The Beach House
by Hope Madden
An entitled young man and his put upon girlfriend head to his parents’ unused beach house to work some things out. They’re not alone, and I don’t just mean the lovely older couple who’d already made plans to borrow the vacation home.
Writer/director Jeffrey A. Brown sets up a situation that could go a lot of horrifying ways. He builds expectations and it’s up to you to wait and see which ones the film decides to indulge. The path Brown takes meshes terror and science fiction, beauty and body horror.
Noah Le Gros’s Randall is burdened with the privilege of always being wrong, of always making a mess for others to clean up, of always getting away with a sad-eyed apology but never, ever thinking that maybe he shouldn’t be the one making the decisions. Le Gros does an excellent job with the role – Randall isn’t contemptible, he’s just born this way.
Emily (Liana Liberato) is about to start work on an advanced degree in astrochemistry. Lucky thing, that—one of several conveniences The Beach House needs you to accept. But this budget-conscious indie is worth a little suspension of disbelief because, between the performances and the commitment to genre, it delivers a satisfying thrill.
Maryann Nagel provides a fine performance as Jane, the unsuspecting family friend already vacationing at Randall’s parents’ place. Her arc is terrifying because the performance is so compassionate. Likewise, genre favorite Jake Weber offers a heartbreaking turn as Jane’s beloved Mitch, a look-on-the-bright-side kind of guy who is quickly running out of sunshine.
At just about the time Brown digs in with some nasty body horror, he also starts to squander some of the good will he earned in the film’s early going. The action and anxiety of the last half of the picture rely too heavily on trope: a surprise in the basement, a conveniently placed CB, a timely announcement over an AM radio station.
But Brown and Liberato remain true to Emily’s arc, and that creates an intriguing new look at planetary evolution.