THE BEACH HOUSE movie poster | ©2020 Shudder

THE BEACH HOUSE movie poster | ©2020 Shudder

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, Steven Weber, Maryann Nagel
Writer: Jeffrey A. Brown
Director: Jeffrey A. Brown
Release Date (Shudder stream): July 9, 2020

THE BEACH HOUSE, from both its title and its set-up, seems like it’s going to be one kind of horror movie. Emily (Liana Liberato) accompanies her boyfriend Randall (Noah Le Gros) to his family’s vacation home in coastal Massachusetts. It’s before “the season,” and apparently neighbors are few. Then another older couple, Mitchell (Steven Weber) and Jane (Maryann Nagel), turn out to already be in residence. Mitchell claims he’s an old friend of Randall’s dad. Is somebody going to turn out to be a lying psychopath?

Well, no. We’ve also seen what looks like, from a distance, beautiful sparkling ocean water. When we get closer, the sparkle is less dazzling, and when we go beneath the surface, what seems to be a cracked bio-container is releasing billowing black crud into the bay. Back in the shared beach house, the tap water feels peculiar, and there’s a bad smell inside and out.

THE BEACH HOUSE is indeed an environmental horror movie. However, director/writer Jeffrey A. Brown has some interesting notions to share with us. Emily, as we learn, is a chemistry student hoping to take on astro-biology in grad school. She explains to new friends Mitch and Jane her fascination with the field. Astro-biology is not (as the word might suggest) the study of interplanetary life, but rather life on planet Earth that can survive in extreme conditions that would kill humans.

We could probably watch THE BEACH HOUSE without knowing any of this, but it does add a layer of science to the science-fiction element here. Filmmaker Brown may not have figured out how to fully dramatize his concepts in a way that makes them unique, but he’s got a grasp of the essentials. We can easily follow what’s happening, and if we enjoy the underlying premise, so much the better.

While there are monsters of a sort, THE BEACH HOUSE doesn’t have jump scares per se. Brown ramps up tension and a sense of encroaching terror with body horror and atmosphere. Blessedly, the plot doesn’t rely on anybody doing anything preposterous. The characters all react as naturally and logically as the situation allows.

Liberato registers strongly as a smart, quiet type who can rise to the occasion, even when she’s being emotional. Le Gros handles the ambiguity of his role well. In another movie, Randall’s insensitivity and carelessness might signal something sinister. Here, he’s just an aimless young man trying to validate his own fears by pulling his girlfriend off-course. Weber is engaging as the warm, wistful Mitchell, and Nagel is touching as Jane tries to forge connections.

In the currant real-world climate, a movie about an infectious new menace that’s in the air (among other places) is either going to feel like too much to bear or exactly what’s needed. If the latter seems the case, THE BEACH HOUSE should fulfill the requirements.

THE BEACH HOUSE premieres on the Shudder streaming service on July 9.

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