THE DEEP HOUSE, written and directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury with the English screenplay adaptation by Julien David and Rachel Parker, takes the haunted house horror subgenre and immerses it in a watery setting. THE DEEP HOUSE offers a unique take on a well-trod tale but falters thanks to the common ailment of a thinly constructed plot. The setting increases terror because the danger comes from the haunted house and the water our characters are submerged in. After all, they have a finite amount of oxygen to explore and survive; thereby increasing the risks.
The film follows a couple, Tina (Camille Rowe) and Ben (James Jagger), who vlog haunted and abandoned locations. Ben especially wants a place that is so surprising and different to increase their views and revenue. Ben even teases that once they reach a million views, they can get married. They search for an underwater house at a lake in France but find nothing until they meet Pierre (Eric Savin), who offers to show them a secret section of the lake where there is a house underwater. As is the case in horror movies, of course, they decide to go. The issue is never entering a creepy location but exiting it.
The acting feels phony or overly dramatized in parts which left me thinking about that instead of focusing on unfolding events. However, it could feel that way because they are vlogging and possibly giving the camera and their viewers a persona. I’ve experienced that same feeling when watching certain vlogs. I also wish THE DEEP HOUSE did not waste so much potential with predictable characters. Ben focuses on the money. When terrifying events unfold before them, he is more concerned about losing their footage than anything. Meanwhile, Tina, who did not want to dive, is jumpy from the beginning and just gets worse.
The foreshadowing early on was detrimental to the ending. The end is anticlimactic, leaving you with a “that’s it” question rife with disappointment. The ending might have played better if they opted to remove the foreshadowing or leave audiences unclear about information. Not many parts of the plot are shocking if you’ve seen other horror films. THE DEEP HOUSE uses the haunted house playbook, just underwater. The trite parts come complete with a murky plot that culminates in a not-at-all surprising reveal.
Still, the setting is perfect and novel. Most underwater films deal with creatures lurking in the depths. But here, the fear is paranormal, ghostly goodness. I love the directing and creepy scenes, such as when Tina experiences a bone-chilling hallucination. Almost every moment reminds you they are underwater with limited oxygen. So when things go awry, every second matters. Even worse, panicking underwater will only exhaust their air faster. The music was great too. I loved the catchy tune at the beginning of THE DEEP HOUSE, and that creepy underwater french version of “You Don’t Own Me” filled me with dread. Having your senses inundated unexpectedly, when you’re trapped underwater and trying to remain calm to conserve your air is terrifying.
So despite the failings, I still enjoyed THE DEEP HOUSE. I was nervous and saying, “That would not be me,” throughout its 84-minute runtime. I just hoped it would be a bit more than the same ole, same ole. THE DEEP HOUSE does not move the genre forward as I’d desired but merely changes the location. Yet, THE DEEP HOUSE has worthy chills given its claustrophobic underwater setting, especially if you’re scared of water and haunted houses—this will terrify you.
THE DEEP HOUSE premieres November 5, 2021, on EPIX and is available for Digital purchase via Paramount Home Entertainment.