Jeffrey A. Brown’s The Beach House is a low key horror which offers up some interesting ideas and a fair amount squirmy body horror. It’s light on scares, but the film is more of an atmospheric mood piece with a focus on cosmic mystery than a traditional fright fest . It’s a little on the slow side, but the performances are solid and Brown has an eye for delivering some interesting visuals.
When young couple Emily and Randall (Liano Liberato and Noah Le Gros) decide to spend the weekend at his father’s beach house, they don’t expect to find that an older Mitch and Jane (Jake Weber and Maryanne Nagel) are also using the house during the off-season. The two couples unexpectedly hit-it-off over a boozy dinner and after taking a few edible treats they discover that a vividly coloured mist has descended on the beach. The following day, both couples are not only nursing hangovers, but also the effects of a strange new airborne life form which has ascended from the depths of the ocean.
As a writer-director, credit must go to Brown for attempting to give The Beach House a unique feel. It must have been tempting to go for the easy and more commercial option by making the film a fast-paced gore fest, but instead he has crafted something which which plays more like an art film than a piece of horror cinema. That doesn’t mean Brown has disregarded the tropes of the horror genre, in fact he leans quite heavily on many films which have gone before. John Carpenter’s The Fog and Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist are obvious choices but there are also nods to The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Day Of The Triffids and the recent Nicolas Cage/Richard Stanley adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Color Out Of Space. Brown also embraces David Cronenberg-style body horror and there are plenty of moments of moist, wriggly worm-like creatures borrowing their way into the human body. At times Brown’s film also has hints of Shane Carruth’s quirky 2013 sci-fi drama Upstream Colour (a film which is ripe for revisiting).
You could argue that The Beach House suffers for being more style than substance and that is true on one level. Brown sets up a lot of plot and character points in the opening that never truly pay-off as the film progress, but it’s not enough to hobble the film. Liano Liberato does good work as the film’s heroine who grappling with a cosmic event which she doesn’t understand.
Not a run of the mill horror, The Beach House dares to be different and that’s a good enough reason to check it out.