Written by: Adam Vaughn | July 8th, 2020
The Beach House (Jeffrey A. Brown, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.
Gearing up for the summer is Jeffrey A. Brown’s debut feature, The Beach House, about two couples who are thrown together for a vacation trip at a beach house, only to be caught in the middle of an unknown and infectious disease spawned by parasitic creatures. Set against the backdrop of a beachfront, the couples must figure out what is causing this disease or fall victim to its horrifying symptoms. Brown creates a work of horror that defies the modern conventions of the genre, and moves outside of the box to explore new methods of suspense using long takes, microscopic perspective, and a sense of claustrophobia and isolation that chills the viewer and leaves them wanting more (if potentially too much “wanting” by the end of the film).
Brown starts the film with a sort of subtle, intimate exposition that is both refreshing and pertinent to the narrative. While one could argue that the dialogue comes across as cookie cutter, I personally liked the introduction of the characters and found them interesting, especially Liana Liberato (Banana Split), who has a very interesting and convenient role as Emily, a microbiology student. I also appreciated the intimate use of a four-character story, giving the viewer time to invest in them before all hell breaks loose. Furthermore, Brown maintains a subtle nature to the story even as it reaches its climactic moments, creating a chilling sense of isolation for the characters, who soon find that the beach is the last place they want to be.
Brown also creates tension through his unique and creative use of macro lens cinematography. For me, the most eerie moments in the film come and go through the unsettling extreme close-ups on objects and things that have a grotesque or aesthetically compelling surface texture. This is a technique utilized in various ways, and throughout the majority of the film, furthering the intimacy of the story and causing a severe sense of claustrophobia for the viewer. Additionally, the use of the long take comes into play as a key element of horror, which directly inverses what has become a cinematic norm for the genre (with various exceptions such as its use in Hereditary.
After watching this visually and narratively impactful story, I couldn’t help but walk away from the end with a lot of questions. Many parts of the plot had an incredible shock value, but didn’t quite lead to anything or were never concluded by the finale. In many ways, it almost felt as if there were several ideas for an interesting and deadly adversary for the main characters, but not one solid idea as to what the actual antagonist might be. While it could be said that this sets us up quite nicely for a “Beach House 2,” I cannot visualize, given the plot points that were unexplained, where the piece would go or how the story would build upon what has been established.