What to Watch Verdict
Your time's better spent elsewhere
Some pretty shots
Most of the film doesn't matter to the plot
So much missed potential
While water makes up the majority of our planet, we have only explored five percent of the ocean. For comparison’s sake, we’ve explored about four percent of the known (read: visible) universe. One is on our planet and directly accessible while the other requires that we strap ourselves to rockets and blast off into space. Because of this, the ocean has all of the potential to be as infinitely terrifying as space. It’s worth mentioning that said potential isn’t always met.
Jeffrey A. Brown’s The Beach House follows Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) on a romantic getaway to a family owned beach house in an attempt to smooth over their relationship woes. Once they arrive – after the obligatory sex – the two find that they’re not alone in the house. Mitch (Jake Weber) and Jane (Maryann Nagel) have also taken up temporary residence in Randall’s father’s home.
If you go into the film blind, you might assume that Mitch and Jane are to be the antagonists before it’s all said and done. Randall seems to have no memory of them until they’re all sitting down for dinner, but they claim to be family friends. Randall can’t talk to his dad about the mix-up because he’s at odds with daddy dearest. As it happens, he seems to be at odds with everyone.
We assume that the strife between father and son is caused by Randall’s decision to drop out of school. Said decision (and the subsequent disappearance that followed) is certainly what’s causing the drama between he and Emily. She’s getting her masters, he doesn’t believe school matters, and we spend a whole lot hearing what he has to say on the matter for the first thirty minutes of the film.
Now, what if I told you that not one single thing I’ve described so far has any bearing whatsoever on the film’s plot?
There’s so much potential in The Beach House. The sea is a threatening and unknown entity with what is, by and large, unfathomable power. We can’t even begin to understand what lives in the deep dark depths, or what can happen when those things bubble up to the surface. While we could be focusing on that, we’re learning about petty squabbles between college sweeties and hearing an older couple talk about how finite life is for what seems to be absolutely no relevant reason.
Sometimes when a plot struggles, characters shine. Perhaps a performance stands out from the rest, or the writer and director were simply more character focused than narratively savvy. That is, regrettably, not the case here. We’re told Emily, our lead, is super-duper smart. Telling is where that ends. Outside of some monologues while they’re getting stoned in the first act, Emily’s knowledge is unseen and ultimately pointless in her chances of survival.
The first moment of true tension doesn’t come until the last ten minutes of the film when a terrified Emily tries to navigate the fog in a speeding truck. Outside of that, there are a few solid moments of trauma and some interesting implications of the parasitic variety. In addition to some beach-y scenery to chew, you’ll also get a few psychedelic moments while everyone’s tripping in the first act.
Beyond that your time’s better spent checking out something like Sea Fever.
Amelia is an entertainment Streaming Editor at IGN, which means she spends a lot of time analyzing and editing stories on things like Loki, Peacemaker, and The Witcher. In addition to her features and editorial work, she’s also a member of both the Television Critics Association and Critics Choice. A deep love of film and television has kept her happily in the entertainment industry for 7 years.