After screening at a few film festivals last fall, horror movie The Beach House is set to stream on Shudder. At first glance, the timing for its release to the general public couldn’t be better, seeing that the film deals with a deadly infection that threatens to wipe out anyone who’s affected. The timely subject matter might make for a good selling point, but unfortunately it isn’t enough to elevate the final product to must-see status. The Beach House has some suitably creepy moments, but it’s ultimately hamstrung by an underdeveloped script that fails to connect with the audience.
The Beach House follows young couple Randall (Noah Le Gros) and Emily (Liana Liberato), who go to Randall’s father’s beach house as they look to mend what’s becoming a strained relationship. Shortly after their arrival, Randall and Emily are surprised to learn an older married couple, Mitch (Jake Weber) and Jane (Maryann Nagel) – friends of Randall’s dad – are staying at the house on vacation. Making the best of an awkward situation, the four have dinner together and learn about each other. But the following morning, strange occurrences take place, making the beach a not-so-inviting environment.
Director Jeffrey A. Brown is successful in giving The Beach House an eerie atmosphere. By choosing to set the film in a desolate beach town empty before the proper season starts, he goes a long way in injecting a sense of dread into the movie before the story really kicks in. While the location is most likely a byproduct of The Beach House’s smaller budget, it’s effective for the purposes of the narrative, particularly when things take a turn for the worse and the emptiness is recontextualized. On this front, Brown and his team make the most of what they have to work with, and they definitely craft some unsettling sequences as The Beach House builds towards its conclusion.
That said, whatever impact The Beach House’s scares may have is negated by a weak screenplay (which was also written by Brown). In particular, Brown struggles with characterization and makes it difficult for viewers to really get invested in the situation. The romance between Randall and Emily never really clicks, as the actors lack a genuine chemistry and there isn’t much on the page for them to work with. As a result, any of the thrills that involve them are superficial at best and lack the proper level of emotional engagement to draw the viewer in. Likewise, Mitch and Jane are thinly-drawn supporting players who aren’t that memorable. None of the performances in The Beach House are bad, but they are all merely serviceable for what the film is attempting to achieve.
Brown’s script tries to be a little more fascinating when the characters have discussions about humanity’s fragility and the origins of life (Emily wants to study astro biology in grad school), but these conversations add little more than generic food for thought during the first act (trying to establish a larger connection with the main threat). The Beach House drags along in the early going, struggling to establish any forward momentum to hook audiences. It takes a long time for the plot to really kick into gear, and when things finally do pick up it’s a case of too little, too late. The Beach House’s meandering nature holds the film back from being something truly scary or captivating.
It’s unfortunate The Beach House turned out to be such a mixed bag, especially since there was potential here for something timely. As a helmsman, Brown stretches his minimal budget as far as it’ll go (The Beach House sports excellent production values considering what the crew was working with), but Brown the writer lets down Brown the director. Even with a dearth of new releases this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Beach House doesn’t do much to stand out. Those subscribed to Shudder may decide to check it out one day, but it’s by no means something that’ll entice newcomers to sign up.
The Beach House is now streaming on Shudder. It is 88 minutes long and is not rated.