‘The Deep House’ Review: Amazing Horror Concept, Shallow Treatment
By Daniel Rester
French directing duo Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo knocked it out of the park with their horrifying debut film À l’intérieur (aka Inside) in 2007. Unfortunately they have not reached that film’s heights again with their subsequent horror pictures. Their latest, The Deep House, is no exception. It shows flashes of the filmmakers’ skills as they execute a brilliant central concept, but they don’t match the technical magic with strong storytelling.
The Deep House follows Youtube video adventurers — and romantic partners — Ben (James Jagger) and Tina (Camille Rowe). They are travelling around Europe and exploring supposedly haunted houses for their vlog. While in France, they get a tip about a mansion that is somehow perfectly preserved while sitting at the bottom of a lake. Ben and Tina get their scuba gear and cameras and set out to document the inside of the mansion.
There have been quite a few aquatic horror movies in recent years, from 47 Meters Down (2017) to Underwater (2020). But putting a haunted house in a lake? Now that’s a fresh and awesome idea. Just the idea of shooting something like that in a mostly practical way is daunting. Maury and Bustillo put themselves up to the challenge though and pull off the technical trickery well for the most part.
Maury and Bustillo’s film, shot by Jacques Ballard, is presented as a mix of regular wide staging and found footage style. The forest and lake locations above water are captured beautifully, while the underwater house itself is a spooky marvel of production design. The “secret room” involving chains is especially cool. Ballard captures the many underwater details well, though some of the close-ups come across as chaotic at times.
While the atmosphere and technical ability are there, The Deep House sacrifices its characters and story in exchange for its main focus being on the execution. The directors and their co-writers Julien David and Rachel Parker struggle to make Ben or Tina very interesting both before and while they’re in the water; Jagger and Rowe’s irritating performances don’t help either. The haunting story behind the house and its inhabitants is also thin and tired, leading to a twist that is obvious long before a framed picture reveals it.
Diehard fans of haunted house movies may want to check out The Deep House for its fresh angle, as long as they understand they aren’t getting much of anything else fresh. The film’s central execution idea is way more interesting than what the end result is. As with most Maury and Bustillo horror projects, The Deep House shows great potential in spots but disappoints in other ways. I hope they can deliver another film in the future worthy of sitting next to Inside.
My Grade: 5.8/10 (letter grade equivalent: C+)
Running Time: 1h 25min