Review by Sean Boelman
Arguably one of the most disturbing movies in recent memory, if only because it so effectively channels the anxieties society is facing at the moment, Jeffrey A. Brown’s horror flick The Beach House offers a truly chilling hour-and-a-half. A must-see genre picture for the summer season, horror fans will delight in this weird but compelling watch.
The film follows two college lovers whose impromptu beach getaway gets interrupted by some unexpected guests who begin to exhibit signs of a mysterious ailment. It’s difficult to describe the story’s charm without spoiling the surprises it holds, but it’s an intriguing blend of body horror and cosmic fantasy.
Admittedly, the first half of the movie is nowhere near as strong as the second, but it is essential for the overall arc to progress. The introduction is slow, with tension being relatively minimal for the entirety of the first act. However, the middle act crescendos to a final third that is absolutely exhilarating and unexpected.
One of the weaker areas of the film is that it is a bit on-the-nose thematically. The dialogue, especially towards the beginning, is heavy in obvious symbolism. And while they are straightforward, Brown’s meditations on questions that involve a greater view of the world are relatively interesting.
The character development in the movie is somewhat lacking. Apart from the protagonist, the characters feel underdeveloped. Granted, given the fact that the film mostly functions as a throwback to old-school sci-fi, in which characters were often paper-thin, it’s almost excusable, but it doesn’t help the shallow messaging.
That said, the actors in the movie give some really solid performances. In the supporting cast, Jake Weber, Noah Le Gros, and Maryann Nagel are all fun, but it is lead actress Liana Liberato who runs the show here. It’s a performance that is very different from what is usual for the genre, and it helps the film stand out.
The movie is also pretty amazing on a technical level. Although this is a low-budget indie flick, Brown is able to take advantage of his setting wonderfully (which is understandable given that he started his career as a location manager). This film is more ambitious than a lot of directorial debuts in the genre are, and these swings surprisingly pay off.
It takes a lot of guts to release a movie like The Beach House in the middle of a global pandemic, but honestly, it’s the best publicity a filmmaker could hope for. And for audiences, this is a perfect reminder of why to stay the f*ck at home.
The Beach House hits Shudder on July 9.
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