Some of the best horror movies are those that cover one particular part of the “event”. And, everything seems to be taking place in one setting. George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, and more recently A Quiet Place, are the most iconic movies and only a few examples. There are so many more of these films that seem simple but are still terrifying. However, some films that attempt the event approach get bogged done by the narrow lens required to make the story work. The Beach House flirts dangerously with this form of failure. In the film, the details correct themselves by the time the peeks, thereby saving it.
What begins as Randall (played by Noah Le Gros) takes his girlfriend Emily (played by Liana Liberto) on a romantic getaway. They already seemed to be troubled. Their getaway ends up giving the audience a glimpse into the early stages of an alien invasion.
This Romance is Doomed
Randall and Emily end up at a gorgeous black house, right by the ocean for the weekend. When the real owner, Mitch, and Jane (played by Carl Weber and Maryanne Nagel) arrive, Emily quickly finds out that Randall lied about his parents owning the house. It seems that there may be some other shadiness about the family that we don’t find out because weirdness starts to happen later that night. The blue mist comes off the water and coats everything. The two couples think it’s beautiful, but we all know from the rules of horror movies that this is not good. However, both couples stay out to takes in the scenery.
The next day, Mitch and Jane are…weird.
Mitch walks blindly to the ocean, and Emily goes after him. He gives her an existential speech and then walks into the ocean. Mitch keeps on walking until you can’t see him. Emily runs after him but steps into a mushy mess. It’s oozing, jellied, and has claws. She screams and stumbles around just enough to show us the rest of the beach see other parts. These pink pouches with claws line the beach as far as the eye can see.
Then she finally screaming. A look at her foot shows why. Something is coiled into her flesh. That would be enough to make me die right there. Heart stopped from the shock of no longer having my body to myself. But no, this woman keeps going. Climbing a whole flight of beach stairs (which is a LOT at the end of a beach day, much less with an alien sea worm in your foot). She must later save herself and her boyfriend from this unknown danger. One that has turned everyone else into primitive white-eyed monsters.
The Birth of An Invasion
Like Night of the Living Dead, Beach House happens to people who have no clue that an event has started, and that they are among the first to experience it. The brilliant blue mist was actually something deadly that is invading the coast. The beach house and surrounding town are the first contacts. There’s no warning cared really no time to figure things out. Survival is the only thing that the characters have time for.
Beach House also mimics a bit of the Cloverfield and A Quiet Place models that bring the lens so close in the invasion movie that the audience is only worried about the rules of survival for the characters as well. The who, what, where, and how of the invasion don’t matter. To pull this off, the story must be compelling and characters believable. Otherwise, the audience stays confused and seeking info that the film won’t provide.
The Beach House almost loses the audience to boredom in a few spots. Fortunately, it swerves at a pivotal moment, keeping the audience from drifting off into thoughts of things other than the film. We get too many details a mushy romance from the couple. Even the older couple added a little to the story before they are turned. The Beach House ends up serving the horror plot before the audience is ready to give in to the boredom.
I love how we get just enough uncanny details to know the invader is terrible without having to sacrifice the tight focus of the film. The jelly pouches of fleshed toned meat with claws in a shell formation are gross and the wormlike thing in Emily’s foot is nasty. It’s bad and otherworldy. As in Cloverfield, we see more of the human act of survival than the actual monster. This tactic is surprisingly successful, and it’s another piece that saves the film from its snoozer of an opening.
A Good Summer Scare
The Beach House is not a heavy film full of complex themes to comprehend. Maybe that’s why the opening setup feels thin. The tightness works for the rest of the film, however, helping to keep the lens on the survivors and their mission to get to safety. The viewer will be engaged at that point and enthralled through the end.
For new fans of horror, this may be a good introduction. The gore is minimal, the gross factor is low, and the jump scares are not too terrifying. It’s all enough scare without going too far. The anticipation and the unknown are the scariest parts.
You can catch The Beach House on Shudder, streaming now.
Rating 3.5 of 5
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