Grief as a living monster is nothing new. In fact, it has become quite the niche in the horror market. The nothingness of death isn’t new either. The Night House takes that all too familiar theme and layers in cheating husbands, haunted house mythologies, and demons to produce a truly chilling film. While the ambiguous ending isn’t perfect, the rest is so great it can be forgiven. Here is everything you need to know about The Night House ending, Caerdroia, and Louvre Dolls.
Rebecca Hall’s Beth is a grieving widow whose husband just unexpectedly shot himself in the head early one morning in a small boat on the lake outside their rural New York home. Without her husband Owen’s(Evan Jonigkeit) presence, the house now seems bigger and more sinister. Night after night, she pours bottles of alcohol into her system until she passes out, only to have horrific dreams. Those vivid dreams become worse and worse as she begins to find evidence that Owen wasn’t who she thought he was. As things spiral out of control, Beth must confront her biggest fears and learn the truth one way or another.
One of the books Owen had been reading was the Caerdroia. It is the basis for the house he designed and built in duplicate. Based on the Welsh turf mazes or Caerdroia, the house was supposed to be a puzzle that the Nothing could not solve. Like Daedalus’s labyrinth, the twisting staircases and mirrored other lake house were created to trick and trap the Nothing. It was all for Beth’s safety. Caerdroia means Walls of Troy after the Greek city, where it was rumored to be easy to enter but impossible to escape because of the deceptively designed streets and buildings. Loosely translated Caerdroia means house of turns which is exactly what Owen designed.
He created the two mirrored homes as a way to lure the entity away from Beth. The Beth look-a-likes he killed furthered the ruse. After his death, the houses became traps for Beth. Trapping her in her isolation and her pain. Night after night, she searched for answers that she would never find. That search would consume her if given a chance.
The Louvre Doll
The early Egyptian voodoo doll is a real thing on display currently in Paris at the Louvre Museum. Owen creates one of his own as a way to bind the Nothing to him and away from Beth. The image of the bound woman with thirteen pins stuck in her is so disturbing Beth has no choice but to begin to question her husband’s impulses. Ultimately it appeared he was trying to protect her from the Nothing by binding it to the other house and himself. Historically dolls and curse tablets were used to bind people and spirits.
The doll was traditionally made from clay or way and stabbed with wood, copper, or other metals and placed in a sealed container or underwater. If the doll was removed, the curse was lifted. Unfortunately, by the time Beth finds the doll, the vessel it was in is broken. Did the container break during one of Owen’s murders releasing the demon, or did it happen inadvertently during a storm? It probably doesn’t matter as the real question was, is there a demon at all.
Beth and Owen’s song The Calvary Cross by Richard and Linda Thompson
One of the most effective auditory jump-scares in cinematic history comes from a stereo blasting Beth and Owen’s wedding song. Once a source of comfort and happiness, the melancholy tune is now reduced to a jarring disturbance in the night. The song itself is a strange choice, and the lyrics convey more meaning than you think.
I was under the Calvary Cross The pale-faced lady she said to me I've watched you with my one green eye And I'll hurt you 'till you need me You scuff your heels and you spit on your shoes You do nothing with reason One day you catch a train Never leaves the station Everything you do Everything you do You do for me Now you can make believe on your tin whistle And you can be my broom-boy Scrub me 'till I shine in the dark I'll be your light 'till doomsday Oh it's a black cat cross your path And why don't you follow My claw's in you and my lights in you This is your first day of sorrow Everything you do Everything you do You do for me The song is about a hidden drive that you may try to deny or not even know is there and yet you are beholden to it. As romantic as being a slave to love is, it is also very dark. The idea that you lose yourself in the other is unhealthy. For the couple to jointly choose such a lamenting and strange song is very telling. Beth may have been depressed but Owen had his own problems. Clues such as the song lyrics and the impeccble set design paint a picture of control and dependence. The home which Owen designed has very few feminine touches. It does not feel like Beth is comfortable there. Even before Owen's death it is hard to imagine her living among the austere wood and stone. His claw is in her slowly leaching away her light. He may have ultimately chose to end his life rather than take hers, but he had control the entire time.
The ending of The Night House
Rebecca is angry. I’m talking slug a bottle of booze you don’t even like, to confront the inner and possibly real demons haunting us. If she weren’t so openly hostile, the film’s dual meaning wouldn’t resonate. The ending could be taken two different ways. Each has its flaws and apparent holes, but both could work given enough squinting.
Beth died when she was younger. She came back with a whopping case of survivor’s guilt and a staggering number of bleak answers. Since then, she has suffered from bouts of depression. However, pictures of her husband and conversations with her friends indicate that although she has a mental illness, she also has periods of calm and happiness. Her husband, on the other hand, is the happy one—no mental anguish. No struggles and no problems. Unfortunately, none of that was true. He may have started life stable but, over time, was driven mad by an illness he didn’t realize he had or a genuine demon looking for Beth.
The Nothing as it refers to itself in The Night House is the void. It is the great absence that looks back at us and could consume us if we stare too long. Since her near-death experience, Beth has believed there was no afterlife. Her husband, on the other hand, always felt there was something more significant. The final scary, if a little clunky scene shows Beth squaring off against the Nothing. Her husband has been tricking it for years. Owen has tried to hide Beth from it by luring women who look like her into a nearly identical but mirrored house across the lake from their own and killing them. The house itself is a maze meant to confuse and confound the demon.
Once the Nothing learned Owen had been tricking it, it came after Beth. The Nothing initially pretended to be Owen and then later attacked her. There the battle for her sanity and her life began. It wanted her to kill herself as Owen did. At the last minute, however, her friend Claire yelled for her and brought her back. They both swam to shore, and Rebecca looked back at the boat and the play of sunlight on the water. She tells Claire there is nothing there because she knows it is there and always will be.
Did Beth or Owen manifest the Nothing?
Unlike the Babadook, where something was created out of the intense pain of the mother and son, this monster doesn’t have form. It has tricks, taunts, and whispers in the night. When most of us would have abandoned our house, grabbed our phone, and hit the road, Beth refuses to be cowed. She fights back with curiosity, pain, memories, and white-hot rage. She will not go gently, or any other way, into that good night. This is where the film’s ending really resonates. Like Final Destination, Death comes for us all. This nothing made of shadows, reflections, and negative spaces is more metaphysical and less grotesque and, as a result, far more terrifying. When Beth cheated death as a teenager, it followed her back. It wants her and will do anything to get her. It seems as if it has been with her since that event.
Another option is Owen’s darkness embodied the Nothing. He killed to satisfy his cravings. When he died, the Nothing turned to Beth for more pain. When she refused to give in, he tried to break her just as he did Owen. Either way, the Nothing was a product of a deeply troubled marriage and too many secrets. How much do you ever know your significant other? What impulses, desires, and mysteries do they keep from you? Are those secrets dangerous?
Beth’s brittle rage seems less a bi-product of her husbands death. Although she is seriously pissed at him for leaving her and herself for not seeing the signs, her aggressive personality seems lived in. In that sense, the ending works even better. The conclusion of The Night House falls apart if Beth is a victim. She’s no one’s plaything, and you get the sense she refused to succumb to the demon’s manipulations. The constant torment left her exhausted and depressed but did not break her.
When the Nothing turned to Owen instead as a means to her, it was more successful. At worst, the Nothing racked up a pile of dead bodies, and at best, Beth might fall apart. It’s a reasonable plan. It also helps explain why Beth was just able to swim away as if nothing happened at the very end. The Nothing is always there. He didn’t disappear, but she won at least that night. As seen through the determined eyes of Beth, the Nothing wasn’t destroyed, but it was defeated that day. Likely she is residing herself to a lifetime of battle.
Grief as the Nothing
As a metaphor for grief, The Night House is a lonely rumination on the toll mental illness takes on those who suffer and those who must watch their loved ones go through it. If the Nothing is indeed just the couple’s joint struggles, the mound of dead bodies in the other house, teeth grating scares throughout, and bumps in the night are Beth’s unreliable narration. This is what she thought happened, not what actually did. There was no void monster, no demon hurling her into mirrors or twisting her into knots. Her husband wasn’t trying some elaborate but brutal scheme to protect her, and the jarring stereo either had a short or never turned on at all. It could have all been in her head. The teens who ran by her house and jumped off the cliff were never explained, and, likely, they never existed.
Owen was a troubled man with a nasty homicidal streak, and Beth was a depressed woman too caught up in her own problems to see her husbands’. Both of them had their demons. Her’s she was open about. But did she lean on Owen too much.? Did he become infected by her melancholy ideas? Was he always a killer, and he infected her with his madness? The ending of The Night House works on this level as well. Depression can be managed and controlled, but it can’t be cured. It is something that is a constant struggle for sufferers, and for Beth, the ending is her resolution to that fight. She chooses to live a harsh life in the light where at least there is the possibility of happiness than live in the Night House, where only death survives.
The note’s dual meaning in The Night House
You were right.
There is nothing.
Nothing is after you.
Now you are safe.
If Owen wanted to truly help, he should have spelled out what and who was chasing Beth. It would have saved everyone a ton of time and been more effective. As it is, the enigmatic note told her what she needed to know. Beth and her husband had disagreed about what came after death. She believed as a result of her experience; there was no Heaven, no Hell, no white light. He thought otherwise until the Nothing came calling to him.
His suicide note was telling her she was right to believe there was nothing. It just was a capital N, not a lower case n. Nothing is and has always been after her. He thought by killing himself; he was keeping her safe. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize he left her alone with the Nothing where her choice was to follow him into death or fight back. Beth is a fighter and chose the latter. In the end, The Night House asks if it is scarier to acknowledge ghosts or accept that what is haunting you is yourself?
The NIght House is in theaters right now.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.