Following the breakthrough success of the intense Inside, French filmmaking duo, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, have struggled to find the perfect follow-up project. While their Leatherface prequel boasted the same in-your-face shocks and violence, it failed to connect with Texas Chainsaw fans. Smaller projects, including Among the Living and Kandisha, were similarly mixed. But their latest effort, the found-footage meets haunted house thriller, The Deep, look miles away from their usual style. Promotional materials promise some impressively chilling visuals. And critics have been reasonably impressed with the result. Unfortunately, The Deep House didn’t get the wide theatrical release it deserved.
Desperate for ‘Likes’ and subscriptions on their paranormal YouTube channel, an influencer couple – Ben and Tina – visit a lake in hopes of exploring a submerged sanitorium. However, when they arrive, they discover the lake is a popular tourist destination – not the kind of place likely to boost their site’s credibility. But a local offers to take them to a remote spot where a perfectly preserved house sits at the bottom of the lake. Inside the submerged house, Ben and Tina discover a terrible secret waiting – one that may not leave the couple leave.
The Deep House Finds News Scares For Its Haunted House Story Under Water
Don’t go into The Deep House expecting it to re-invent the haunted house movie. Whether it’s the basic story or healthy helpings of haunted house tropes, writer and directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury aren’t subverting expectations. In fact, familiarity increasingly haunts the movie, particularly in its final act. As the directors blend subgenres, including bits of found-footage, they also liberally borrow ideas from other horror movies. We’ve seen movies where aspiring documentary filmmakers – or influencers, more recently – put possible fame ahead of personal safety. Or common sense. In addition, The Deep House offers plenty of familiar horror iconography alongside bits of possession. Even the threat of a depleting oxygen tank has been done many times.
That is, Bustillo and Maury make maximum use of their underwater setting.
If The Deep House lacks something in the originality department, it more than compensates with visual style. That is, Bustillo and Maury make maximum use of their underwater setting. Floating bodies, chained to the floor and perfectly preserved, are haunting in The Deep House’s dark, murky world. Even if it’s an aesthetic and concept that is thoroughly milked, the French directing duo time and time again create effective scares and suspense with their location. Familiar tropes – from pianos that play themselves to doll heads to shadows in the corner – take on some new life submerged in the water. Moreover, Bustillo and Maury pace their scares and ratchet up tension with little wasted screen time. At just under 90 minutes, The Deep House never overstays its welcome.
The Deep House Suffers Somewhat From a Soggy Story
As mentioned above, The Deep House leaks some of its potential due to a weak screenplay. Like their attempt at rebooting and ret-conning Leatherface, Bustillo and Maury rely heavily on established conventions and tropes. And unlike the movie’s visuals, the murky underwater setting can’t hide these recycled story bits. Yes, there’s the influencer who needs to film for just a little longer to get those extra ‘Likes’. Both protagonists are pretty thin characters on paper. Fortunately, Camille Rowe and James Jagger, playing our underwater couple Tina and Ben, easily outpace the material. Despite Ben’s obvious stupidity, Jagger gives his character a bit of charm. As a result, he’s at least likeable and sympathetic. But it’s Rowe’s performance that gives The Deep House someone for whom to root.
Inevitably, Bustillo and Maury feel the need to give their haunted underwater house a backstory.
Things nearly unravel as The Deep House hits its final act. Inevitably, Bustillo and Maury feel the need to give their haunted underwater house a backstory. This includes an unnecessary reveal that adds little. Though it’s a backstory that is suitably chilling it also feels like just about any haunted house origin you’d find in any haunted house movie. In many ways, The Deep House is scariest when we don’t know anything about the house. Much of the fear emerges from the unknown and Tina and Ben’s initial discoveries. If nothing else, The Deep House reminds us that sometimes less is more.
The Deep House Works In Spite of an Overreliance on Overused Conventions
All in all, The Deep House is really just a haunted house movie set underwater. Some of its third act reveals are underwhelming and nearly derail the entire picture. But Bustillo and Maury execute the concept quite well. While it’s not quite a case of style over substance, The Deep House proves that haunting visuals and a commitment to atmosphere and scares can overcome a limited screenplay. For nearly 90 minutes, horror fans can enjoy a truly creepy movie that occasionally reinvigorates overused tropes with some fantastic cinematography. Ultimately, The Deep House is proof that you don’t need to re-invent the wheel to craft a scary movie.