2021 | Unrated (soft R equivalent) | starring Camille Rowe & James Jagger | directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury | 1 hr 25 mins |
In 2007 Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury set the horror movie sky on fire with their masterfully crafted claustrophobic pregnancy anxiety thriller Inside. Ever since, their follow-ups have been hard to get your hands on in the United States and the few that have made it past international distributors have been disappointments lacking the tension, style and gory fun of Inside.
Enter Epix, which did God’s work releasing Saint Maud earlier this year, and the post-2020 need for content. Bustillo and Maury’s The Deep House feels like the final nail in the coffin that solidifies for sure that whatever sense of macabre rage inspired the French New Wave horror renaissance of the late 00’s is now officially over. The Deep House is as much a studio film as you will find dumped out of Hollywood on a cold January. High-concept elevator pitch premise and an execution that runs in circles to fill the running time.
Tina and Ben (Camilla Rowe & James Jagger) are a couple with a Youtube channel exploring the paranormal. Their trek for the next viral video leads them to a lake with a rumored haunted house at the bottom. Tina and Ben suit up in scuba gear and explore the house, soon trying to survive the demons that lurk in the house.
Now here is an idea with some potential. A haunted house movie with a twist out of The Descent, where the environment itself can lend some claustrophobic suspense to the proceedings and every breath matters. Throw it on the pile for an immediate remake because Deep House also is a premise, setting and characters that puts Bustillo and Maury out of what they do best – splatter the walls with blood and pit people together in feral violent combat. You can’t fight ghosts, you can only run from them and you can’t deliver creative kills when your set is entirely waterlogged.
Inside is tight, tense and brutal. Deep House is flabby, full of filler and too absurd to be creepy. That’s the balance with horror movies, you’ve got to have a premise that is unique, but at the same time relatable enough so that the average person might think it could happen to them. Inside could happen to anyone. The couple in The Deep House go out of their way looking for trouble and find it. When the often repeated “I would just call the cops” refrain gets as far from ordinary life as “I wouldn’t go scuba diving in a haunted house” you’ve lost your tether to the audience and it’s hard to root for your characters. These characters are particularly hard to root for.
At first blush I’m not even sure how you would make this premise work beyond the usual tour down dark haunted hallways. Everything that makes it unique seems to cut into the horror. Whether your fear is drowning or ghosts, neither of these are working together in this film.