The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window Review: A Satirical Murder-Mystery Thrill Ride

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window has a superb title for a multitude of reasons. Sure, it describes the actual premise of the new Netflix series featuring Kristen Bell perfectly while also evoking the story's mysterious and twist-laden nature, but more importantly, it captures the show's ability to poke fun at the physiological horror genre's expense and still occupy that space and embrace what makes it so addictive in the first place. Granted, none of that matters if the series isn't any good, but, thankfully, that isn't the case, as Bell, Michael Ealy, Tom Riley, and the rest of an overall stellar cast create a show that isn't afraid to take a few jabs at itself while also successfully keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. It's not an easy feat, and while the show has its flaws, this is a murder mystery that left me gasping more than once and had me glued to my screen all the way through.

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window makes its first impression with its title, a title that is absurdly long on purpose and looks to have some fun with the similar titles of the genre. The Girl on the Train and The Woman in the Window (also a Netflix film) are just two examples of this formula at play, and Anna (Bell) can be seen reading books of this exact nature as she sits in a chair in front of her window watching the outside world play out.

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(Photo: COLLEEN E. HAYES/NETFLIX)

Bell's Anna has a picturesque house in the suburbs and hasn't painted in some time though doesn't lack for money, and when she drinks wine, she almost makes it a competitive sport with the sheer volume she consumes and the skill in which she consumes it (I've never seen anyone take down a full wine bottle in just two glasses but Anna manages with ease). These things could be seen as over the top in some projects, but the series is always giving you the sly wink and a nod that it's in on the joke, and that carries over to the many twists and shocking developments the series hits you with each episode.

Anna's struggle to figure out if she's seeing reality or hallucinating is compelling due to Bell's ability to be relatable even in the midst of unrelatable circumstances, and her comedic timing allows unexpected levity amid an incredibly dark and tragic personal story. Tom Riley helps keep everything grounded as Neil, Anna's new neighbor across the street. Riley delivers a stellar performance that makes the audience push their own doubts, assumptions, and conspiracy theories onto him as Anna creates them in her head, never leaning too much into one direction and keeping you guessing the entire way. Also deserving of credit is Samsara Yett, who plays Neil's daughter Emma, and director Michael Lehmann consistently builds scenes around her that pull at your heartstrings while leaving you with even more questions.

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(Photo: COLLEEN E. HAYES/NETFLIX)

Michael Ealy also plays an important role as Anna's ex-husband Douglas, and though he's not around as consistently as some of the other characters, his presence is still felt throughout, and when he does show up, you immediately see the love Anna and Douglas still have for each other. He's also part of the moment that initially sends Anna into this life tailspin, a moment that is incredibly tragic and will send anyone who has kids into a tailspin of their own.

This also leads us into one of the film's biggest flaws, but as you'll see, it's difficult to nail this down as a true flaw. Perhaps this is more of a scene just not being properly executed, and as this is a huge spoiler for one important reveal, I can't go into detail on the specifics of the information conveyed. What I can talk about is how they convey it. Early on there is a major detail involving Anna and Douglas' child, and it's teased in the first episode as a big deal. We then get into the next episodes and you're waiting to find out more, and the lead-up to this reveal is filled with unease and tension. Then the reveal happens as nonchalantly as possible, delivered with all the gravitas of telling someone to get over a blown tire. To be clear, this is an immensely personal and painful trauma we're talking about here, and it's like it got word-vomited onto the screen.

Part of that is probably the balancing act between taking yourself seriously all the time and imparting a bit of levity as a self-acknowledgment that "movies always do this," but in this particular execution, it just didn't work. It just took me out of the show completely, and that wasn't the only time dialogue was delivered that had a similar effect, though that was the most egregious case.

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(Photo: COLLEEN E. HAYES/NETFLIX)

On the opposite side of that, however, is the delight that is Mary Holland's Sloane, who commands every scene she's in and just bubbles with charisma, even in the hardest of conversations. You never question the love she has for Anna, and she brought some much-needed light into a rather dark series of events.

As for the mystery itself, the series kept me hooked from beginning to end, twisting and twirling in new directions with every new piece of information Anna uncovers. It keeps the bug in your ear that this might all be one giant hallucination, but for the most part, it doesn't dumb down the characters to achieve this or make massive leaps of logic to get there. When it does fall into that trap, it's often because that character is set to turn out differently from what you're expecting, so most of the time it works out for the better. Now, that ending will leave some jaws on the floor and it might not work for some. I can definitely say it shocked me but not in a way that took me out of the story, as there were enough bread crumbs left out to keep me immersed after the shock.

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(Photo: COLLEEN E. HAYES/NETFLIX)

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is a thrilling murder mystery that isn't afraid to have some fun at its expense or the expense of the genre, and while there are moments where the balance between satire and parody crumbles a bit, overall it delivers on its mission. The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window kept me on the edge of my seat and happily hitting that next episode button from beginning to end, and hopefully, this isn't the end of the story.

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Rating: 4 out of 5

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window hits Netflix on January 28th.