While attending the Sundance Film Festival, I had the opportunity to speak with director David Bruckner about his upcoming film THE NIGHT HOUSE. Bruckner has directed segments for anthologies such as The Signal‘s “Crazy in Love”, V/H/S‘s “Amateur Night”, Southbound‘s “The Accident”, and most recently, “The Man in the Suitcase” and “The Companion” for the new Creepshow series. Bruckner’s first feature was the acclaimed horror film The Ritual and he’s now back with his second feature, THE NIGHT HOUSE, a puzzling exploration of grief. His work has been very interesting to me for years and it was great to speak with him about the complexities of THE NIGHT HOUSE, working with actress Rebecca Hall, as well as how he felt “chosen” by the film to direct.
Your work is very striking. I’ve been a fan since Amateur Night from V/H/S and I was wondering if horror is a genre that you just like working in or is it one of your main creative drives?
David Bruckner: I think exploring fear and anxiety is a reason to go to movies and it’s something that I have taken an interest in, translating those kinds of emotions into horror tropes and putting them on screen. It’s something that fascinates me. I think there are so many different subgenres within horror that it doesn’t even feel to me like I’m not moving on to something new. Each one feels like a very fresh and new story of its own life and its own rules and it’s own universe so it’s fascinating to me for that reason. I like all kinds of movies but I do turn out to see most of the horror films that are out every year and I would say horror remains my primary interest.
Exploring fear and anxiety is something we’ve seen in your film The Ritual and there’s a lot of that in your new film THE NIGHT HOUSE. I’ve also noticed that you have a strong sympathy for women characters, which was apparent in Amateur Night. In THE NIGHT HOUSE the lead character, played by Rebecca Hall, is uncovering things she didn’t know about her husband after his death. Why did you choose to explore that in this new film?
David Bruckner: Amateur Night was different for me in the sense that it was a send-up of a particular kind of masculine locker room culture and it was much more of an issue, in a sense, that we were exploring. THE NIGHT HOUSE was something that I just related to on so many different levels and here was, at the center of it, a woman who’s trying to understand her husband and there are some dark secrets that she uncovers that will call to mind a lot of different ideas and issues. But I found that the script as a whole was almost kaleidoscopic and all the different themes that attack that. I was really fascinated by the kind of labyrinth of the entire thing and how one can get lost searching for answers. That the pursuit to understand something can sometimes put you in peril if you go too deep. I thought that was a journey that was not unfamiliar to me. It’s not even that I thought it was a story that should be told so much as it was just something that I couldn’t get out of my head and it really stuck with me after reading the script. Sometimes the movies choose you so to speak.
Did it frighten you in a way? That’s a feeling I’m getting from what you are saying. Were you confronting stuff in your own self?
David Bruckner: There are things in this script that legitimately scare me. I mean, in all of them there’s something, there’s some sort of fear that you relate to that you’re trying to translate, but there are things in this that…there are tough truths in there that I find are hard to reckon with for me. It’s hard to say what they are without revealing too much about the movie.
Can you talk about casting Rebecca Hall? What stood out to you about her work that made you want to cast her in this film?
David Bruckner: I have been a fan of Rebecca’s since Vicky Christina Barcelona and The Town among other things. I mean she’s completely, utterly fearless, especially after seeing the work that she had done in Christine. The fact that she took an interest in our script was pretty amazing and we got together and we kind of talked about it. I think we had a similar sort of draw to it. Sometimes you approach a film and you kind of know exactly what it is, exactly what the metaphors are and how they operate. With this there was so much on the table and it seemed to invite that kind of investigation so I found out pretty quick that I had to be comfortable with the idea that this one was gonna be a bit more of a high-wire act than anything else. I think that Rebecca really felt like a kindred spirit in that journey and from what I could tell played a lot of this from the gut, moment to moment. I wasn’t always sure what she was gonna do next. I had a lot to gain from paying attention to her perspective and not just for her but also Stacy Martin and Sarah Goldberg. There’s a female friendship at the center of it, and so I think they all, as actors, had an authority on a lot of that that I look to as well. We were very fortunate to have Rebecca in this movie and she is on the screen nearly every moment of the film. Often times she is alone having a very, very complicated experience. So, I don’t think that was an easy feat.
It’s great when you find someone that you can really collaborate with and you can really trust. Did you ever feel overwhelmed with the themes presented in the film?
David Bruckner: Yes. But that’s what I loved about it too. There’s a literal image of a labyrinth at a certain point in the film and it’s just a sketch. It’s a sidebar almost in a way, but I sort of saw it as an invitation to get to the bottom of what this journey is taking you on. Whether or not you find the bottom is up to you, I think I’m still looking for it.
So you think that there are some things in the film that you haven’t reach into the depths of yet?
David Bruckner: I think there are, for me, many different ways to understand it and they are all there. I actively created it to support each of those different reads simultaneously, but look, I have my theories. I have my reads. I have the things that I think it’s ultimately trying to express. We used to joke on set that it’s a movie that keeps secrets from you and there are still questions that I have. Conundrums in a sense. It’s tricky to talk about it. It was tricky for us as well when we were making the movie
What would you like the viewers to get out of the film? Are you open to their interpretations?
David Bruckner: I’m certainly open to their interpretation. I mean, I think maybe more important for me, as a filmmaker to wish or hope for, is not so much that someone comes away with the film understanding of where reality ends and the dream begins in the movie or what’s real and what’s not, what’s in someone’s head and what’s not. I think for me there’s an emotionality to plumbing into those depths and realizing that you can no longer contain what you’re after and it getting the best of you and putting yourself in peril. I think the ride of that emotionally is something that I would love for people to experience in the way that I experienced. I think it also, for me, says a little something about what we owe to one another and how we affect one another. When exactly do you step in when we see someone in a state of emotional peril? I think that there’s particular humanity throughout the film, that despite everything that we’re taking on, hopefully, cuts through. I think that’s something that I would love for people to recognize.
For more on THE NIGHT HOUSE check out our review here.