There’s something creepy afoot in Cape Cod! In The Beach House, body horror meets environmental horror in this smart sci-fi horror thriller reminiscent of 1950’s sci-fi classics. What was intended as a romantic getaway for college sweethearts begins to unravel into something sinister.
Director Jeffrey A Brown’s feature directorial/ writing debut drips with dread and old fashioned suspense. Of the four characters under one roof, I didn’t trust anyone, though I wasn’t exactly sure why (Ok, Rosemary’s Baby has left me with some lifelong deeply engrained trust issues). Without any real reason to distrust the Turners or the young duo, the suspicion is there all the same pretty early on. So there’s this feeling of instability which personally always shakes me to the core and builds up this sense of dread. For me, much of the movie played out with elements of a psychological thriller because of this. Which characters were reliable, which were not, what was the actual reality of what was happening? Those are beautiful little anxiety builders, when the storytellers are intentionally crafting a shaky foundation, we can’t quite get our footing and it is unsettling to say the least.
At first glance everything seems peachy keen ideal. Then there is this feeling that something lies beneath for every member of this beachside party. The cracks begin to reveal themselves, as they are wont to do. This college co-ed couple has problems, the dude with the Dad who owns a coastal getaway home- problems. The sweet older couple vacationing seaside- you guessed it, problems. It’s realistically human to have layers and issues, but it’s unclear if these problems will lend themselves to nefarious acts. We are working with a shaky foundation, though exact details may not be totally revealed just yet, there is this art of slowly undressing it, making the audience aware that not all is as it may seem, and keeps the guessing going. Which is honestly so fun!
The shift from the serene idyllic seaside cottage color scheme of the first act is in stark contrast with the moody dark world we find ourselves in as the film progresses. Mega juicy highlight – there is definitely a special effects gross out factor that made me shudder, cringe, involuntarily let out some audible disgust, and turn away, hiding my eyes and peeking through squinted eyelids and laced fingers because it was too cool not to watch. Much like staring into the sun… it was too much to view straight on with no protection to shield me from the horrors I was witnessing. Kudos on the wildly fun disgusting factor.
The cast of four beautifully carries the story onward, with nuanced performances that leave the viewer apprehensive. Veteran actors Jake Weber and Maryann Nagel are both endearing as the Turners, but not without raising suspicion. It’s a fine line to walk, and they do so masterfully. Liana Liberato as the super smart and driven Emily and Noah Le Gros as the soul searching, idealist “isn’t there more to life” Randall play off each other in a way that keeps the energy interesting. There is clearly love present, but with a lot of conflict, and they portray the duality well. Emily is a brilliant badass, and of course I’m here for it.
The Beach House has something to say. It isn’t preachy, it just is. Naturally unfolding through the storyline and the knowledge dropped by budding astrobiology student Emily. While it is reminiscent of 50’s sci-fi, it never feels as though it is actually trying to emulate those films. It is fresh enough and original enough that it conjures up feelings of those classics for fans of those films, freshly nostalgic. In COVID times it carries an extra element of chills, mirroring elements of reality, which for me always makes for the best and most horrific horror.
The Beach House hits the Shudder streaming service July 9th.
Dive in and find out what seaside horrors await!
Check out the HorrorGirlProblems Podcast
to hear an interview with writer/director Jeff Brown