Released: 26th July
Seen: 14th August
There’s a certain setup in horror that can either work really well or backfire painfully. You’ve probably seen it in films like mother! and it’s certainly the backbone of The Beach House. The setup is that a couple are staying at a remote location all on their own until a stranger or two turn up and the nightmares begin. Either the new people are what brings on the horror (see The Strangers) or they’re part of the nightmare itself (again, mother!) or they’re not really related to the source of the horror but are the first ones to go through it… that last one describes what happens to the new people in The Beach House, and if they’re the warning of what’s to come then the main characters are in for a bad time.
The Beach House is a strange mixture of body horror and cosmic horror (think Mandy) combined with environmentalism and possession. There’s a tiny bit of all of them thrown in to create this wonderfully strange concoction of a film that ends up working surprisingly well. It starts off slowly, letting us get introduced to our main couple, Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) and then letting us get to know the couple that comes around to ruin their vacation, Jane (Maryann Nagel) and Mitch (Jake Weber). It takes ages for things to start going haywire, though the feeling that something’s going to go wrong permeates the entire film, but once the train of crazy leaves the station it does not hold back.
This film rewards you greatly for sticking with it, getting more intense as the minutes tick by. With only four cast members there’s a worry that a film like this might lose some steam but this cast manages to keep you engaged throughout and makes you go with them as the film ratchets up the insanity. It all starts very calm and peaceful at this seemingly innocent beach house and by the end we’re in a full blown apocalypse and it almost feels natural. I won’t lie that there was one second where it felt like the transition between “normal” and “Everyone’s gonna die” was off, but I got over that quickly.
Diving between various kinds of horror isn’t easy but here it’s very effective. The film is willing to go from making you squirm while a weird creature is being pulled out of someone’s foot to making you scream as a borderline zombie chases the young couple outside. While I wish that the horror could’ve maybe been stretched out a little more, maybe if we could’ve gotten through the setup a little quicker, it’s still able to get really unnerving and scary very easily.
You can tell this is a film made by someone who didn’t have a huge budget and so they made do with what they had and it shows with some of the creative shot choices they came up with giving the film a feeling of being so much bigger than it is. Even little things like the shot that became the poster are so simple and effective and give the film a more grandiose scale than it probably could’ve had. I kept watching the film realising this was a first time director and being wildly impressed, this is someone to keep an eye on because they made something pretty impressive here.
Even despite it’s slow start and occasionally jarring moments, The Beach House is a tense film that manages to keep topping itself right up until the admittedly weird (but tonally consistent by that point) ending. It’s certainly made it so I have no intention of going near the beach for a while… not that I ever went to the beach before, but now I have a better excuse than “Don’t wanna”