Directors – Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury, Screenplay – Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury in Collaboration with Julien David & Rachel Parker, Photography – Jacques Ballard, Music – Raphael Gesqua, Visual Effects Supervisor – Thomas Duval, Visual Effects – Digital District, Makeup Effects Designer – Oriane de Neve, Production Design – Hubert Pouille. Production Company – Logical Pictures/Apollo Films/Forecast Pictures/Umedia/XYZ Films/OCS/Wallimage (Wallonia)/UFund/Pulsar Content.
James Jagger (Ben), Camille Rowe (Tina), Eric Savin (Pierre)
The British Ben and his French girlfriend Tina are a couple who run a YouTube channel where they explore abandoned buildings. They travel into the French countryside in search of a sunken building. Tina has learned to scuba dive for the occasion. They arrive at the location only to find a crowded beach. Ben meets Pierre, a local who offers to take them to the real location at a remote lake. There they make their dive, filming everything along the way. On the lake floor, they enter a sunken house, finding everything in a state of preserved decay. With the discovery of two bodies chained up, they realise that something horrific went on there. Tina thinks she sees things moving in the murk and then they find they are unable to get out of the house.
The French directing duo of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury first appeared with Inside (2007), a brutal and harrowing film about a pregnant mother pursued by a mystery woman determined to tear the baby from her womb. This pushed things to a gore-drenched limit and became one of the leading films in the movement that was labelled French Extremism. Bustillo and Maury subsequently went on to make the likes of Livide (2011) and Among the Living (2014), as well as the X is for Xylophone segment of ABCs of Death 2 (2014). They were then brought to the US to direct the anaemic Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel Leatherface (2017) and then returned to France to make Kandisha (2020) and The Deep House.
Having found Bustillo and Maury’s previous film Kandisha fairly indifferent and had even less enthusiasm for Leatherface, I thought maybe the two had lost the edge that drove Inside. I approached The Deep House with no particular expectations. However, the film surprised and ended up being a standout work that proves the duo capable of doing some fascinating new things.
The plot set-up reminds of Brian Yuzna’s Beneath Still Waters (2005), which similarly featured a village of occultists who had been drowned by others to wipe out the abomination of their activities. The Yuzna film featured some underwater scenes but mostly has the drowned dead coming up to attack the surface dwellers. Far more adventurously, almost all of The Deep House consists of two urban explorers venturing down into the underwater realm in scuba equipment.
At the outset, Bustllo and Maury shoot the film with a great deal of realism. They follow couple James Jagger (the son of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall who has become an actor on the rise of recent) and Camilla Rowe on their blogging efforts, their arrival at the town and the beach, followed by the trek to the lake and then the descent in scuba gear. These scenes are regular dramatic ones interspersed with some camera point-of-view Found Footage style. There is purpose to this preamble as it establishes everything as happening in a grounded world before the film slips over into a realm that is wholly fantastical.
The world of the interior of the house that the film creates is fascinating. The drowned house has an eerie beauty and much of the middle of the film is given over to depicting it – floating dolls and books, old rotary phones, drowned pianos and dining room tables, a bedroom with a canopy bed in almost perfectly preserved clarity. Much of the film during this section becomes a long drawn-out feeling of dread waiting for something to happen as the two make their way through the cluttered and sometimes claustrophobic confines of the house.
Things start to get very spooky as Camilla Rowe thinks she sees figures behind James Jagger and then that the two corpses in chains have come to life after them. There is the supremely spooky moment where James Jagger is hiding underneath a bed as a pair of bare legged feet come into the room and walk (as opposed to swim) around. It should be noted that many of the things that happen – the appearance of ghostly figures, the discovery that an exit has turned into a brick wall – are regular tropes of the Haunted House film but gain another whole dimension here simply by being located underwater.
Towards the end, Bustillo and Maury lose the superlative mood established up to that point. There is a little too much shakycam-shot footage as the two become trapped inside things. [PLOT SPOILERS] The revelation of what went on in the house is a little ordinary compared to the build-up, especially if you have seen Beneath Still Waters. Similarly, the scene where Camilla Rowe suddenly finds that James Jagger has become taken over by those in the house and he urges her to allow a snake that gets inside her wetsuit to take control of her go off at a left field tangent and almost seems to take the film into Body Snatchers territory without any explanation. The end the film arrives at comes on a decided downbeat note.
Longer trailer here