From the producers of Take Shelter, Compliance, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, the sci-fi influenced cosmic body horror film The Beach House is written and directed by first time director Jeffrey A. Brown.
Randall (Noah Le Gros, A Score to Settle) and Emily (Liana Liberato, Banana Split) are looking to get away from their college focused lifestyles at Randall’s father’s beach house. But their romance is short-lived when a middle-aged couple, Mitch (Jake Weber, Dawn of the Dead ) and Jane Turner (the feature film debut of Maryann Nagel), reveals that they’re currently staying at the same beach house.
The awkwardness between the two couples becomes the least of their worries when the local environment begins to violently reconstruct their DNA and a battle to merely survive soon trumps all other priorities.
It’s best to go into The Beach House with as little information as possible. Jeffrey A. Brown wrote the script based on ending a relationship with a woman while on a trip to Cape Cod.
Brown injected his admiration of ‘50’s science fiction into the screenplay and claims he was influenced by films such as The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 1978, and 1993), David Cronenberg’s Shivers (1975), the romantic drama Like Crazy (2011), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), and Hammer’s The Quatermass Xperiment (1955).
The film toys with Randall and Emily’s relationship either being in a rocky state or being on its last legs. They both intend to enjoy their break from school, but Emily is eager to go to grad school while Randall has seemingly completely abandoned the idea of finishing school and wants to figure out some sort of alternative.
Immediately, you get the impression that Emily is the type of character who takes things more seriously while Randall is more laid back and tends to take a backseat to whatever life throws at him.
Emily’s college major factors in to the overall story of The Beach House. She’s fascinated with organisms adapting to environments that they shouldn’t be able to survive in.
Life on this planet compared to say the life discovered on Mars is also a factor as is the strange life that is able to survive at the bottom of the ocean; the creatures that have seemingly never seen or encountered daylight.
There’s also this brilliantly paced slow-burn approach to what has taken over the beach. Nobody else being around, the soft water that comes from the tap that everyone seems mesmerized by whenever they turn the faucet on, and the weird slug-like thing slightly moving on the porch at the beginning of the film; these all methodically build towards something terrifying.
Mitch and Jane Turner are a bizarre couple, as well. They both have this connection to Randall’s estranged father, who is only ever mentioned and never seen on screen.
That connection is meant to add this thin layer of comfort for the audience. These strangers may seem off, but maybe they’re just unusual and they know Randall’s dad so it should be fine.
It totally isn’t fine, but the film succeeds in temporarily making you feel like it’s a possibility.
Jake Weber, who most of us haven’t seen in anything since the James Gunn written and Zack Snyder directed remake of Dawn of the Dead, masters this unexpected line of being harmless and totally unsettling.
Maryann Nagel has this Lin Shaye quality to her performance. Jane is introduced as a wife who needs constant supervision. She has a ton of medication, she’s incredibly emotional, and Mitch feels like he always needs to be by her side.
She’s this fragile creature that is on the verge of complete collapse. Nagel is able to ride those moments of tension in the film exquisitely, especially for an unknown talent.
There’s a bizarre turn in the second half that’s necessary to bridge the sci-fi elements of the film to the more horrific ones. A mysterious fog envelopes the beach every night resulting in this fluorescent and trippy twilight wonderland that echoes the kaleidoscopic elements of Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space.
Something nightmarish and squeamish occurs to Emily on the shore of the beach resulting in some of the nastiest body horror sequences to occur in a horror film this year.
The Beach House expertly keeps the audience in the dark regarding the reality of what’s transpiring until you get that purposeful peek behind the curtain and even then you’re left with a handful of questions.
The ending in particular, despite being phantasmagorically memorable, will leave you scratching your head.
The Beach House deserves accolades for being so unusually different for both a horror film and a debut for a first time filmmaker in the genre. The sex is only alluded to with no actual nudity shown on screen and its deliberate pacing teases the audience until just the right moment.
The tension in the film throttles unnatural behavior, unnerving silences, and very obvious lies about one’s well-being.
Meanwhile the horror is this disgusting exposé that makes you hypnotically queasy.
Liana Liberato is mesmerizing in her portrayal of trauma and terror while Noah Le Gros horrifically harmonizes being a nonchalant boyfriend and metamorphosing into this sweaty and nauseating vessel of uselessness.
The Beach House is an artistically crafted parasitical nightmare crafted by a true rooter of revulsion; Jeffrey A. Brown.
The Beach House will be released on AMC’s horror streaming service Shudder on July 9th.
- Its unsettling atmosphere.
- Liana Liberato's performance.
- Body horror at its finest.
- A slow, unrushed pace.
- Its bizarre conclusion.