With The Night House, a gripping mystery, creepy supernatural thriller, and a chilling ghost story, writing team, Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, have written a supernatural puzzle that is slowly unlocked by a combination of demons and duplicates.
When Collins and Piotrowski began the script, they were initially inspired by the main character’s specific circumstances more than anything else.
“The story explores the universal themes of mortality and the afterlife, whether you can ever truly know someone, the tendency people have toward darkness and self-destructive behavior, depression, anxiety,” says Collins.
“For me, it’s always been about the seductive allure of dark thoughts,” says Piotrowski “Lying awake at night, when my mind starts to wander and I’m thinking, this is it; this is all there is.” Piotrowski continues, “I find that sometimes, especially in the wake of hardship or tragedy, people want to feel bad. They need to. To wallow and wrap themselves in their pain. It’s better than feeling nothing. Beth loved her husband. She lost him. Now, against her better judgment, she finds herself falling for the absence of him.”
Though the specific mythology in The Night House was largely invented by screenwriters Collins and Piotrowski, it was inspired and shaped by actual mythology – specifically Welsh turf mazes and an Egyptian voodoo doll from the 4th Century A.D. currently housed in the Louvre. Welsh shepherds built simple mazes called “Caerdroia” on hilltops to perform ritual dances. Caerdroia literally translates to “Walls of Troy”, which Piotrowski explains “is a reference to the city of Greek myth whose streets were simple enough for the enemy to enter, but ultimately too complex for them to find their way out. This fit nicely with the image of the reverse floorplan, a concept we knew we wanted to incorporate into the film from the start.”
On the topic of turf mazes, Piotrowski explains “the labyrinths served as a unique and tangible means of spell craft, the ambulatory equivalent of a chant. The idea that space or movement through space could have just as much ritual power as ‘magic words’ was intriguing.”
Ultimately, the deeper meaning of these mazes became the driving force behind the irony of the house itself. “A maze built to confound malevolent forces, and your own home in the aftermath of tragedy as a maze that confounds you. The space is familiar but it’s wrong. Owen built a house to lose what was haunting him, but left Beth lost and haunted in the house he built for her,” says Piotrowski.
“Something about Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski’s script for The Night House lingered,” says director David Bruckner.
“Something unsettled me and I couldn’t put my finger on it. As I sought to order the conflicts and the metaphors, dig into the mechanics of the story and what my responsibilities would be as a director, I continually got lost in the subterranean regions of the narrative, which was as confounding as it was exciting. On the surface, there was a compelling mystery about one woman’s recently deceased husband and the question of whether we can ever truly know our loved ones. There was the awkwardness of grief, and the responsibilities we have for one another in times of emotional peril. And, of course, there was the ghost story; the kind that plays fast and loose with haunt tropes in the way that any horror fan would have a blast running with.”
“The story was like a labyrinth that you enter at your own risk, a harrowing tale of unraveling that carried at least a few dark, quiet truths I couldn’t ignore. As we approached the shoot, my only choice was to embrace discord and revel in the contradictions. Aspects of it would forever remain elusive to me.” Director David Bruckner
“We knew we wanted Owen to have attempted some sort of ‘binding spell’ to contain the sinister outside influence” said Piotrowski. “Some cursory research turned up the image of the voodoo doll The Louvre Doll,’ a clay woman pierced with 13 pins. It’s so striking, so immediate and so thematically rich. Beth is a woman bound by her doubts and fears after all.”
“There was constant effort to balance the film’s metaphorical interpretations with a more literal mythology,” Director Bruckner adds. “The idea of using decoys of both Beth and her home to trick the Entity away from its target fell within various magical traditions.”
The Night House tackles themes of grief, depression, self-destruction, and the sacredness of relationships
Director David Bruckner says, “the film explores the many ways we affect one another in a relationship; how vulnerable we can be to each other’s demons and the facades we maintain.”
“The Night House tackles themes of grief, depression, self-destruction, and the sacredness of relationships. Director Bruckner says, “the film explores the many ways we affect one another in a relationship; how vulnerable we can be to each other’s demons and the facades we maintain.”
Many of Bruckner’s all-time favorite films are themed around a strong and complicated female protagonist. Bruckner says, “I love that you can use cinematic conventions to portray the inner workings of a character’s psyche. Being unable to understand what’s real is simply more frightening than the thing that’s out to get you.” He was most influenced by films such as Repulsion, Black Swan, and The Babadook. “I also found a lot of inspiration from great horror novels like The Turn Of The Screw and House Of Leaves, both of which deal with similar kinds of madness,” says Bruckner.
Bruckner has always been attracted to the horror genre. His first film, The Ritual, as well as his earlier anthology work, have all explored themes of both supernatural and psychological fear.
The same is true of The Night House’s writing team, Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, whose first film, Super Dark Times, explores paranoia and violence. When it came time for the pair to think about who could direct their script, Bruckner was an obvious choice. “David is a friend, and we always had him in mind for this movie, believing that he could bring terror to life in a unique way,” says Collins.
Producer Keith Levine says, “The Night House is a descent into madness through the classic lens of a haunted house film.” Producer David Goyer adds, “What’s particularly scary about it is that the forces attacking Beth are exploiting her grief – using that wound to enter her world, and Rebecca’s tour-de-force performance really solidifies it all.”
Piotrowski says, “The best genre stories use elements of the fantastic to illustrate relatable concepts or emotions. We’ve all been in The Night House at one time or other. We’ve all felt the sense of dislocation. As such, we knew the house had to have character. To be recognizable. And, a place Owen built full of his things. Like Owen himself, the house becomes a bit of a mystery to Beth. What is this place I’ve been living in? And, in the end, who’s really haunting the place? Him or her?”
The Screenwriters & Director
David Bruckner is an American film director and screenwriter. He got his start with the first Transmission of The Signal, a science fiction horror triptych, which explored themes of paranoia in mass media. His first solo directed feature film, The Ritual, based on the novel by Adam Nevill, premiered at TIFF in 2017 and was released as a NETFLIX original in 2018. The Night House, his second solo directed feature film, premiered at Sundance 2020 and was acquired by Searchlight Pictures. He is set to direct the reboot of Hellraiser for Spyglass Entertainment.
Ben Collins was born in Alabama and grew up outside of Atlanta. In 2009 he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. With writing partner Luke Piotrowski, Ben balances his time, working on both studio films and more idiosyncratic, independent projects. In 2017 their film, Super Dark Times, premiered at the Tribeca film festival. The duo are fellows of the 2018 Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab and returned to the Sundance film festival in 2020 for the world premiere of The Night House.
Luke Piotrowski was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago before moving with his family during his sixth grade year to the suburbs of Atlanta, where he stayed until he was able to make a family of his own and move them to the suburbs of Los Angeles, where he currently resides. He’s written many screenplays in many genres with Ben Collins, his writing partner of 13 years.
Copyright © 2020 20th Century Studios and TSG Entertainment Finance LLC. All Rights Reserved.