The Night House is an unsettling blend of ghost story and psychological terror — the kind of film that leaves audiences wondering what the ending really means. When it comes to the scare factors in horror movies, there tend to be two basic types. The first, which is often what Hollywood studios go with, mostly relies on jump scares to startle the audience and keep them on their toes. With The Night House explained, the second is when a horror movie takes a more cerebral approach, building its scares up slowly, and going for creeping out the viewer over startling them.
Most of The Night House is designed to unsettle and disturb. In some ways, the first act feels almost like a classic Ed and Lorraine Warren-type ghost story, but as more secrets are revealed, things take a sharp left turn into the occult and the potentially horrifying reality of what happens after death. Befitting its more psychological horror bent, The Night House‘s story, and especially its ending, are open to multiple interpretations. There’s a literal way of looking at things, taking the story at face value, and the more symbolic interpretations of what the plot and characters are meant to convey. Either way one looks at it, The Night House hides many secrets.
What Happens in The Night House’s Ending
The Night House begins shortly after Owen, played by Evan Jonigkeit, has suddenly committed suicide, with his wife Beth (Passing’s Rebecca Hall) trying to pick up the pieces of her life as best she can. As the movie goes on, it’s revealed that Owen had a double life that involved him wooing and murdering women who resemble Beth in a house across the lake that’s a mirrored version of their home. However, he did this due to a mysterious creature dubbed Nothing, who Rebecca encountered when she briefly died after an accident as a teenager. She didn’t remember anything on the other side — but as The Night House explained, she was wrong.
The Nothing tried to push Owen into murdering Beth, sending her back to the other side, but he refused, killing the other women in an attempt to trick the creature. Much like his 2022 Hellraiser reboot, David Bruckner’s The Night House sees characters forced to commit terrible acts by otherworldly forces — Owen’s serial killer strategy eventually stopped working, so Owen killed himself instead. The Night House ends with Nothing taking Beth out on the lake in their small boat to get her to replicate Owen’s suicide. She almost gives in, but eventually chooses to live. The movie then goes to credits, leaving it ambiguous whether Beth truly escaped Nothing, or if the entity will try to claim her again in the future.
The Night House Explores The Horrors Of Grief
While the Nothing proves to be a scary and formidable antagonist when one looks at the story of The Night House literally, there’s a reality-based monster that truly forms the center of the narrative. The true antagonist isn’t the Nothing but — like many modern horrors such as The Babadook — grief. Few things are certain in life, but one of them is that it will one day end. Dealing with the death of a friend or loved one can be the hardest thing most people ever have to do. That’s even more true when someone loses their spouse, who many see as their other half, their best friend, the person meant to grow old alongside them.
The Night House explained Beth is not handling her husband’s suicide well. It lends credence to the idea that her friends would doubt her story about a potential haunting. It’s grief that drives Beth’s quest to dig further into her husband’s secrets, despite being warned away from doing so. Each revelation makes things worse. Beth can’t stand the thought that her husband has not only left her but done so without telling her the whole truth. Like many of the best horror movies, grief essentially drives the story, and while ghosts, demons, and the Nothing might not be a real-life threat, grief will be for everyone someday.
What The Nothing Really Is
Anyone who prefers horror movie endings to tie things up in a neat bow left The Night House disappointed. The film leaves many aspects ambiguous, or not quite resolved. One unanswered question is what the Nothing that so desperately wants to reclaim Beth remains really is. It’s possible the creature is Death itself, but it seems odd Death would become obsessed with a particular person. Nothing could be a demon, but where it takes Beth at the end, a red-lit, dual-mooned dark inversion of the real lake, doesn’t seem to be Hell. If anything, the barren place seems like some sort of purgatory between life and the afterlife.
This idea is supported by the fact that when Beth asks Nothing where her husband is. It responds Owen has gone somewhere else. Whether that’s Heaven, Hell, or something not tied to traditional Christian theology is unclear, but his soul isn’t there. That makes it most likely that the Nothing — so named because Beth said she saw “nothing” while she was dead, with Owen putting in his suicide note that “nothing” was after Beth — is something that resides in this void between worlds. Something about Beth attracts its desire.
What The Night House Ending Really Means
While it’s interesting to speculate about what the Nothing might be, there seems to be a hidden message attached to The Night House ending, one that doesn’t even really need to acknowledge anything supernatural in order to work. Beth begins the movie in the throes of grief, and as mentioned previously, it’s the grief that drives her onward toward the truth. It’s also grief that the Nothing tries to use to get her back, with her believing for some time that the “spirit” visiting her is actually Owen’s.
As sad as it is to think about, many people prove incapable of withstanding the onslaught of grief, and shut down emotionally, or even worse, take their own life out of despair. The ending sequence with the Nothing and Beth on the boat, with it trying to convince her to shoot herself, functions as a metaphor for this battle against letting grief take full hold of one’s mind. The Nothing — much like Scarlet Witch’s Westview in WandaVision or The Babadook — is an embodiment of grief, and it’s telling Beth there’s no point in going on without her husband. In the end though, despite her pain, Beth decides not to kill herself, to go on living, to reunite with the living friends who were looking for her. As dark as The Night House is overall, that’s actually a really uplifting sentiment. Of course, one wonders what happens to the bodies of Owen’s victims now.
Will The Night House Get A Sequel
With The Night House being either a ghost story or a metaphor for grief, a sequel seems unnecessary. While the idea of creating horror sequels is always there for studios, especially when a movie ends up a success at the box office, some don’t need to bother. This is not a gore-heavy horror movie. As a story, this movie stands on its own well. Sure, there could be more with Beth and the Nothing in the future, but the ending of this movie makes that seem uninspired. Why go back on her making the strong decision to go on living?
Even more important is the idea that the movie was about overcoming grief. When Beth decided she was not going to take her own life, she chose to live. She beat the Nothing and moved on with her life. The Night House is a personal story about a woman dealing with loss and depression. This movie doesn’t need a follow-up, and there is no sign that the studio plans to follow through with a sequel.
Other Horror Movies That Turned Negative Emotions Into Monsters
Like from The Night House, many recent horror movies — such as Ti West’s Pearl — prefer crafting villains that exemplify emotions. Monsters made tangible like grief, envy, stress, and anger illustrate the power of storytelling. The Babadook shows the personification of a woman’s grief over her husband’s death. If she ignores the grieving process, it will consume her. In Titane, while Alexia functions as both the hero and villain, the film additionally explores how much grief and desperation can color someone’s perspective.
Hereditary and Midsommar feature people navigating the horrors of losing loved ones. Dani in Midsommar needs to grapple with a cheating boyfriend, and her intense feelings of betrayal dictate her character arc. In the end, she’s delighted to watch her ex burn alive. Hereditary shows the impact of a sudden, tragic loss on a family dynamic, tying supernatural and cult elements to a spiraling sense of helplessness. Sometimes, the most horrifying monsters live inside the mind, and The Night House explained that perfectly.