Synopsis: While diving in a remote French lake, a couple of YouTubers who specialize in underwater exploration videos discover a house submerged in the deep waters. What was initially a unique finding soon turns into a nightmare when they discover that the house was the scene of atrocious crimes…and they are not alone.
Stars: James Jagger, Camille Rowe, Eric Savin, Carolina Massey
Directors: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Running Length: 85 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: While I’ve been swimming since I was six months old and am a heckuva good snorkeler, I’ve never learned to fully scuba dive and I think it’s partly because I want to have an excuse for never going too deep. As much as I love the beauty and the mystery of large bodies of water, I also have a secret nervousness not just what lies beneath the surface but what sits at the bottom and it’s movies like The Deep House that only confirm that I have a right to be worried. Obviously, it’s a work of Euro-niche horror fiction but there’s elements to its cleverly creepy premise that are absolutely true to life. If you weren’t scared of what could greet you under an idyllic lake before you watched this, you’ll be sticking to the shallow end after.
A rather pointless pre-credit opening introduces us to engaged video bloggers Ben (James Jagger, Sound of Violence, son of Mick and Jerry Hall) and Tina (Camille Rowe) as they explore an abandoned hospital said to be haunted. It’s an odd waste of time for writer/directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (the duo behind the recent Leatherface) to stumble with so early on, perhaps there was an editing mishap for time, but at least it gets a non-pay off out of the way before the title appears. Soon, we’re along for the ride with the couple in France as they head to a lake created after a town was purposely flooded. Hoping to explore the submerged buildings that wait below, they are disappointed to see it is a popular tourist destination – not exactly the place that will get a lot of hits on YouTube.
Here’s one way the film unfortunately dates itself, and continues to do so throughout, by mentioning the streaming video service as the place Tina and Ben are hoping to break big on. Wanting to monetize their first-person investigative videos venturing into unknown spaces, Ben is constantly dropping lines like “This will get a lot of clicks” or remarking on how many views or subscribers their creation will generate. Will something like that even track in five, ten years? Now that anyone can be Internet-famous, the bar has been raised (lowered?) to go big to get the most attention so when Ben hears from a local that in another part of the lake that’s not open to tourists there is a house perfectly preserved and unexplored he jumps at the chance, much to the tentative Tina’s wariness.
We’ve already gotten the idea that Tina wasn’t keen on diving to begin with and was relieved to have dodged the original underwater shoot, so this new and potentially more dangerous discovery is a major stressor. Not wanting to show too much fear, she soldiers on, and accompanied by a drone that will serve to capture additional footage as well as act as a kind of canary in a coal mine, they descend. The house is as promised, intact and undamaged by the lake waters. In fact, it’s almost too pristine. For a structure that’s been in this environment as long as it has, it should be more rusted, corroded, eroded, etc. but there’s a curious lack of degeneration to the manse and all the items within. That’s creepy enough…and then they open the wrong door.
We’ll stop right there and leave the rest of the movie for you to uncover on your own. At an efficient 81 minutes, Bustillo and Maury get to the goods within the first twenty minutes and keep us underwater for nearly an hour without any reprieve. The sustained level of tension is laudable, as are a number of very frightening sequences as the couple gets to know the house better. I feel it’s only fair to come clean and also say there’s an unexpected scare early on that sent me jumping so far out of my chair I wound up like attached to the ceiling like a cat. It’s simple, but brilliant. Perhaps it was the late-night watch, but it got me like few films have in any type of recent memory.
There’s a lot of good shocks to be had in The Deep House, making it one of those fun watches where you get rattled and then have that nervous titter after, laughing at yourself for jumping so easily. Yet it’s a sign of skilled filmmaking and not just mere loud noise jump scares that keep you on the edge of your seat, breathlessly watching the helpless couple struggle with an unfamiliar location and an increasingly bad situation. It gets more than a little messy as it ramps up to the end and that’s disappointing because it almost makes it through without major missteps. Substituting confusing camera work when additional plot would have helped, Bustillo and Maury could have given the movie a few extra minutes and fleshed out some of the narrative they’ve introduced quite creepily. For me these unwieldly moments weren’t enough for me to write it off completely. There’s still a solid horror film present, one that wins out with its nifty practical effects and The Deep House is built on sound scares and reinforced with entertaining execution.