The Beach House is the debut feature from writer-director Jeffrey A. Brown and is a slow building horror movie taking in elements of body horror, contagion panic and H.P. Lovecraft.
Hoping to reconnect in their relationship, Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) arrive at Randall’s family holiday home for a weekend away. They expect the neighbourhood to be almost entirely deserted during off-season, so it is with considerable surprise that they meet Mitch (Jake Weber) and Jane (Maryann Nagel), friends of Randall’s father who chose the same weekend to stay in the house, each couple believing it would be unoccupied. Rather than find a hotel, they all agree to remain in the house and have dinner together, discovering that they get along famously.
During the course of a heavy night, a strange, phosphorescent mist drifts in from the sea and they go outside to investigate. The following morning, Emily and Randall start to notice things around them are not quite right… without being able pinpoint the reason. Despite the beautiful, shimmering ocean, they become aware there is menace in the brine.
H.P. Lovecraft is enjoying something of a renaissance with filmmakers of late. Not that he’s ever been far from the minds of horror fans over the years, with John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon and Guillermo Del Toro among his most famous fans. But there’s certainly been an upturn in Lovecraft -inspired horror with The Color Out Of Space, Underwater and the forthcoming Lovecraft Country.
The Beach House fits nicely into this burgeoning sub-genre and while it is not an adaptation of any specific Lovecraft tale, through the desolate seaside town, the unknown bioluminescent encroachment, and the resulting body horror, the tentacles of Cthonic influence are keenly felt.
The Beach House has much in common with Richard Stanley’s recent adaptation of The Color Out of Space and they would make a good pairing. They are structurally alike with a slow early build and a plotline that treads a similar path – residents of a remote house get messed up by mysterious, fluorescent forces of nature. But what’s nice about The Beach House is that it reminds us the deep sea is as alien to humankind as the cosmic abyss.
Unfortunately, The Beach House and The Color Out Of Space also share the same faults. The Beach House’s slow opening and gradual reveal of our protagonist’s plight teases a steeper escalation and a wild finale if we stick with it. But it never really delivers on that score, opting instead for a more understated, almost ambiguous third act, which is likely to intrigue and infuriate in equal measure.
Still, The Beach House has enough going for it to warrant your attention. The sturdy effects work is used sparingly but effectively and although we could do with a little more clarity on the nature and scope of what’s happening, the smaller focus and personal angle is a card well played. It’s a modest, more introspective story than its influences suggest, but it still strikes that chord of infection fear and the horror of the unknown rather nicely.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★✩✩
‘The Beach House’ is currently streaming on Shudder.