The Deep House (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A young and modern couple who go to France to explore an underwater house and share their findings on social media undergoes a serious change of plans when the couple enters the interior of a strange house located at the bottom of a lake and their presence awakens a dark spirit that haunts the house.

My Take – Though franchises like V/H/S are still trying to keep fan interest very much alive in found footage films by attempting different visions to the storytelling aspect, yet there is no doubt that the sub-genre is as good as dead, only with the occasional promise (like 2020’s Host) popping up here and there.

However, what personally peaked my interest in this latest horror outing from French filmmakers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, most notably known for directing the underwhelming Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel, Leatherface (2017), who co-wrote the film with Julien David and Rachel Parker, was the promising chills it teased with its claustrophobic underwater setting.

Considering how fresh takes on haunted houses are so rare, few and far between, the prospect of seeing one that too placed solely underwater just looked exciting. In the form of a B-horror fare with a fun edge that had never been brought to screen before. But while the film succeeds in offering a unique take on a well-trod tale, it unfortunately also falters hard due to its thinly constructed plot.

Aside from the fact it predominantly takes place under water, it ends up being your bog-standard supernatural stuff with hit and miss jump-scares that absolutely goes downhill especially towards the end. Nevertheless, found footage fans will have a blast as the setting is one of the most atmospheric seen this year.

The story follows Ben (James Jagger) and Tina (Camille Rowe), a young engaged New York couple and passionate YouTube contributors who are traveling Europe and seeking out reputedly haunted location to live-record their experiences, all in order to draw big numbers on his social media channels. Their latest prospect finds the pair in France hoping to explore a legendary village ruin which has apparently remained submerged deep underwater ever since a dam was constructed about fifty years ago.

But when they reach the site and discover it too be a tourist site buzzing with a holidaying population, Ben especially is left disappointed. That is until, he happens about a local named Pierre (Eric Savin) who promises to take them to a coveted spot that isn’t on any map. A perfectly preserved house sitting at the bottom of the lake. Unknown to them, under the waters lie more than just clicks and views, as something haunting down there isn’t going to let them swim back to the surface without a fight.

The film plays up the haunted house aspects, and the surrounding elements (i.e., water) make it all the more freaky to follow. The film also employs the fun and eerie use of underwater spectral elements, which could have been tacky but were pretty scary antagonist presences; it’s weirdly frightening to watch a ghost glide through water, to watch them swim. Without a doubt, on the technical side, the film is a considerable achievement.

Cinematographer Jacques Ballard’s extensive experience with underwater cinematography is the film’s most significant and vital asset. Watching the two principals and their drone navigate the submerged house is disorienting enough to amplify the tension, and as Ben and Tina make their descent into darkness, to eventually discover a pristine preserved home where no fish dare come near, its Ballard’s cinematography that creates an eerie, elegant atmosphere that never relents.

That atmosphere of preserved bodies or home decor lifelessly floating in the abyss engages us visually throughout. The underwater photography amplifies the murky, claustrophobic atmosphere, but directors Bustillo and Maury thankfully didn’t feel compelled to stick with handheld-cam/found footage POVs. In the beginning of the film, from a scene of Tina attempting to hold her breath in the bathtub to wide open, aerial shots of the woods as they drive towards the lake. Peppered throughout this are shots from their cameras, but it feels like a more traditional film with traditional cinematography.

It’s a smart decision and cinematographer Ballard uses it to full effect so that when the couple enter the murky lake, the view becomes stifled. While most underwater films deal with creatures lurking in the depths, here, the fear is paranormal. Divulging in some bone-chilling terrors like the one where Tina experiences a hallucination. Almost every moment reminds you they are underwater with limited oxygen. So when things go awry, every second matters. Even worse, panicking underwater will only exhaust their air faster. Just the thought of being trapped underwater and trying to remain calm to conserve your air is terrifying.

Having said that, the film is poorly written. Alongside those hit and miss jump scares, the main characters are poorly done, especially Ben, who is immediately unlikable from the get go. Even when terrifying events unfold before them, he is more concerned about losing their footage than anything. Meanwhile, Tina, who did not want to dive, is jumpy from the beginning and just gets worse. It also doesn’t help that both James Jagger and Camille Rowe seem to be struggling in overly dramatized parts.

Plus there is a particular twist toward the end that makes for one of those poor endings that end up feeling like a bit of a bummer after everything you’ve just that transpired. On the whole, ‘The Deep House’ is a modest found footage horror that is technically apt but doesn’t live up to its ambitions.

Directed – ,

Starring – Camille Rowe, James Jagger, Eric Savin

Rated – R

Run Time – 85 minutes

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