(MINOR OUT OF CONTEXT SPOILERS)
Out of the myriad of subgenres within horror, one stands coveted…very few have done it right, while many have done it wrong. That subgenre is cosmic horror. Films like The Void (2016), In the Mouth of Madness (1994), and Event Horizon (1997) are some of the films that succeed within the genre. What does it all mean though? While it is one of the lesser subgenres filmed, cosmic horror is either hit or miss. The Godfather of cosmic horror is most notably HP Lovecraft who mainly described cosmic horror as “weird,” which is [unfortunately] how most filmmakers interpret it--which is unfortunate. Cosmic horror is MORE than just weird, it’s…cosmic! To try and define such a complex genre in one word is insanely difficult (though Lovecraft more than deserves the right to do so). For this review we will look at cosmic horror through a specific definition:
Before getting into the concepts, it’s important to remember art is a mixture of style and substance--and stylistically (also substance wise) this film excels on many levels. The performances of all involved were fantastic, my personal favorite performance was Randall (Noah Le Gos). His character arc turns him from a troubled narcissistic asshole to a sympathetic man who has no choice but to accept their circumstances and it’s heartbreaking to watch. Though the standout performance is the Slug Man in the basement.
A tricky thing with cosmic horror is creating an atmosphere before anything really happens, and for a debut feature film Jeffrey Brown really did that. A good portion of the film takes place in one [beach] house, and the beach next to it; I have never seen so much open water and space and felt as claustrophobic as I did watching it. This covers the first point, slightly, from the definition above “exploring the insignificance of human existence compared to the vast universe.” Our lead character Emily states early-ish on, when having an uncomfortable dinner with her boyfriend’s family friends, she wants to go on to grad school to study Astrobiology which she defines as “[it] has more to do with life on this planet, how organisms can adapt to extreme environments that we could not even survive.” This is the perfect explanation of the movie--we are the astrobiologists, we are the ones studying how these organisms adapt to this environment (unfortunately we don’t get to see how Emily adapts to her new environment).
Next is the creature…and this film puts the creature in creature feature (this is just a cute joke, this film is more than a creature feature, don’t hate me Jeff). There are a few creatures in this modern day cult classic, but we don’t wanna spoil everything now, do we? One of the most impressive parts is the filmmaker sticking to practical effects as much as possible. The beach scene (including the footworms), and the Slug Man are two beautifully horrific scenes of pure terror. These creatures, the “destructive god-like figures that exist outside of the realm of full human comprehension” aren’t the stereotypical Lovecraftian tentacles, but in fact they’re fresh. They’re new. It completely subverts what we think a cosmic horror film can be.
The Beach House is just an all around impressive film. There isn’t a need to read hundreds of articles on it trying to decide if you should watch it or not. If you are a genre fan, you will most likely be a [The] Beach House fan. And if you like cosmic horror and fresh content, you will like this film. Go watch it. Now! It’s on Shudder! Stop reading and watch! You’re still reading? Why aren’t you watching?
Oh yeah, and I give it 5 Slug Men out of 5.
I write horror sometimes.