used once more. The deeper into the house they get the stranger the artifacts get and the more the girlfriend wants to leave. The boyfriend insists they are safe, and they push on into the house and find an area that is barred and closed off, but the couple pushes forward and enters this new room and finds that they are not alone in the house after all. The past has been locked down within the house, buried away and abandoned with the hope that it would never get out. Unfortunately for this couple, the evil in the house has been released, they are running out of air, and as they soon find out, running out of time.
This is a very well made, and very creepy movie. The uniqueness of the setting is amazing, and the addition of the imaginary clock that is running because there is a limited amount of oxygen in the tanks really boosts the film. The sets are great, the concept is great, and the tension is fantastic. The problem is that there are too many holes in this ship for it to float. The whole angle of trying to get ‘insert whatever social media platform is hot at the moment’ famous is getting played out. It works here but just barely. The boyfriend is written as such an insufferable bully that you really don’t care about him or his fate, and that kneecaps the movie from the start. There is no charm or nuance to the writing. Same with the girlfriend, who we are just given as perpetually scared and worried. As fun as the concept is, and as great as the lead-up is, the payoff just doesn’t feel earned of worth it. We are not given enough genuine background to feel anything deeper than the initial AH – ‘whatever is going on in the house’ – sort of scare. There’s a lot to mine here, and a lot more to reveal, and the film would have been better served if they had done that. I can appreciate the desire to keep things mysterious and creepy (though using a Lovecraft quote tied to the Cthulhu Mythos is a bit of a misleading drop in the film) as a storyteller but as a filmgoer I need to know WHY I should be afraid, and they just don’t give you enough to solidify that. At least for me. The film also gets too chaotic as the climax winds up, the camera all over the place and the ‘found footage’ aspects of the movie getting in its own way. The ending also left me cold because of the shortcuts that were taken with the characters and the WHY of it all.
Far from a bad film, DEEP HOUSE is another one of those films that doesn’t stand out among so many superior horror AND haunted house films. There’s a lot to like, and the set up is pretty fun, it just left me cold in the end. For fans of the subgenre or who are looking for something different than we see these days, this is worth a look. I will just wish for a more fleshed out version of the film with better written leads.
2 out of 5