Lovecraft’s Shadow Over THE BEACH HOUSE, HEREDITARY Screenplay, And MORE
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The Bite #121
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Lovecraft’s Shadow Over THE BEACH HOUSE, HEREDITARY Screenplay, And MORE

August 04, 2020
Isaac Feldberg

In this Issue:


Lovecraft’s Shadow Over The Beach House

By Isaac Feldberg

Depicting the natural world as a terror-in-waiting, humanity its cowering subjects, writer-director Jeffrey A. Brown’s The Beach House evokes the cosmic madness of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories The Colour Out of Space (1927) and Till A’ the Seas (1935).

The film follows one young couple vacationing on Cape Cod as invaders rise from the deep to transform the surrounding shoreline in a shimmering haze. Once the characters encounter strange shellfish in the tide followed by a billowing fog, they begin to mutate in strange and unsettling ways.

In The Colour Out Of Space, also set in Massachusetts, a meteorite emitting an unearthly hue causes mutations in flora and fauna at a rural farmstead, driving its occupants insane. Lovecraft’s Till A’ The Seas describes Earth’s eventual demise, envisioning the “great eviction of man” as “steady, universal, and inexorable.” calling it “a titan tragedy whose plot was unrevealed to the actors.” Both stories are classic Lovecraft tales of great unknowable forces so dreadfully vast they warp the bodies and minds of any human that bears witness.

The Beach House, capturing a “titan tragedy” of its own, echoes Lovecraft’s stories while reflecting our eco-anxious era, opening as a hydrothermal vent resembling a smokestack belches plumes of microbial life toward the surface. It’s a sign of the times that eldritch horrors emerge from the seas instead of falling from the sky. To Brown and Lovecraft, the natural world is equally sinister and almighty, at once a pliant resource to be pillaged and an ancient god prepared to smite whoever dares disturb its slumber.

“Life is so fragile,” says Emily (Liana Liberato); her field of astrobiology studies hardier deep-sea organisms. “We’re the right combination of elements,” she adds of humanity. “One thing slightly off, and we’d be nothing.” Later, she calls humanity “delicate” and, in that, an exception.

It’s through Emily’s scientific curiosity that we’re clued into what’s off in the ocean. We learn that The Beach House’s invasion is both ecological and drastic, a sudden rebalancing of power from humanity to the natural world.

In Till A’ the Seas, Lovecraft writes that man “has always thought himself the immortal master of natural things,” his survival assured no matter “the shadow of change upon the planet.” It’s tough to imagine a better encapsulation of our arrogant indifference to climate change. When The Beach House’s characters are infected, their eyes glazing white, it’s as if they’ve been so toxified their bodies melt down, polluted past their breaking point.

Eventually, we see something take shape out of one afflicted individual. Death or rebirth, metastasis or metamorphosis; whether The Beach House is showing us humankind’s end or some uncanny evolution is subjective.

That’s because The Beach House’s eco-apocalypse is merely glimpsed through Romero-esque emergency broadcasts, AM radio, and voices on a police scanner. After what we’ve done to the world, there’s no knowing what place it will leave for us amidst all this change. Only Emily, awed by what she’s seen and conscious of her powerlessness to avert it, can grasp the scale of this transmutation. She’s what Lovecraft would call a prophet or a madman. Like his best narrators, she knows just enough to make peace with her fear and her fate: to accept the doom that’s come ashore.

Isaac Feldberg is a freelance film critic, writer, and journalist currently based on the East Coast. He thinks too much about movies but has concluded that Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the best one.


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Shudder SHUTIN Promo - Host - The Bite

It is our professional responsibility to discourage you from performing at-home seances during quarantine. Watch others do it instead! New members can try the platform free for 30 days when they sign up online with promo code: SHUTIN



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