Inside directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury are known for their inventive spin to old themes, and their debut twist on a pregnant woman escaping a stalker blew minds everywhere with its horrific reveal.
Even if their subsequent efforts weren’t as explosive in its reception, the pair continued to innovate, experimenting with an oddly refreshing curiosity to their stories. The Deep House is much the same, except the distortion this time comes fully as the premise.
The new film is a rethink of the haunted house genre, submerged in a new level of terror by letting it take place underwater. At first, this seems rather contrived. Is that all? Is it novelty for novelty’s sake? But the duo has shaped a convincing arc to the whole film, giving it a satisfying enough believability.
American Youtube explorer Ben (James Jagger) found his audience online through his love for exploring prohibited places – often abandoned and sometimes haunted. He drags his French-speaking girlfriend Tina (Camille Rowe) to the south of France for their latest mission – an old town that went underwater when a dam construction affected the local water routes – in a bid to top his old record number of views.
The couple arrive instead to a popular local watering hole instead, and all hopes of filming a spooky exploration went down the proverbial pipe. However, Ben strikes up a conversation with a local, and what do you know – the person has a secret spot where a submerged house is perfectly intact, even after half a century. Everyone knows what happens next.
Through this presentation in a watery environment, The Deep House truly takes on a new creepiness. The murky waters, suspended items, and just incredibly disturbing fact that the house is as intact as it is, is enough to make the most seasoned viewer uncomfortable. Thi is largely thanks to its cinematographer Jacques Ballard, who has experience in underwater photography, but that said, there are problematic areas.
The logistics of filming underwater must have been a big pain, and sometimes it shows up in shots that don’t entirely connect together. And even if the actors have talkies to communicate, their obscured faces and slow underwater movement takes away a portion of tension in some scenes.
The editing here is also rather jagged, throwing scenes into a disarray of disorientating tilts, shot framings and an excess of air bubbles. It could be a strategy to mimic the underwater chaos, but it feels more amateur than it should be, watering down (sorry) some of the discoveries.
When the truth is revealed, the sequences – again thanks to the lake – bear some of the creepiest images to come. It would have been a lot better though if the story didn’t at that point become as cliche, and yet with the purpose behind it all still a little diluted (I’ll stop here with the puns).
The Deep House is worth a watch if you’re looking for a mild horror title with spooky imagery, but if you’re looking for a heart-pumping adventure, you might want to give this a pass.