Curiosity kills the cat, but how about content creators? In their hunt for the ultimate viewer booster, Tina (Camille Rowe) and Ben (James Jagger) visit a place that they definitely should not have, awakening the horrors within. Pro tip: When a Virgin Mary statue is tied upon the gates of a gloomy property, do register it as the most emphatic “Evil inside, sod off” warning you’ve ever heard.
Despite the novel underwater environment, The Deep House has with it details that make it a worrisome listing for genre seekers, particularly those interested in haunted houses. In the streaming wars, the film chooses EPIX, an outlier of a faction due to the plus-free nature and the subsequent “which one is that?”s when mentioned. There wasn’t much post-release buzz for it in France. Not many friends attending Fantasia talked about it—only the on-site folks, virtual ones had no access. The from-the-blue release of Kandisha, a creature feature also from Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, prior to this film’s stateside rollout didn’t inspire much confidence with its half-heartedness. That said, if there is a thing that tends to surprise regularly, it’s a house. In this case, a concerning exterior sheltering the horrific interior you’ve been hunting for.
And The Deep House is precisely that so if you focus on its best component: the setting. Mandy’s production designer Hubert Pouille doesn’t make the residence of the Montégnac cavernous, but it can still creep and confuse with abyssal blacks, slivers of teal-tinged light and—thanks to all the water—physics-defying decorations. Even with the painted family portrait and dedicated mausoleum, here is where goodness withers, and the notion is most suffocating to experience. In a sense, the wafer-like thinness of the plot and in the builds of Tina & Ben is negligible; these are means to legitimise the main event rather than being it. At a certain point, the leads just fade away, that key character moment from earlier when Tina expresses to Ben her wish to just be tourists and not YouTubers for the day amounts to plankton, and what is left of them are perspectives for us to borrow. Does this pave the way for a reductive experience? Yes. But does it get the film to function? You can’t say no. The same applies to the writing: in-the-moment descriptions and clear-cut emotional expressions won’t cause much stir, if at all, but in the diving context they are warranted.
On the stylistic front, The Deep House is interestingly not always a mockumentary, as at times d.p. Jacques Ballard (who photographed the all-underwater Naughty Boy & Beyoncé’s Runnin’ video) will sprinkle in conventional angles. Sometimes they are contextual—the couple also explores the house with their underwater drone named Tom—and sometimes they aren’t. As long as editors Baxter and Thialy Sow calm their hands down, the switches can be quite shrewd, capable of overriding your better judgment as you get pushed toward danger. They can also capitalise on the fear factor inherent in the revived Montégnacs (Alexis Servaes, Anne Claessens and Carolina Massey)—who in any other environment are tiresome zombies or computer-assisted horrors, but inside this water they get to become real ghosts that hover and dangerous in close quarters. One of the more effective scares, however, reverses the hovering feature and has the ghost walking—expectedly weirdly and semi-unwieldy.
As a “get in and get the [redacted] out” kind of horror, it seems to be against conventional wisdom to ask The Deep House to do more. But with the exceptional newness it has brought to the table, it doesn’t feel wrong to ask for a smidge more—chief among them, more compelling characters and a more distinct evil—so that this film’s aquatic factor is maximised. In its current state, these waterlogged premises have more value as an attraction than a stay. More entertaining than haunting. List accordingly.