Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Apocalypse soon in Jeffrey A. Brown's slow-burn horror, THE BEACH HOUSE

When a cute and sexy but squabbling young couple  -- played by Liana Liberato and Noah Le Gros -- show up at his family's supposedly empty beach house for a long weekend (or maybe an indefinite stay), after a bout of quick lovemaking, they discover they're not alone and must share this lovely and spacious retreat with a kindly older couple, who are friends of the Le Gros character's father, who owns the house.

This might be a nice set-up for comparing relationships, young and old; or maybe a kind of coming-of-age tale in which the younger set learns about priorities and responsibility.  Except that this movie begins with the camera panning down, down, down to the bottom of the ocean where a huge rock formation is suddenly giving off a very weird, gray combination of what seems like steam and dust.

What's going on in THE BEACH HOUSE, the new sci-fi/horror/thriller from first-time/full-length writer/director Jeffrey A. Brown (shown at left), turns out to be the kind of theme and movie that usually demand an enormous budget. Brown quite cleverly reduces it all to four actors/characters (plus a few extras) and a time frame of maybe two full days, if that. What happens begins at a very slow burn then increasingly heats up until we're grasping at straws, trying to discover a way out -- any way at all -- for the remaining characters. Things finally begin to happen so fast and furiously that we rather know in our heart and mind that there is no way out. Which make the final lines spoken in this film so awful and moving.

Ms Liberato's character, Emily (above), is studying to be (if TrustMovies remembers correctly) a kind of astrophysicist-by-way-of-marine-biologist, and knows how to explain her fields to that older couple (Jake Weber and Maryann Nagel, below) so that they (and we) understand just enough of what might be happening that we can suspend disbelief and hold on tight.

That early slow burn allows us to ascertain a bit more about character and situation as we move along -- Emily is highly responsible, Randall (Mr. Le Gros, below) is anything but, while Mitch (Mr. Weber) is a loving caregiver, though Jane (Ms Nagel) is definitely not long for that care.

Special effects -- beginning ever so quietly and slowly, then heatedly ramping up -- are very well chosen for both suspense and their "ick" factor. The power of suggestion is also used quite smartly here. Even at just 88 minutes, the movie is still a little too long. Once it is clear how and where things are going, Mr. Brown dawdles and repeats a bit in getting us there.

But, finally, we do. And though it's not a place you'd choose to be, there is, as they say, at least some closure. From the AMC streaming platform, SHUDDER, The Beach House opened last week in the U.S.A., Canada, the UK and Ireland. Click here to find the fastest way to access the movie.

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