Have you ever had one of those dreams that you’re being chased, but it feels like you’re trying to run through quicksand? This is the horrifying sensation The Deep House prolongs and captures, only you’re wading through water instead of sludge, and the dial on your oxygen tank is ticking like a time bomb.

The Deep House is a refreshing concept, and directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo waste little time setting the stage for their premise. Tina and Ben, two urban explorers who seek out haunted houses and record their expeditions for ravenous YouTube followers, travel to south-west France for a location that might finally grant them the Internet stardom they crave: a home submerged at the bottom of an artificial lake, in the middle of a remote forest. But when they dive down and find the house and its interiors in pristine condition, they realise they’re not alone, and that it’s too late to escape.

The real star of The Deep House is the house itself. Even with the noticeably flat subterranean dialogue of Tina and Ben, the house still achieves a flawless harmony of eeriness and enchantment which demands (and deserves) the audience’s devout attention. Like viewing footage of the sunk Titanic, Maury and Bustillo lead you through a shadowy micro-universe of creepy family portraits, floating dolls, mannequins and crucifixes, and zombies that stalk their prey with a chilling slowness reminiscent of the spirit in techno-horror paragon Pulse. It’s like marrying the claustrophobia of The Descent and Event Horizon with the inexorable, spiralling dread of Grave Encounters and As Above, So Below. The results are (quite literally) breathtaking.

Although the build is arguably better than the crescendo, The Deep House is a suffocating rollercoaster that breathes new life into an enervated subgenre. Supernatural horror buffs will be delighted by its subversive bag of tricks. But perhaps the film’s greatest quality is its ability to grip us and make its subaqueous reality feel impossibly believable. In his memoir, Consider This, Chuck Palahniuk asks: “How do you convince a reader of something beyond their own experience? […] Use what they already know to gradually move to the fantastic, the tragic, the profound.” This is what The Deep House does. It pulls us under, traps us in a nightmare, and refuses to let us go.

Camille Rowe
James Jagger
Eric Savin

Alexandre Bustillo
Julien Maury

Alexandre Bustillo
Julien Maury

31 October 2022

Posted by Jim Reader

Jim is a London-based journalist who has worked for a number of titles, including Bizarre, Vogue, Boxing News and the Daily Sport. He graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2009 and became a Master of Research in American Literature in 2010.