Dark and Dazzling 'The Beach House' Offers Cosmic Horror Delight for All Who Visit
Updated: May 8, 2021
Title: The Beach House
First Wide Release: July 9, 2020 (Streaming Platforms)
Director: Jeffrey A. Brown
Writer: Jeffrey A. Brown
Runtime: 88 Minutes
Starring: Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, Jake Weber
Where to Watch: Free with a subscription to Shudder
A couple in a rocky relationship takes a trip to a relative’s beach house on a quiet and desolate shoreline. Upon arrival, they find themselves sharing the home with some unexpected visitors and find that things only get stranger from there. After sharing a nice dinner and some great weed they find themselves and their environment changing in shocking ways. Jeffrey A. Brown scores his first completed writing and directorial debut with the hazy, slow-burn chiller: The Beach House.
Another timely entry in the eco-horror subgenre, the Lovecraftian The Beach House is an engaging horror flick that favors potentiated suspense before its gut-churning finale. The Beach House uses the primal fears of the ocean and the unknown to spin a story about rapid evolution and atomic chaos. Although its story is of fantastic origins, The Beach House is still grounded in the reality of what could potentially happen in a particularly virulent and aggressive viral outbreak. While I found myself enthralled in the story, some of the dialogue felt stiff. This was largely an issue between the two leads. While it does make sense with their intimacy issues it was nevertheless distracting.
The Beach House sports interesting characters and serviceable acting. All four leads are solid enough in portraying their roles. Noah Le Gros’s Randall is the least convincing as he labors to portray a boyfriend struggling to hold onto a clearly failing relationship. His character is not very likable, and he only manages to [barely] redeem himself halfway through the film, though not by much. Liana Liberato, Emily, fights to bring her character to life but reads as held back from the script. I would have liked to see more layers to Emily, especially surrounding some of her decisions in her final moments. There is still much to uncover about her and I wish that the film did more to bring her to life.
The Beach House is an exceptionally beautiful film. I found myself absolutely enamored by the shots taken of the beach and surrounding locale. It is hauntingly beautiful how isolated and empty it feels. This really adds to the atmosphere and makes The Beach House much more frightening. I found myself especially drawn to the establishing shots. Sometimes this can be an issue with a more average movie, but The Beach House’s use of establishing shots enhances the tone of the film. It makes it much more unsettling to feel the dread slowly creep in on our heroes as their environment slowly changes around them.
The Beach House absolutely shines in its use of editing and effects. Characters endure elongated psychedelic trips onset by drugs and disease. During these scenes, a barrage of colorful, disorienting, and fantastic images assault the screen. Wonderfully vivid and complex, these nightmarish visions ooze together leaving the viewer in awe at the terror and majesty of the visuals. The editing plays a huge part in making these scenes work. The transitions are fantastic! Continuing this trend, the effects are gorgeous. I’m a sucker for any sort of bioluminescence representation in horror and The Beach House delivers some divinely beautiful cosmic horror in the name of glowing “alien” flora. There is also some really solid work done in making the infection look real and horrifying.
Taking its time before escalating into a higher velocity, The Beach House is a slow-burn ecological nightmare that isn’t afraid to ponder difficult questions while creating body-horror fuel for the worst of dreams. I find that the characters in The Beach House, for the most part, are largely sympathetic in their plight. It feels very hopeless and dreary, especially with some creative choices made towards the end. I feel that it heightens the film beyond technical competency and into something more artistically awakened. I do feel that The Beach House is restrained and that more could have been done. I found myself wanting just a tad more from it than what I saw, but that could be my own expectations stunting my experience.
To me, The Beach House is a long metaphor about the breaking down of relationships. One of my favorite lines muses that the parasite was breaking down the most complex forms of life into something simpler. Randall and Emily are beleaguered by the issues their relationship poses. Both are trying to make it work while everything around them is screaming that they have outgrown each other and to accept that they are in new stages of life. Another great line states that “life is so fragile.” This to me adds to this theory. Relationships, like life, are fragile and can stall, break, or evolve much how life can and does. I find the philosophical angle of The Beach House to be the more interesting of themes to reflect on, but it also does touch on isolation and the need for science, which are, of course, very timely this year.
The Beach House is a smart and engrossing tale of nature versus humans that gives viewers enough to chew on after the credits roll. It is raw, cinematic, and even artsy at times. In terms of tone, pace, and content, it is for sure a cousin to Sea Fever, another clever eco-horror outing released earlier this year. They’d make an excellent double feature. I recommend The Beach House without any reservations. Make the trip to sit back, relax, and let mother nature take over [the world].
Overall Score? 7.5/10