Some say if you have seen one haunted house film, you have seen ‘em all. Well even those people have not quite seen one done like writers/directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo's (Inside) latest film The Deep House. Taking a familiar genre and asking the question of what would happen if this were all underwater? This high-concept horror is every bit as intriguing as it sounds, even more so considering the incredible lengths gone to create it. Lengths that have made all the difference.
The film sees engaged young couple Ben (James Jagger) and Tina (Camille Rowe), as they scour Europe to search old abandoned properties and live stream it for their YouTube channel. Driven by achieving big views, Ben seeks out a secret spot in France, only for it to turn out to be a tourist hotspot. Deflated and disappointed, Ben soon meets a local who tells him of a real secret, a house, fully preserved, found at the bottom of a secluded part of an artificially submerged lake. This could be a chance to go where no one has before, but what lies beneath is a home to not just drowned secrets but something truly sinister.
While it's not unfair to say that you have seen some of the plot elements here played out before, you've never seen it all done like this. The Deep House is a slow-building, taut and even rather cruel horror offering (that ending), which at a brief 85 minutes swims along at a good pace and is packed with an unshakeable inevitable dread and terrific atmosphere.
Combining elements of found footage with traditional narrative filmmaking, this movie crafts its scares and settings fully the old-fashioned way. Relying on impressive sets and an almost real-time underwater story, achieved with real stunt divers and outstanding aquatic camerawork.
Jacques Ballard’s cinematography is particularly brilliant, even before it heads to the depths of the lake, and the abandoned evil property that sits there. The early moments even neatly set up what is to follow, as the quiet, nature-reclaimed visuals grow in number until we are trapped alongside Ben and Tina in the soggy home from hell, which is fully concealed by mother nature.
Meanwhile, our affections for these well-played lead characters are allowed to grow too, as they both increasingly realise (Ben especially) that the price of viral fame is far too often, all too great.
While ‘The Deep House’ of the title is almost a third main character. It looks fantastic, feels claustrophobic and even authentic, and the mystery it shelters, while not exactly as novel as the concept itself, is effectively nasty. And there are even a couple of twists thrown in (and a post-credits scene).
Maury and Bustillo achieve maximum effect from their oxygen-dwindling premise, and it blends pretty fantastically with the tropes of the haunted house film, as well as other horror sub-genres that serve as inspiration here. This is a film, that’s ambition is clear to see, even when some of the bubble-coated, water thrashing action isn’t. Indeed there are a couple of moments where you lose track of who is doing what, but they are low in quantity. And don’t sink, what is a very well-made film.
The Deep House is a rather original submerged subversion of the haunted house horror flick, that makes its paranormal activity even more breathless…literally!
The Deep House is out now on Blu-ray and DVD