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The Deep House (2021) Review

The Deep House is the latest film by French filmmakers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. This comes after Kandisha, which while better receive than Leatherface still failed to bring them the acclaim they received for their first two films, Inside and Livide. Can this rather ingenious-sounding twist on the haunted house film turn things around for them?

Ben (James Jagger, Sound of Violence, The Outpost) and Tina (Camille Rowe, Knuckledust) are YouTubers whose specialty is videos of creepy old abandoned buildings. When we first meet them, they’re prowling around the remains of an allegedly haunted Ukrainian asylum where a nurse poisoned her patients. Three months later they’re in France, about to do something very different, an underwater exploration.

When their intended location turns out to be a crowded local beach, they need to find somewhere new to shoot. Enter Pierre (Eric Savin) who has just what they’re looking for. He leads them to a remote lake, under which lies Montegnac Manor.

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The idea of divers trapped in a haunted house, or even a shipwreck, seems so obvious I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before The Deep House. Not only do you have the threat of whatever lurks in it, but you also have the threat of running out of air. Through in some twisty, cramped corridors, and you have a perfect setting for some claustrophobic horror.

Bustillo and Maury take a bit of time getting to the house, giving us a tour of the underwater wasteland around it. It helps to establish the mood and reinforce Tina’s discomfort with being underwater to begin with. It also means much of The Deep House plays out in real-time, as they have just under an hour’s worth of air when they reach the house. 

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It doesn’t take long once they’re inside before their electronics, including their drone, start acting up. Then they start hearing odd voices on their radio and seeing and things. Scratches on the inside of a door, as though somebody third to claw their way out of the house. A metal candelabra floating in the middle of a room. A wall covered in posters of missing kids. All things you might expect in a haunted house movie but amped up to eleven by The Deep House’s setting and atmosphere.

Credit cinematographer Jacques Ballard (Chrysalis, Ballsy Girl) with bringing out incredible details of the house even in the dark, murky water. It’s that setting that really makes the difference between this and so many similarly plotted films, and he takes full advantage of it. At the same time, he makes sure we can see the facial expressions of the leads clearly enough to maintain a connection with them.

And his job doesn’t get any easier once the pair find a hidden door and a basement torture chamber with a pentagram etched in the floor and some suspiciously fresh-looking bodies hanging from chains. The last half hour of The Deep House is an incredibly tense and claustrophobic ride as desperation sets in, air begins to run low, and whatever is in the house with them closes in. It’s all quite nightmarish and some of the scariest stuff I’ve seen this year. There is a post-credit scene, but honestly, it doesn’t add much. After the film’s final few minutes, not much could, though.

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I have very few complaints about The Deep House. Tina’s shrieking in the last act is a bit too shrill and gets irritating after the relative quiet of the rest of the film. And the songs their radio played were similarly annoying and out of place.

While it lacks the extreme gore of Inside, The Deep House is a return to form for Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. It’s already been released in its native France and has been picked up for US release. It will be available to stream on Epix and to buy as a digital download on other platforms via Paramount Home Entertainment.

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4 thoughts on “The Deep House (2021) Review”

  1. Had a great ride too with this one; gave me that claustrophobic The Descent kind of vibe. Must have been a nightmare to get filmed but it looks phenomenal. If I had to add one criticism: I would have welcomed the two main characters to be more winsome. Ben is basically a pushy inconsiderate narcissistic dick, and Tina is wound up way to tight to be doing any kind of exploring let alone the daring kind. Or make them flawed as they are but give them more depth – an extra 5 minutes or so for this on top of the brisk 80 minutes (barely) that it is now wouldn’t have broken anything and would have made me care way more about them then I did. But I’m nitpicking; it’s a neat little scarefest all the same.

    1. I felt Tina was about right for someone who didn’t want to be underwater and basically let Ben talk her into it. He was fairly unlikable, but films seem to be full of unlikeable characters lately, or maybe I’m just getting grouchier.

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