It’s not subtle, not particularly scary or suspenseful either.
What “The Beach House” has going for it is dread, a feeling that rides along with it from its opening frames to the horror parable’s final image.
Liana Liberato (“To the Stars”) and Noah Le Gros (TV’s “The Get Down”) are a college couple out to spend a “make up” weekend at his family’s place on the beach.
It’s off season. Nobody is there. Apparently.
And then this other couple turns up, already staying in the house, friends of Randall’s father.
No, he didn’t check with his Dad to make arrangements to stay there. No, they’re “not getting along” right now. And above all else, he insists to Emily, no, “It’s not my fault.”
The older folks (Jake Weber and Maryann Nagel) seem nice enough. But Emily’s noticed a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions. Jane seems…medicated. Mitch? He dotes on her.
Stilk, what the heck? Let’s share the place, cook on the grill, have some wine.
Randall’s first “tell” was the dismissive way he wants Emily to write-off grad school in her field, organic chemistry. The second was his insistence that they ditch college and move to the beach. “It’ll be like vacation all the time!”
And the third is how he copes with them running out of wine.
“Are you familiar with edibles?”
He’s self-absorbed, carefree and careless. She has a plan, a field which will pull her towards finding the limits of “life” at say, the bottom of the ocean. And he’s just privileged and tuning everything out.
The “edibles” bring everything to a head as everyone who partakes descends into what they have to believe in a “bad trip” or at least a bad reaction. Something is going on — with Jane and Mitch, with the weather (fog sets in), with the sea itself.
“Do you SMELL that?”
First-time feature writer-director Jeffrey A. Brown cast this well, and Liberato makes a plucky surrogate for the viewer, the aspiring scientist asking “What’s really going on here?” even as we start to get answers about what happened to the the people in the house and. the neighbors, and ask more and more questions about the sea.
Intercutting shots of mineral vents from the ocean floor give away the point of it all. Slugs and Portuguese Man-of-War beachings, parasites that may or may not be real, all of those step to the fore after our initial unease with “this other couple” recede with the tide.
I like that bit of misdirection, because the rest of the movie is rather drably-played formula, swiping a bit from Stephen King (“The Mist”) here, a little “Night of the Living Dead” there.
Sadly, the mystery of it all will evaporate long before that fog clears.
MPAA Rating: unrated, grisly sci-fi images, alcohol and drug abuse
Cast: Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, Maryann Nagel and Jake Weber.
Credits: Written and directed by Jeffrey A. Brown. A Shudder/Uncork’d release.
Running time: 1:28