We first learned about Director/Writer David Bruckner back in 2015 with the release of the horror anthology, Southbound in which he wrote and directed a segment titled “The Accident”. Since then he’s gone on to direct The Ritual, an adaptation of Adam Nevill’s horror novel. Now he finds himself in the directing chair once again for the upcoming horror/thriller, THE NIGHT HOUSE. The film centers around the character of Beth (Rebecca Hall) as she tries to rebuild her life after the unexpected death of her husband. However, she’s visited by a presence, which leads her down a dark path to uncover the truth of who her husband was.
For the upcoming release of THE NIGHT HOUSE, Nightmarish Conjurings had the opportunity to speak with Director David Bruckner where they discussed everything from directing the force of nature known as Rebecca Hall, the optical illusion scares, and more.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today, David. To kick things off, when was the moment you realized that this was a project you wanted to work on?
David Bruckner: The first time I read it in 2017, I was like okay, well this is everything that I love [Laughs]. This is like a director’s dream come true. You never really know with independent film what’s going to come to life and what isn’t. My attack on it was to hand the script to people and say no one has the guts to make this. Luckily, I gave it to [Producers] Keith Levine and David Goyer who saw something in it too and helped bring this to life. From the moment I read it, I was doing everything I could to try and bring it to life.
Rebecca Hall is unbelievable in this film (and every other role she’s in). As a director, how did you approach working with her on this?
David Bruckner: She’s a force of nature [Laughs]. I mean, we knew she’d be great. I wasn’t prepared for how much… I don’t know if this is her process in other films, but how much of it was a really intuitive impulse. It’s really rather fearless. This is complex material and, in some ways, you’re flying blind and it takes an enormous amount of trust in both herself and in me to go out on a limb with some of these ideas. She would just march right into it. I mean, she was really leading the way in many regards. And so, I found that there was an unpredictability to where she might be coming from or where she might go. In some moments I was right there with her and in another one, I felt like she was kind of ahead of me and was experiencing things that I hadn’t experienced. It was interesting to watch Rebecca venture into this terrain and I learned pretty quickly that sometimes the best thing to do is scrap my super cool shot that I did and pull the filmmaking aspect back a little bit and create some space for the actor. So, in that sense, it made aspects of my job very easy.
One of my favorite aspects of this film is the scares, especially the subtle ones that are just out of our peripheral. When it came to crafting these unique optical illusion scares, was that done practically?
David Bruckner: If you had wandered through our set at the right time on the right day and stood in the right place, you would have seen most of what’s on the screen. So, we did augment digitally, but there is forced perspective. It was an interesting idea, and it was something that I just took from like an old-fashioned optical illusion where you see a figure of a man present between pillars and thought a little bit about the use of negative space and what that might mean during the content of the film. Patrick Horvath who is a filmmaker and a friend, worked on an anthology with me called Southbound and I begged him to come out to set and to help construct a lot of these instances, we’ll call them. So, it was kind of a collaboration between him and myself and Kathrin Eder, our production designer. But it all deals in space, the presence of something or the absence of something, and architecture.
The house that Beth lives in is utterly stunning and is a character in and of itself. What was it like trying to find a house that had a labyrinth feel to it?
David Bruckner: We couldn’t find a labyrinth house but we sure did find a house that we could change in strange ways. We knew we had to find a practical location. We knew that there’d be a lot of interiors and exterior integration – we wanted to fill the lake in the woods that would be present through the windows, and build this intrusion of atmosphere from several different vectors inside the house. We found a really great spot and it was just a lucky left turn, in some ways, on one of the finger lakes up in Upstate New York. Then we set it up, begin changing and altering it, trying to find a way to add to it in ways that were unexpected and then maybe change things here and there, some of which I think goes largely unnoticed and we were a little too subtle with.
THE NIGHT HOUSE deals with heavy themes such as grief, loss, deception, and so on and so forth. What was it like exploring those themes on film?
David Bruckner: I think Ben and Luke wrote a Gothic romance, a romance with the idea of her husband, and then a romance with her own grief and her own darkness in some ways. Myself and the composer, Ben Lovett, we took that pretty literally and kind of ran with it in some regards. I find when confronting grim ideas, particularly concepts of meaninglessness and nothingness, which is something that the script tapped into that genuinely scared me and was the reason that I wanted to make this film, you gotta sprinkle a little magic on it to make it digestible [Laughs]. Otherwise, it’s too confrontational to sort of even have the conversation.
To wrap things up, how does it finally feel knowing that THE NIGHT HOUSE is about to see the light of day?
David Bruckner: Our expectations for this were just let’s do the script as much justice as we can and try to capture what excites us. Getting a release like this in theaters is really beyond exciting. I’ve really been on the edge of my seat to see what people think.
For more on THE NIGHT HOUSE, check out our review here. THE NIGHT HOUSE arrives in theaters on August 20, 2021.
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