Chasing the dream of a breakout success YouTube video, two urban explorers think they’ve found the perfect location: An old French manor which wasn’t demolished before a lake was dammed. Using specialised equipment their competitors don’t have access to, a million views seem guaranteed. The house is miles away from tourists and immaculately preserved, unnaturally so upon closer inspection. When the single entrance they could find becomes mysteriously blocked, the young couple have less than an hour of air left to try and escape The Deep House.
Most people will know immediately if The Deep House is for them or not based on the strong core premise. It’s a haunted house, only it’s underwater. The technology and expertise required to do this underwater shoot is the main draw here, and the team assembled for the task do not disappoint. Even before getting beneath the surface, everything looks great, only to become a jaw dropping cinematic achievement once moving to its underwater depths. There have been previous horror movies with underwater sections, and even contained single location movies such as 47 Meters Down, but there is nothing quite like the fully submerged grounds and manor of The Deep House. The cast is very limited, probably as the less people to keep track of underwater the better, and of the two leads Camille Rowe has put in a much stronger performance by the end than her co-star James Jagger. While both impressive for working so well in such extreme circumstance, the finale felt a little awkward, with Camille doing a lot to carry the last act.
The haunting itself of the titular Deep House is ultimately similar to a lot of existing media. There’s a lot of familiar tropes here which would have been tired without the fresh delivery. Yet, the overlaid veneer of thalassophobia, with the ever looming threat of drowning, takes the known quantities of the horror presented here and amplifies it by several magnitudes. This is something which is helped even further by a commitment to practical effects. Always a delight for horror fans, it is all the more impressive when some of the shots they’re getting must have been incredibly difficult with a constant safety risk to their performers. This leads to familiar, even predictable, scares still having an impact thanks to the new environment they are found in. Everything becomes more intense with the universally familiar yet still intimidating submersion in water.
How this production was achieved is one of the most exciting aspects of this movie. Hopefully, there’s a lot of behind the scenes documentation set for future home release extras, as getting a look at the inner workings has got to be fascinating. The set alone is impressive, and should it be taken purely as a regular haunted house environment, it likely would have stood out among its peers anyway. It is awe-inspiring how the entire main location is underwater – this cannot be be overstated. Simple props become fascinating as they float in an alien way to the expected, something the team really lean into at times to keep finding new sights to show the audience. The set is dressed with an incredible amount of detail which must have been a nightmare to maintain and reset between shoots. Furniture floats about the manor rooms, and there’s plenty of interesting added detail such as a translation into French of a classic Lovecraft quote for the late owner’s family motto.
The Deep House has thankfully been picked up by Blumhouse for distribution, and is available now on VOD services. While the plot beats are familiar and safe, the way in which they’re shown is an extraordinary undertaking that leaves tired conventions feeling fresh and exciting. Ultimately, it’s easy to forgive the simple haunting tropes of the story, as the focus on creating a traditional haunted house in such a unique setting which likely required a simplicity in plotting to execute. This is a rewarding watch that will leave you visually delighted – an impressive achievement committed to film.
We watched The Deep House as part of Grimmfest 2021.
Luke Greensmith is an Editor at the Grimoire of Horror and an active folklorist as well as working in film across a few roles. While this can cover quite a wide range of things, he’s a dedicated horror fan at heart and pretty involved with horror communities both online and local to him. You can find their folklore work on the Ghost Story Guys Podcast, their own LukeLore podcast, and accompanying the artist Wanda Fraser’s Dark Arts series as well as on the Grimoire of Horror itself.