The Beach House (2019) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): A little foggy horror film on the beach

Right from the very beginning, “The Beach House” announces to us that something bad is going to happen, and it surely delivers a fair share of terror and dread as expected. While it is rather superficial in terms of story and characters, the movie held my attention to some degree until its predictable last act, and I appreciated the skills and efforts put into its good moments even though it did not satisfy me enough in the end.

During its first act, the movie simply feels like your average chamber drama. When Emily (Liana Liberato) and her boyfriend Randall (Noah Le Gros) arrive at a beach house belonging to Randall’s father during one off-season day, everything looks quiet and peaceful on the beach and its surrounding area, and Randall earnestly hopes that their private time in this house will help them mending their estranged relationship.

However, shortly after they enter the house, Randall and Emily come to realize that the house has been actually occupied by an older couple named Jane (Maryann Nagel) and Mitch (Jake Weber), who turn out to be old friends of Randall’ father. As revealed later in the story, Mitch brought his wife to this spot due to her deteriorating health condition, but, so far, she and Mitch seem to be having a good time together in the house, and they gladly ask Randall and Jane to stay longer in the house for a dinner.

Emily and Randall accept this invitation despite some initial hesitation, and we get to know a bit about their estranged relationship as they come to spend more time with Mitch and Jane. While Emily is preparing for going to graduate school for more learning, Randall believes that there is more to learn in the world outside, and this difference in their viewpoints generates some nervous awkwardness when they talk about themselves in front of Jane and Mitch during the following dinner.

Anyway, the mood still remains cordial and jovial among the people in the house. When they subsequently run out of alcohol, Randall suggests that they should try a certain kind of edible marijuana product, and the others agree to that, though Mitch is understandably concerned about whether that will be good for his ailing wife.

Once they all ingest that marijuana product in question, they soon feel trippy as music is played in the background, and then they come to behold something very weird. At first, they see millions of tiny but shiny particles being blown from the ocean, and then the area around the house becomes quite foggy just like that creepy key sequence in John Carpenter’s “The Fog” (1980).

In the next morning, everything seems to look normal again under the sunny blue sky, but it does not take much time for Emily to discern that something bad is happening around her and others. After looking for his wandering wife at last night, Mitch still does not come back, but Randall is not so particularly concerned about that as suffering from his hangover, and Emily becomes more nervous as trying to have some rest on the beach along with her boyfriend.

It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Emily and Randall belatedly come to discover how bad their situation really is, but the movie serves us several effective moments of horror as steadily maintaining their increasingly isolated circumstance. For example, I like how it gradually dials up the level of tension as phlegmatically watching one character slowly walking into the sea, and I must confess that I was really caught off guard by the following grisly payoff moment.

During its last act, the movie unfortunately comes to lose some of its taut suspense, but director/writer Jeffrey A. Brown and his crew members including cinematographer Owen Levelle keep things rolling before the final scene of the movie, which may leave you flabbergasted but mostly fits with the increasingly baffling and terrifying mood of the film. Although there are a few expository moments as required, the movie remains rather vague about the increasing danger along the story, and that certainly exacerbates the sense of chaos and panic surrounding its main characters.

I wish the movie depicted its main characters with more depth and personality, but its four main cast members fill their respective spots as much as they can at least. While Liana Liberto is solid as the main center of the film, Noah Le Gros is effective as her counterpart, and Maryann Nagel and Jake Weber hold their small spots around Liberto and Le Gros as subtly conveying to us their characters’ long relationship history.

Probably because I recently watched “Sea Fever” (2019), which is a little better in my inconsequential opinion, “The Beach House” did not engage me as much as I expected, but I admire its good mood and competent filmmaking at least. Although its rather thin story idea is stretched out a bit too far for its 88-running time, the movie clearly shows us that Brown, who previously made two short films before making a feature film debut here, is a talented filmmaker with considerable potential, and I sincerely hope that the movie will lead to him to better things in the future.

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