The Beach House cultivates otherworldly visuals in this tense and timely horror about a romantic weekend gone wrong.
Synopsis: A romantic getaway for two troubled college sweethearts turns into a struggle for survival when unexpected guests – and the surrounding environment – exhibit signs of a mysterious infection.
Randall (Noah Le Gros) and Emily (Liana Liberato) are a couple with relationship woes, one of which is Emily’s desire to go to graduate school while Randall wants to spend a year at his father’s beach house that hey are visiting. Still, the passion between the pair is enough that when they arrive at the house they immediately head upstairs. Soon, it becomes clear that another couple are already in the house but with them being friends of Randall’s father the group decide to share the house until the environment starts to change around them.
The whole film has incredible visuals, supported by the beautiful location of the beach house itself. Everything has a sun-soaked, balmy quality where the heat is threatening to become oppressive. Transitions between water, mist and other materials are treated almost like static, drawing the eye in to look for forming patterns. Even watching on a small screen, the quality of the visuals is to be commended. The dense mist that descends leads to some well-executed moments of tension when trying to move through it, including a sequence that puts the audience in the driver’s seat in a particularly dynamic sequence. As the film progresses those visuals become increasingly hellish in a way that feels stifling.
In terms of cast, Jake Weber and Maryann Nagel as unexpected guests Mitch and Jane Turner provide good support to the central couple, presenting as amiable and relaxed at first, but their transition from laid-back to anxious and almost co-dependant is excellently handled. Their presence allows the film to explore the nature of the infection without immediately putting Randall and Emily in the firing line. The design of the infected is brilliantly unnerving, with unusual movement I’ve not seen in other productions setting them apart.
The strongest part of the film for me is Emily’s character. Much of the early discussion positions her as someone with a thirst for knowledge and that this pursuit is something that singles her out and keeps her at a distance from others. However, it is that desire for knowledge that seems to make her a resourceful woman, with practical solutions for how to tackle the increasingly grisly scenes around her. I feel like The Beach House would make for an excellent double-bill with Sea Fever. Both their themes and presenting a somewhat distant heroine, defying gender conventions, to lead the films couple them in an organic and interesting way.
As a feature debut for director Jeffrey A. Brown this is impressive and feels original, even when leaning on well-worn ‘infection’ tropes.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Beach House is available on Shudder UK, USA and Canada from July 9th.