The Beach House follows a young couple trying to take some time off together at the young man's father's beach house. Upon arriving, an older couple (who happen to be friends with the father) have taken up residence in the house unexpectedly. While successfully coexisting in the home, an eery fog rolls in and begins to affect the environment, and the two couples, in odd and terrifying ways.
The Beach House Review
I've been dying to watch this movie since I read a vague yet promising review over a year ago that mentioned Lovecraftian themes and body horror practical effects. Since that review, the film had all-but disappeared, with ne'er a trailer or even screenshots gracing the internet. But I logged the title away in my wishlist document and awaited news. And then, Shudder saved the day.
But alas, my high expectations were, yet again, dashed. I was hoping for a gruesome trip down the visceral side of Lovecraftian horror, but it instead was primarily a slow-burning character study that doesn't get going until its final act and even then lacks the guts (both metaphorical and literal) to take things as far as I dreamed.
Yes, The Beach House is a good film...it just wasn't what I wanted. It was like opening a Christmas gift at 13 years old and seeing a Playstation controller. Yeah, you needed a new one, it has some practical use for you and it's better than bland socks, but...it's not a new game...So...it offers some semblance of entertainment and practicality, but not the satisfaction you seek in a Christmas gift. That's basically how I feel about The Beach House.
The plot burns incredibly slowly and it's held reasonably by a cast that is both fresh and seasoned. The young couple warms up to their roles as the movie goes along, but they struggle to deliver their lines beyond a blank-staring Keanu Reeves jacked into the Matrix. The film transitions into its sci-fi element seamlessly when our beach house attendees decide to get out some edibles just as a mysterious glowing fog rolls across the beach. Then comes a Color Out of Space-type infection of the landscape with glowing moss and fungus-like growths. Everyone seems mildly affected by it, which of course is sure to escalate to terrible mutations or infections.
Unfortunately, those mutations are fairly tame and limited, sans two scenes. I would like to speak to how beautifully shot this film is. The cinematography and score out-do the script, acting, and effects, helping scenes build powerfully foreboding tension and dread. Efrit spoke of a particular scene in which one of the characters walks slowly into the ocean as such a powerful and unsettling scene. I would have to agree, and it was shots like that one that highlight the film.
The oft-praised effects of the film are underwhelming in my eyes outside of two scenes. The first scene kicks off the action of the final act and it is a truly gruesome and squirm-inducing moment. While I love it and praise its effectiveness, the film then hits a lull in this department (while tension is still admittedly delivering) for quite a while until we get a "big" reveal. Up to that point, and even to that point, there isn't much to catch the eye. The "infection" barely escapes the zombie tropes of old where the "big reveal" is nothing more than...well...I'll just leave it at underwhelming.
The film as a whole is a very well-done indie horror. It's well presented and produced despite some weak moments from the two young leads. But, coming into the movie expecting some significant body horror and to be let down with only one and a half scenes, it was a disappointment. But perhaps somebody going into it expecting a slow-burning character-centric, intimate indie film may enjoy it better than I. I've got to quit letting myself get too excited for films being praised for practical effects...it's unfair to them.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 7/10