“Don’t be scared…”
Directed by Jeffrey A. Brown, The Beach House follows the story of two sweethearts on a little getaway. Emily and Randall head to the beach to have some sex-nanigans only to realise they have forgotten rule 101 of science fiction horror films… you’re not allowed to have sex and have fun and survive to tell the tale!! Duh!
The story starts with them arriving at the beach house that Randall’s dad owns, only to discover they have company in the form of Randall’s dad’s friends Mitch and Jane. Both couples agree to stay and well, one thing leads to another and they end up having some heavy psychedelics and BOOM. A mist descends on the beach and they find themselves in the heart of a mysterious infection causing people to turn into zombies, complete with neon(?) puke. But do they make it out alive…?
It’s funny because I saw this on Shudder and it was categorised as one of the ‘Best of 2020’ films so I came into watching it with a certain expectation to be blown away, and I came away from it instead feeling pretty ambivalent.
The main characters were a young couple, one of whom was studying to be a scientist but oftentimes I found them to be unintelligible.
I liked the concept, that these spores were infecting people, and the way the director hid it under the guise of psychedelics was pretty sneaky because as viewers we watch and think we are seeing things through the eyes of the characters which is to say that what we’re seeing isn’t real, that it’s a hallucination due to the drugs. So at first I thought that it was just that. As the film continued on, I realised that was not the case, which made what Emily says of these spores when she sees them pretty silly in hindsight. She says there’s “something in the air… usually it’s in the water…” When I thought back to that scene it made me think ‘what. are. you. talking. about.’ If the shimming floaters were spores, which is what you suppose as a viewer, you know that those would be flying through the air, so to hear a supposed scientist make such weird deductions was just really confusing.
The film is beautifully shot. To hand it to the directors, many of the actual daylight beach shots had this clean, symmetrical look to them before things start to fall apart for the main characters.
I enjoyed the Mitch/Jane storyline, that she’s sick and he’s bringing her there for her last chance to see this view, because it ends up being her last… and it’s the most brutal last trip you could take, in more ways than one.
I also really enjoyed the gorey scene where Emily gets stung by some weird sea creature that is half spiney thing half jellyfish half I don’t know what, and you see it crawl in her foot. The fact that it’s daylight when this happens makes it all the more shocking. You expect weird things to happen in the night! Not in daylight. I could really feel her pain as she pulled it out of her foot.
All in all, I really wanted to be excited by this film but I think the slow ‘tension’ build up let the film down. There’s quite a large disparity between what critics see in this film versus actual audiences, e.g. on Rotten Tomatoes the critic score was 80% positive whereas the audience score was only 27%. I think this is just one of those films that you either love or hate. I was personally expecting a lot more to be made of the film after such a long build up but was left feeling pretty empty after Emily spent what felt like hours looking for an oxygen tank so she could get in a car and get away, only to abandon the tank and drive it into a tree. If that’s not a metaphor for the whole film, I don’t know what is. Huge potential; visually great sea creature, great CGI in the psychedelic scenes, gorey and creepy looking zombies. With the right actors/storyline ‘behind the wheel’ of this film, it could have been really something. Instead, it got confused and, well, drove itself into a tree…. Would love to hear what horror buffs think of this film. Lemme know in the comments!