EXCLUSIVE: You might best know Rebecca Hall from Godzilla vs Kong, Iron Man 3, Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, and Tales from the Loop. But her most recent film, The Night House, just hit theaters last weekend. And GVN had the opportunity to sit down and talk with her about the movie and her experience filming this unique take on the haunted house genre.
Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
GVN: You play Beth in The Night House, which just came out in theaters last weekend. And I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about the movie and about your character?
Rebecca Hall: I play Beth, who is a woman who is immediately dealing, at the beginning of the movie, with the aftermath of losing her husband to suicide. And she is dealing with that, and the sense that her life has been completely upended. And she’s processing her shock and her grief alone in a house where there are, increasingly, surprises and mysteries that she is forced to unearth and understand.
GVN: I feel like it’s a fair thing to say that this movie is kind of dark and emotional. Would you agree?
Rebecca Hall: Yes, I would say that. I think that there’s also an element of it that is thrilling, which can be fun. So, I wouldn’t… I don’t think it’s entirely a downer in that sense.
GVN: I totally agree. I was kind of curious how you kept it light during some of those moments where things get really intense?
Rebecca Hall: It’s just a sort of fundamental belief of mine that human beings always have both. At their darkest moments, that there is always a capacity for humor and wit. Even if it’s very dark, even if it’s a way of expressing anger. And the thing about Beth is that she’s extraordinary brittle and impulsive and sort of wild. And a lot of that is expressed through the way that she deals with other people. By, you know, saying things which are sort of outrageous, and sometimes inadvertently, and sometimes consciously, funny. I loved that about her. I found it to be intensely human. So, I was impressed by that when I read the script.
GVN: I think those moments were the bits that hit me the closest as well. There’s all of the supernatural stuff, which is a delightful amount of fun. But then all of the stuff that Beth is going through emotionally and physically in some of those scenes just really hit home.
Rebecca Hall: Yeah, I think it’s a very accurate and honest portrayal. Also, I think it’s a sort of odd moment in time for someone. I’ve seen movies where they deal with the immediate grief of losing someone, and the sort of immediate shock and the funeral and all that sort of stuff. And I’ve seen movies that deal with months after losing someone, where they’re trying to put their life back in order.
But I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a movie that is directly after the funeral when everyone stops calling and everyone stops bringing around food. But you’re in no way near putting your life back together again. And you haven’t even processed what’s happened, and you’re not able to cry. And I thought about that a lot in thinking about her. Because, arguably, the whole story, if you want to look at it just purely as a sort of psychological interpretation, in a way, it’s a sort of journey of one woman accepting what’s happened and being able to cry about it.
GVN: When I was watching it, it sort of struck me how on the surface, it plays into all of the tropes of haunting stories. But then underneath that, it’s also kind of this story about Beth trying to come to terms with what she’s learned about her husband. And come to terms with this loss. And I just think it’s such a nice meshing of that. Is that kind of what drew you into the film as well?
Rebecca Hall: Very much so, very much so. When I got the script, the cover letter that came with the script from my agent sort of did the line explanation. It was like “One woman, grieving husband, gets haunted. And I sort of rolled my eyes and thought, “Well, I’ve seen this before.” (laughs) And then I read the script, and I was really astounded by how it set everything up to be something that you’ve seen before. And set all the ingredients that are familiar and sort of exciting about classic ghost story movies, haunted house movies, which arguably we haven’t seen for a minute.
But also gives it a very grounded, real, emotional journey with a character who is kind of fascinating and enigmatic and scary to watch because she is so willing to be scared, and so reckless and so at a point where she is… You don’t know how she’s going to behave. And that, arguably, adds a certain level of emotional fear to watching her.
GVN: You’ve done a fair few movies that have involved a lot of visual effects work. In particular, I’m thinking of your work on Godzilla vs Kong. And I’m curious how does filming something like The Night House differ from filming something like that?
Rebecca Hall: It’s kind of chalk and cheese. (laughs) This movie was made in, I don’t know, twenty-two, twenty-three days. Very small resources, and it was a real project of love for everyone involved. And there were no big effects until down the road. I mean, there were some in post. But there weren’t really any big effects. I mean, when I’m flailing myself around and interacting with the entity, there wasn’t a guy in a green suit or anything like that. I was basically dancing. (laughs) And other effects that you see that I think are really effective are practical.
The art department did extraordinary things. They cut out profiles of faces in the crown molding of the wall, or the columns, which didn’t show up when you’re looking at it in one direction. But when you open a door and leave it at ninety degrees, and you happen to be looking at it from a different direction, it looks exactly like a person. And that was real, I saw all that stuff. Sometimes, the big effects are often very necessary and work brilliantly. And you can feel secure about that. But sometimes these instances where you have to make them work practically, sometimes they can almost create more tactile, real effect. And I felt that it was very powerfully handled in this one.
GVN: I’m kind of blown away that the face thing was done in-camera. I had kind of assumed that was something they did afterwards.
Rebecca Hall: No. There’s one that isn’t in-camera, but most of them are in-camera, surprisingly.
GVN: My last question for you: kind of broadly about the film, what are some things you think that viewers should maybe know going into it? Or, alternatively, what’s something that you’re really excited for audiences to see about the movie?
Rebecca Hall: I’m not sure that they should know anything going into it. (laughs) I don’t think anyone should ever know anything about a movie going into it. So, I don’t know about that. But I suppose that I’m excited for people to have an experience in a theater. Because I think that there is a kind of catharsis that comes with going on an emotional journey, like this one. And there are elements to this that are a thrill ride. Like, you will scream, and then you will feel uncomfortable that you screamed, and then you will laugh.
And I think that there is something in that laughter that is actually very powerful and important. Especially when people have been processing so much anxiety. Like, this is a way to get some of that out. And I hope for that. I hope that people can come together and be able to scream together. (laughs)
GVN: I think you’re right, though, that there’s something super cathartic about all kinds of horror movies. Because it lets you get all of your anxieties out in a kind of constructive way.
Rebecca Hall: Yeah, in a sort of safe environment, yeah.
GVN: Thank you so much for doing this.
Rebecca Hall: Pleasure, thank you.
The Night House is in theaters now. You can read our thoughts on the film here.
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Part-time writer, part-time theatre nerd, full-time dork.