Director Jeffrey A. Brown‘s The Beach House draws more than a little inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft‘s The Colour Out of Space, and gives it an ecological spin. At least it doesn’t have Nicholas Cage’s overacting.
Young couple Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) head to Randall’s father’s beach house. Unfortunately their romantic getaway is ruined by three things. Firstly, is Randall himself being a complete dick – demanding Emily drop her scientific studies to become a bum like him. Randall seems like the sort of character invented purely to help us like the protagonist more.
Then there’s older couple Mitch (Jake Weber) and the terminally ill Jane (Maryann Nagel), who are already staying at the house. The house is big enough that both couples can stay and have awkward conversations, drink wine, and relive the latter’s hippy days with Randall’s weed. Typical boomer shit.
The third problem is the unfolding ecological nightmare. Strange jelly-fish like creatures wash up on the beach, riddled with parasites. The water possesses an unusual texture; microorganisms cling to the trees; and an eldritch fog rolls over everything, transforming people into sick, mindless individuals who seem to only want to kill or infect.
Things swiftly take on an apocalyptic tone when the fog continues to spread and the entire region falls into an emergency. Even when Emily and Randall leave the beach house, the film still feels claustrophobic as they’re trapped in cars, or other buildings, cut off from the world by the fog with no other survivors except the infected.
In Emily we have a protagonist who is physically and emotionally vulnerable, but her background as a student of organic chemistry makes her uniquely equipped amongst the characters to somewhat handle the situation. The film ends on a typically bleak note with an ambiguous ending for both Emily and the world. But as the stated reason for the breakout is natural breakdown due to ‘climate change’, it doesn’t paint a good picture of the fate of the film’s world. A relevant film for our climate disaster and pandemic times.
Though the horror in The Beach House may be terran in nature, it certainly possesses the hallmarks of cosmic horror. We see humanity, or a slice of it, succumb to a natural force they cannot fully comprehend or hope to stop, there’s creeping dread, and a grim apocalyptic tone. But for a cosmic horror film it feels a little flat – which is sort of reflected in its terrible Lifetime movie style title.
It’s not as good as I thought it would be, but the film certainly has its moments. The special effects are good, emphasising the pulpy, diseased nature theme, and overall recalls films such as The Void (2017). The standout moment of the film must be the scene where Emily removes the worm from her foot injury. I will never walk bare foot on the beach again, I can tell you that.
Watch on Shudder.