The light is orange, red, a swarthy foam of pink and fire engine, floating in the twinkling night-time sky -- you know nothing good can ever come of spectral icicle lights riding in with the tide, papa John Carpenter told us so. There is an evening in Jeffrey A. Brown's unsettling new horror film The Beach House, hitting Shudder this Thursday (watch the trailer here), that feels piped straight in from The Fog (with a bit of the recent HP Lovecraft adaptation Color Out of Space dredged about to boot), where the ocean's hallucinogenic bottom-thingies open up, fold their iridescent angel wings over a coastal place, terrible and beautiful and bad, dissolving space and time beneath them. It is, for its moment, both horrible and grand.
But before you get to the big scary stuff there is a first act of relatively awkward character-building chatter to wade through, with none of these folks registering quite as fondly as any of those 1980 Antonio Bay residents once did -- there's no Stevie Wayne in this bunch, that's for certain; hell even a Mrs. Kobritz is hard to come by. That said Emily (Liana Liberato) and her lousy beau Randall (Noah Le Gros), who've come to sit in the sand and talk out their relationship problems, become less irritating as the film churns on; they benefit from the "less talk, more actively barfing up maggots" school of storytelling. It's a small school, but one worth your steeled stomach, I promise.
So when Emily & Randall get to Randall's parent's beach house in the desolate off-season for their alone-time they find that the house comes with a surprise -- two immediately weirdo-seeming older folks who call themselves Mitch (Jake Weber) and Jane (Maryanne Nagel). They are suspicious from the get-go, and The Beach House nicely dangles a dozen intriguing possibilities for where it's going from here -- Mitch & Jane say they're friends of Randall's father but it's all so sketchy even they seem unconvinced as they speak it -- before deciding on, well, not just one. One of the things I like about The Beach House is several possibilites teased for its second half's wild explanations all end up seeming the answer -- in this kind of celebration of insanity who wants solid ground? The film's as slippery as sand, as the surf sucking at your toes.
But back to the plot, I suppose. In an act of bonding our half-fresh foursome do what all new folks commingling must, they break out the booze and in fast succession spills forth the recreational marijuana -- sure we've seen droopy-eyed Jane fisting handfuls of pills just a little earlier, but what could possibly go wrong, right?
Plenty, the answer's plenty, and once things do start going wrong The Beach House goes very right -- its last act had me screaming my fool head off several times, quite to my surprise. I'm not a screamer (contrary to popular belief) but Brown & Co goosed a couple of my more sensitive sensibilities; it's very smart about aiming for the maximum emotional squidge, backing your brain into a corner. I felt things oozing out of me at one point and I have no idea where they came from. I liked that! It's a mystery, a wet spot on the carpet in the morning-after sun -- you should stick your face in deep and sniff, sniff real hard.