The Beach House (2020) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Beach House (2020) Review

Horrorific content by Jessica Gomez on March 03rd, 2021 | Movie Review | Survival, Psychological, Confined, Body Horror, Isolation

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A couple on a beach getaway learn that there’s an environmental factor to the lack of beach-goers in the Cape.

The Beach House was directed by Jeffrey A. Brown and stars Liana Liberato (from Trust), Noah Le Gros, Jake Weber (from Chained and Dawn of the Dead), Maryanne Nagel (from Clowntown) and Steven Corkin.

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The Beach House Review

I skipped The Beach House last year - it was filmed pre-covid but released on Shudder right in the middle of it, and I wasn’t ready yet for another contagion film. It may have helped psychologically to wait, but my stomach didn’t churn any less.

After a cryptic, Discovery Channel-esque opening scene in the depths of the ocean, we are thrust into the dynamics of a young couple’s relationship. Emily and Randall are rekindling at Randall’s family beach house after an estrangement. Randall, a selfish dreamer who scoffs at Emily’s desires to continue her education in chemistry, wants to move in together to the beach house full-time. Emily is a bit more skeptical, especially when an older couple claiming to be friends of Randall’s parents have also booked the weekend at the same property. But the couple doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and the four decide to co-vacation for the evening.

When the wine runs out and Randall supplies some edibles to keep the party going, they all start experiencing a bad trip - but it’s hard to decipher what’s real and what’s a hallucination, as they begin to see hundreds of lights in the ocean and a dense fog in the air. That’s where the trippy cinematography begins, but certainly not where it ends. The next morning, a series of disgusting events occur, rife with cover-your-eyes-so-you-don’t-puke moments. As the unknown contagion takes hold of the town, Emily and Randall attempt to seek refuge.

Because this is a contagion film, Emily’s schooling and interest in microbiology make it obvious that a conversation at dinner with the others about how the earth came to exist is prophetic. But her knowledge never really becomes instrumental. We later learn via an extremely muffled radio that the issue has to do with global warming, but she surprisingly never mentions it. I was waiting for some alien life subtext, but it never came.

Some scenes are meant to feel a bit like a documentary, complete with shaky and uneven shots - but the film is far more cinematic than fellow beach contagion film The Bay. The camera becomes shakier the further into the contagion portion you get. It began with The Rental vibes, focusing heavily on relationship dynamics during a getaway - but ultimately, the inter-group relations are left by the wayside for sci-fi effects akin to The Fly that spills over into zombie territory. It doesn’t make a lot of sense logically, but it allowed for some very effective special effects.

For the most part, this is nothing I haven’t seen before. There is obvious inspiration from The Fog, and The Happening already tackled environmental horror, terrible as it may be. I never quite got the point of it all - is this a cautionary tale, that no matter how smart you are, when the damage is done, it won’t matter? What’s with the ominous older couple who somehow seem to know what’s going on? Why didn’t Emily, resourceful as she is, have any commentary or specific ideas relating to the fog? Much of the plot needed more fleshing out, but for Jeffrey A. Brown’s feature directorial debut, it was ambitious nonetheless.

Worth Watching?

If you’re into gross-out scifi, I recommend - the acting is painfully realistic, and cinematically speaking, the movie is gorgeous (when it’s not slimy and slithering, though the graphics are impressive for an indie). If you’re not into movies that make you want to throw up, you may want to skip this one.

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