M.L. Miller here and welcome to my tenth anniversary Best in Horror Countdown! Every day in this glorious month of October I’ll be counting down the best in horror, culminating with the best horror film since last Halloween! With theaters closed for the bulk of this shitty, shitty year, much of the countdown comes from alternative sources like streaming services, digital download, and On Demand. Plus, we saw the return of the drive-in theater, which is awesome! This list compiles the best horror films released beginning on October 1, 2019 and ending on September 30, 2020. No elitism here—only films released to the public on this list which rules out haughty festival flicks that only esteemed reviewers get to see. If it played on a public screen this year, it’s fair game to be on the list. Here we go!
Released on July 9, 2020. Streaming exclusively on SHUDDER!
THE BEACH HOUSE (2019)
Directed by Jeffrey A. Brown
Written by Jeffrey A. Brown
Starring Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, Jake Weber, Maryann Nagel, Michael Brumfield, Matt Maisto, Steven Corkin, Dan Zakarija, Veronica Fellman
THE BEACH HOUSE is another rental by the water flick that seemed to be a trend this year. A couple (Emily played by Liana Liberato, and Randall played by Noah Le Gros) go to a sleepy beach town in the off season to find another couple in the house. This couple are friends of Randall’s father—Mitch (played by DAY OF THE DEAD’s Jake Weber) and Jane (played by Maryann Nagel). After some awkward moments as neither couple knows each other and they are separated by quite a few years, they soon break bread together and Randall even shares his pot-infused chocolates with them. This leads to a festive night as the two couples from two generations party and bond. It’s at this point that you don’t know exactly when or how the horror show will drop, and THE BEACH HOUSE plays things very close to the vest for a long time while we get to know this cast. But you can’t stop the tides and though Emily has aspirations of studying underwater organisms, no one really understands the horrors that have crept from the ocean, first as a mist, then as some kind of biochemical agent which pollutes, contorts, and controls the entire beach town—changing the few occupants there into some kind of infectious creatures. Oblivious to the threat as it drifts in like fog from the ocean, the quartet struggle to survive long enough to get to some kind of shelter, but fear they are already infected by this unknown menace.
THE BEACH HOUSE is Lovecraftian horror at its best. While Emily spouts some kind of gobbity gook about marine biology and undiscovered alien environments underwater, there really is no explanation as to what the hell is going on. It’s just some king of creeping terror in the fog. But like COLOR OUT OF SPACE, whatever it is that is released, is changing the environment and the people on a horrifying level. This leads to some grueling scenes of body horror and places our cast into an alien landscape where the familiar has changed completely. There really are no rules as to what is going on, which gives the film an ungrounded and uncomfortable feel. If you’re a fan of the indescribable terrors that often pop up in Lovecraft lore, you’re going to dig this one.
The metaphorical threat is two-fold as this seems like the last vacation for both couples to take together—Emily and Randall just seem to be going on different paths with her having aspirations for higher education and Randall quitting school and leading a more aimless lifestyle consisting of drugs and living in his father’s beach home full time. Mitch and Jane are at another impasse as Jane is sick with what seems to be cancer and her health is fading fast. When the monster fog rolls in, it represents a literal wedge between the couples as well as a wedge between the individuals, as the younger couple seem to fight the changes while the older couple embrace it. One issue I had with THE BEACH HOUSE was that the acting and script feels forced. The actors are fine, but I think the lines they are made to speak needed another pass to feel more natural. Liana Liberato is a trooper though as she really is put through the ringer in the lead role of Emily.
The vague ending is going to be a deal breaker for some for THE BEACH HOUSE. It offers no real answers and instead provides a rather nihilistic comment on both relationships between lovers and generations. I do admire the amazing practical effects—from the goop in the trees to the thing in the cellar. It’s all creepy as all get out. THE BEACH HOUSE is most successful in presenting a deep unknown, be it the future of the couples or the threat in the mist, and pushing that fall into the abyss to the max.
THE 2019-2020 COUNTDOWN!
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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