“Life is so fragile,” Emily (Liana Liberato) calmly states at an impromptu dinner. Director and screenwriter Jeffrey A. Brown’s The Beach House is one of the most topical movies on Shudder. The film is about two couples who unexpectedly meet at the titular location. But running into the unexpected guests is the least of Emily and Randall’s problems (Noah Le Gros).
The Beach House goes about setting up its atmosphere immediately. The opening scene hints that something is on the ocean floor. The feeling that something sinister is happening can be felt before the film kicks into second gear. There are odd closeups of cooked food and running water. A dark blue hue fills the night sky and the camera seems out of focus at times. And this is before the mysterious fog sets in.
The initial feel of the movie makes it seem like it is going to be a story driven affair that is all about characters and mood. This is definitely the case early on. The Beach House builds the groundwork for a layered story with engaging people. As it turns out, the film has more in common with the horror movies of the past than anything in recent years. Which is not to say the story and characters become less interesting. The scares simply become more tangible
The Beach House is almost a throwback. The story is reminiscent of 1950s science fiction. This is most prominent after an encounter Emily has at the beach. What follows are a series of Invasion of the Body Snatchers type moments that are familiar and enjoyable. The movie does not just rely on tropes from over half a century ago, however. The gore effects have a very modern feel to them. Again, striking close ups are used. These never feel superfluous and do an excellent job of changing gears when The Beach House does.
Emily is a great protagonist. She is everything that is necessary for a great hero. The would be scientist is smart, tough, and willing to take risks to survive. She also has a vulnerability about her that separates gripping heroine from unbeatable bore. The reason the Emily works so well is the performance. Liberato is able to bring a wide range of emotions to the character. This is done most obviously through her actions but is also done through subtle glances.
The scariest part of The Beach House is the constant threat of infection. Emily is mainly working on guesswork as to how to avoid getting ill. The similarities to the real world are not intentional but are powerful, nonetheless. The current state of the world does not make this a better film; it is just as good without a pandemic. It certainly makes things more relatable.
More than other genres, horror looks to its past for inspiration. Scares from the past can be just as effective today when done right. The Beach House has a look and feel that is straight out of the 1950s science fiction. Meanwhile, its storytelling has a more modern feel to it.. The mix adds up to a frightening film that fans of old and new horror will appreciate.
The Beach House premieres on Shudder July 9.