Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Movie Review: The Beach House

The Beach House *** / *****
Directed by: Jeffrey A. Brown.
Written by: Jeffrey A. Brown.
Starring: Liana Liberato (Emily), Noah Le Gros (Randall), Jake Weber (Mitch), Maryann Nagel (Jane).

With trips to the beach and cottage at an all-time low this summer, perhaps watching indie horror flick The Beach House will make you feel a little bit better about not being able to go. Horror films like to inject the horror into the everyday – trying to ruin our fun in each and every one of our mundane activities – and The Beach House does that for trips to the beach. It’s a low-fi horror film – really there is only one CGI shot that is complicated – and mostly, the terror comes out the never-ending fog (which, we will be told later in the film “It’s not fog”) – and lead actress Liana Liberato’s terrified face as one thing after another mounts.

Liberato stars as Emily, who has headed for the beach house owned by her boyfriend, Randall’s (Noah Le Gros) – father. The two are there in the hopes to getting their relationship back on track – but like many young couple who meet while still in school, it may not be possible. Randall has dropped out of school – and likes to go on long rants about conformity that only people in their teens and early 20s can get away with. Emily is talking about grad school – and doesn’t believe, like Randall, that it’s all bullshit. The area is essentially deserted – it’s early in the season, so most of the other houses are deserted. They should have everything too themselves. Or so they think.

It isn’t long before the pair discover another couple – Mitch (Jake Weber) and Jane (Maryann Nagel) are actually staying in Randall’s father house. Old friends of Randall’s dad, they have come up here to get away – Jane has medical issues, and may not last too much longer – they wanted another trip to a place where they were happy. The two couples mainly get along – they bond over dinner, wine and eventually edibles. And they all agree that they have never seen a fog like this before.

Needless to say, the fog is trouble – and soon none of them will be immune. I won’t go into further details – except to say that Jeffrey A. Brown, who wrote and directed the film, was smart to mainly focus on Liberato’s Emily. Yes, the whole “final girl” thing is beyond cliché – but Liberato is a gifted actress (she has been wonderful in films like the little seen Trust or more recently Banana Split) – and her expressive face is really all the film needs to continuously up the terror level of the film. The film is fairly light on gore – although a sequence involving Emily’s foot is certainly not for the squeamish.

You can tell The Beach House is an indie horror film – and it’s probably better for it. The cast is small, the special effects minimal, but the combination of Brown’s smart direction, and Liberato’s performance is more than enough to keep the film scary throughout. It doesn’t transcend its origins or its influences – but it’s a fine example of what indie horror can do. You may well be glad you cannot go to the beach this summer after seeing this.

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