The Beach House

2019
Cosmic Horror
Director: Jeffrey A. Brown
Starring: Liana Liberato and Noah Le Gros

This movie wasn’t on my radar until an email from Shudder that described it as a Lovecraftian horror film. Instantly intrigued, I booted it up and pressed play.

The Beach House is definitely in the sphere of cosmic horror.

Fear of the unknown and the future is at its core. The central plot is a young couple, Emily and Randall arriving at a beach house. Randall has just dropped out of college and is trying to persuade Emily to do the same despite her aspirations to get a degree in organic chemistry.

They’re soon joined by Mitch and Jane Miller. Jane is terminally ill and Mitch brought her up here so they could enjoy one last trip together.

The movie starts off slow but once Mitch and Jane are introduced the dread starts to ramp up nicely. The movie is beautifully shot and there’s a creepy, ever present ambiance in every scene. The gore is minimal but the creature design is perfectly in line with Cosmic Horror. Sticky, wet, shambling messes that are instantly threatening despite how slow they move.

The Beach House is a nice slow burn of a movie. If you’re a fan of Cosmic horror it’s worth checking out.

Recommended

Trailer:

Silent Hill — Guest post by Sairento Hiru

Originally published November 15, 2016 on horror-writers.com

(This post contains massive spoilers for Silent Hill.)

Flashback, 1999: I was working as an assistant manager at Blockbuster, diligently prepping new games for rental, when bright red lettering caught my eye on one of the cases.  “SILENT HILL” was written above a gray and white picture of a man staring to the left with a concerned look on his face while a little girl walked away.  I flipped the game over and read the back cover:

“Harry Mason and his daughter Cheryl are driving to their favorite vacation spot.  Late that night, a figure suddenly appears from out of the darkness.  Harry turns the wheel in panic, and the car careens off the road, knocking Harry unconscious.  Awakening sometime later, he realizes that Cheryl is missing.  Stumbling out of the wreckage, he heads towards the small town of Silent Hill.”

Well, color me intrigued!

I…well, this is embarrassing to admit, but the statute of limitations has long since passed and Blockbuster Video has gone the way of the Betamax, so I’ll just confess.  We weren’t allowed to check out new items for free on our employee accounts, and I was pretty sure I wanted to take my time with it, so I, uh, marked it as used and sold it to myself for $20.  (I wouldn’t ordinarily do something like that, but I had recently worked a 16-hour shift because the closing manager never showed up and then I had to open the store the next morning on all of 5 hours’ sleep, so let’s just say I was feeling a little bitter, and getting a brand-new game for half price did quite a bit to salve that emotional wound.)

Fortunately, I had the next day off work, so when I got home that evening, I took my prize down to the basement.  At the time, I was living with my dad, and I had turned a section of the basement into my own little corner of paradise: TV, VCR, huge stack of constantly replenished anime fansubs, Playstation, and a beanbag chair.  There was a bathroom about 10 feet away, a futon for 15 minute power naps to recharge my batteries during particularly long play sessions, and a mini-fridge stocked with Coke and bottled water.  Aside from being (COUGH) years old, still living with my father, and working at Blockbuster, I was living the dream!

I started up the game and flopped into the beanbag chair.  The words “The fear of blood tends to create fear for the flesh” popped up on the screen, and even though I had no clue (and still don’t) what that meant, it sent a delicious little shiver up my spine.  I thought I knew what to expect because I had logged so many hours playing Resident Evil, but I had no idea what was waiting for me.  If Resident Evil’s fun house scares are Friday the 13th, Silent Hill is more akin to Jacob’s Ladder.

The opening cinema, set to absolutely haunting music by composer Akira Yamaoka, is made up of several scenes, most of which don’t make any sense until after the game is completed:  a couple finding a baby in a graveyard, a nurse crawling on the ground, an old woman chewing gum in a church, a female cop wearing a uniform straight out of a stripper’s supply catalog.  Then the car crash referenced on the back cover occurred, the title screen popped up, and my heart swelled up in anticipation.

When the game begins, our protagonist Harry Mason has just woken up in his crashed car, but the passenger side door is open and his young daughter Cheryl is missing.  Harry gets out of the car and sees Cheryl standing there, but when he goes after her, she runs away.  Eventually he winds up in an alley, where he finds a mutilated corpse chained up to a fence.  A group of skinless, knife-wielding children attacks Harry, and…he dies.

Yes, you read that right.  He dies.

Of course, my initial reaction was that I had done something wrong.  Had I taken a wrong turn somewhere?  No, that couldn’t be it; up until that point, the game had basically held my hand and shown me exactly where to go.  Did I miss a weapon?

Oops, no, it was a dream or a hallucination.  Harry wakes up with a gasp in a diner with Stripper Cop staring at him.  She introduces herself as Cybil Bennett, and she’s from the next town over.  She acknowledges that some weird shit is going down in Silent Hill, and she’s determined to get to the bottom of it.  She tells Harry to stay in the diner while she gets backup, but he wants to look for Cheryl, so Cybil gives him a gun (because, you know, it’s standard operating procedure for cops to give a weapon to a civilian) and tells him to be careful before she heads out.

To detail the plot of the entire game would be lengthy, so I’ll be skipping to the highlights from here on, starting with Harry’s trip to Midwich Elementary.  This school was named after John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos, which was the basis for the movie The Village of the Damned, and guess what’s stalking around the school?  Why, it’s the skinless knife-wielding children from the beginning of the game.  I’ve played dozens of horror games in the 17 years since Silent Hill’s release, and I can honestly tell you that Midwich Elementary remains the most terrifying area in any of them.  The children grab at Harry and moan while stabbing him, and there are also creatures called “larval stalkers” that are translucent.  They do not harm you, but the first time you see one, you will empty your clip into it out of sheer panic and it will squeak and disappear.  (Fun fact: the skinless children were deemed too controversial to be included in Silent Hill’s Japanese and European versions, and were replaced by monsters with a much less childlike appearance.)

After searching the school and solving classic survival horror puzzles (figure out a riddle, play a piano, get medallions and put them into a pillar), Harry finds himself in the alternate version of the school.  This is, of course, Silent Hill’s trademark: an area suddenly becomes rusty, bloodstained, and even more dangerous.  The demon babies are out in full force, cockroaches have joined the party, Harry opens a locker to find a cat (who escapes into the hall and is killed, thankfully off screen, by a monster), and Harry gets a phone call from Cheryl, who understandably sounds terrified, but the call is cut off.  Harry eventually faces his first boss, an enormous lizard.  After defeating the lizard, Harry blacks out and wakes up in the school, which is back to normal…well, at least there are no creatures roaming around.  Harry hears church bells in the distance, so he decides to make his way there, and this is where we first meet Dahlia Gillespie, the gum chomping old woman from the opening cinema.  She spouts off a bunch of mumbo jumbo, and Harry is frustrated, but she seems to know a lot about Cheryl, so he indulges her.  She tells him about an object called the Flauros, which will stop the supernatural events happening in Silent Hill, and tells him to go to the hospital.  With no other leads to go on, Harry takes the Flauros and heads out.

When Harry gets to Alchemilla Hospital, he meets a man named Dr. Michael Kaufmann.  (Another fun fact: he’s named after cult movie producers Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufmann of Troma Studios.  Toxie would certainly be busy cleaning up in Silent Hill!)  Dr. Kaufmann is holding a gun but doesn’t seem interested in using it on Harry, or for that matter, interested in Harry’s predicament, so he takes off.

After doing some exploring, Harry gets into the elevator and goes to the second floor, but he can’t exit.  The same thing happens with the third floor, but then a button for the fourth floor mysteriously appears, and that’s where Harry is able to get off.  If you’re familiar with Japanese culture, you know that hospitals typically don’t have a fourth floor because the word for four, shi, sounds like the word for death.  It’s another big red flag for our hero, but Harry has no choice, and he steps off the elevator to find the alternate version of the hospital, populated with scalpel-wielding doctors and nurses with strange wriggling humps on their backs.  He makes his way down to the sub-basement and finds a room with a framed picture of a girl with the name Alessa written underneath.  When he leaves the room, he meets a nurse named Lisa Garland, who has no idea what’s going on and says she hasn’t seen Cheryl.  Harry blacks out and wakes up with the hospital back to normal.  Dahlia Gillespie decides to pop in for a visit, and she explains that the strange mark Harry has been seeing everywhere is the Mark of Samael.  She thoughtfully leaves a key for Harry and he heads back out onto the streets of Silent Hill.

Oh look, it’s our friend the stripper cop!  How does Cybil fight crime in those pants, I wonder?  Anyway, Cybil tells Harry that she tried to get out of town but wasn’t able to leave.  She mentions that she saw a young girl walking through town, but the girl disappeared before Cybil could reach her.  Harry winds up back in the hospital with Nurse Lisa, who finally comes through with some important information.  She tells Harry that Dahlia Gillespie’s daughter died in a fire, and ever since then, Dahlia has not been all there.  Lisa thinks Dahlia might be involved in a cult that’s trying to invoke a god, and Harry blacks out.

When Harry comes to again, he’s in an antique shop, and Silent Hill has gone evil again…well, MORE evil.  He leaves the antique shop and eventually enters a mall, where he finds a hunting rifle.  Of course, anyone familiar with video games knows this means a Big Bad is on its way, and this time around, it’s basically a Dune sandworm that spews toxic gas at Harry and knocks him over.  Once the creature is defeated, Harry backtracks to the hospital, where Lisa is waiting for him.  He wants to get to the lake, but Bachman Road is blocked off.  Lisa tells him that he can get there by going through the sewers, but she doesn’t want to be alone and she doesn’t want to come with him, either.  Harry shrugs off her concerns and takes off.

Another boss fight!  This time around it’s Mothra.  I don’t know if this enormous moth is the mother of the sandworm that Harry killed in the mall, but either way, she ain’t happy.  A few shots from the boomstick and a WHOLE lot of dodging, and Harry defeats the beast and goes to the sewers.

Oh my god, the EFFING SEWERS.  They are very confusing and filled with reptilian critters.  At one point, something crashes down and I just about leaped out of my skin.  I was glad to get out of there, but not too thrilled to wind up on a houseboat talking to Cybil and getting interrupted by Dahlia, who’s rambling about the darkness and that the only way to stop it is to use the Flauros, the pyramid-shaped object that she gave to Harry earlier.  Cybil heads to the amusement park, and Harry takes a scenic detour to the lighthouse and then heads to the amusement park via the sewers.  God, not the effing sewers again!  They’re just as confusing as before, and now they’re infested with monsters that look like Gloomy Bear, only not as amusing as that sounds.

You’d think that emerging from a monster-filled (and no doubt odoriferous) sewer into an amusement park would be a welcome reprieve; you’d be wrong, because Harry finds Cybil at the merry-go-round, and she’s been possessed by a demon.  Harry has to fight her, and the first time I played, I wound up killing her, which certainly didn’t sit right with me.  It turned out that earlier in the hospital, when you see a puddle of dark liquid on the floor, you’re supposed to scoop some up and then toss it on Cybil during this scene, which saves her.  Yeah, I don’t know why they didn’t make that more obvious either.

Assuming Harry saves Cybil, she asks him if he knows why Silent Hill wants his daughter.  He tells her that Cheryl isn’t actually his biological daughter; he and his late wife found her on the side of the road near Silent Hill and kept her in flagrant violation of about a thousand different laws.   Harry thinks Cheryl must have some deep connection to Silent Hill.  Alessa, the young woman who stepped in front of Harry’s car and causes the accident, appears, and Harry demands that she return Cheryl to him.  Alessa ain’t having it, and she telekinetically pushes him away.  But hark!  A wild Flauros appears!  It rises from his hand and causes Alessa to fall to the ground.  Dahlia, who seems to have some sort of magical teleporting abilities, shows up and tells Alessa that it’s time to go home.  They disappear, and Harry blacks out yet again.

When Harry wakes up, he’s in an area called Nowhere, and even though it’s relatively safe, it’s one of the creepiest areas in the game, made up of rooms from all of the different areas he’s already visited.  One room has rusty metal grating on the floor and the sound of breaking glass; another has an empty birdcage in the middle and the sound of an unseen bird frantically fluttering around.  Harry eventually runs into Lisa again, and she’s had a horrifying revelation: she is “the same as them”, a monster created by Silent Hill.  She begins bleeding profusely, and Harry backs away from her in horror and runs out of the room, barricading the door with his body as Lisa cries.  It’s one of the saddest scenes in the series (and trust me, there is some serious competition), and I generally liked Harry as a protagonist but I thought that was a real dick move on his part to let Lisa die alone and in pain.  When the noises finally stop, he goes back inside and there’s no sign of her, aside from a diary she left on the ground.  It turns out that Lisa was Alessa’s nurse, and she begged to be relieved of her duties caring for Alessa because she was frightened of the fact that Alessa was so badly injured but couldn’t die.  Lisa was addicted to a drug called PTV (a nod to noise band Psychic TV, perhaps?), and withdrawal was causing hallucinations of insects and a faucet running with blood and pus, so she was forced to stay at the hospital in order to gain access to PTV.

As Harry continues through Nowhere, he sees a flashback of people huddled over Alessa’s hospital bed.  It turns out that Alessa was ritually sacrificed by the cult in order to bring forth a god.  The trauma of being burned alive caused Alessa’s soul to split into two, part of which was reincarnated into a baby…the same baby Harry and his wife found on the side of the road, Cheryl.  Cheryl has been irresistibly drawn back to Silent Hill in hopes of completing the ritual once and for all.

And now it’s time to face the final boss: Alessa.  There are four endings, not including the joke ending, depending on whether certain conditions were met throughout the game.  As it turns out, Dr. Kaufmann was in cahoots with the cult all along, and he wants the deity resurrected once and for all.  He throws aglaophotis, the magical liquid that can also be used to save Cybil, at Alessa, which forces the demon Samael out of her body.  Once Samael has been defeated, Alessa reappears, manifests a new baby (a combination of both herself and Cheryl), and gives it to Harry.  Lisa emerges to drag Dr. Kaufmann to the hell he so richly deserves, and Harry and Cybil escape with the baby and, hopefully, to a happier life.

When the ending credits began to roll, I flopped back against my beanbag, exhausted in the best possible ways.  I knew I had just played something that would stick with me for a long time.  I have a shirt with the iconic “The fear of blood…” quote on the front, as well as one that says “Harry & James & Heather & Henry & Alex”.  When I decided to get a tattoo, I strongly considered getting one based on Silent Hill.  My Twitter name is an homage to the series.  And I even have a framed picture of Alessa in my bedroom, the same one you find at the side of her hospital bed.  I know it must sound strange to have a picture of Silent Hill’s antagonist in my home, but in some ways I consider Alessa a patron saint of the abused and bullied, because she took the pain inflicted upon her and grew to be far more powerful than her oppressors.

Is Silent Hill my favorite game of the series?  Not by a long shot; that would be Silent Hill 2, which is also my favorite video game of all time.  Its graphics were nothing to write home about even when it was first released, and it looks downright primitive now.  But its masterful soundtrack, alternately horrifying and heartbreaking story, and visceral chills remain unblemished by the march of time.  It got under my skin the first time I played, and it has never left.

Sairentohiru is an OG horror fan who still has fond memories of perusing the over sized VHS boxes in the horror section of her hometown video store. She’s a big fan of all aspects of the horror genre, but especially video games. She evens out the macabre aspects of her personality with an intense love of cats and candy. You can find her on Twitter here 

Starfish

Note: This was originally published on March 6, 2019 on horror-writers.com

Cosmic Horror
Directed by: A.T. White
Starring: Virginia Gardner
Synopsis: Gardner stars as Aubrey, a young woman suffering from the death of a close friend. When a mysterious signal from an unknown dimension summons the end of days, its appears as if only Aubrey is left on earth. Trapped in the apartment of her recently deceased best friend, the only clue she has is a single cassette left behind after her friends death, labeled: “THIS MIXTAPE WILL SAVE THE WORLD.”

A.T White has written, directed and scored a haunting, beautiful and what appears to be deeply personal film about the stages of grief and how to deal with loss. If you mixed Silent Hill 3, Lovecraft and art house cinema together this is what you’d get.

Virginia Gardner gives an astounding performance as Aubrey, a young woman struggling to come to terms with the death of her friend. For the entire run time of the movie, we watch her navigate the many different manifestations of grief. The loss of desire, the need to fix everything, the feeling disjointed and the belief that some grand quest or action can fix everything going on inside of us. Her performance is equally heart breaking and wholly believable.

There are a lot of bold directing choices made, but each one is done with near perfection. There’s a scene where the film transitions from live-action to animated and it is done so naturally you’d be forgiven for wondering if the entire film was a cartoon and questioning whether or not what came before it was a fever dream of imagery and music.

The original score coupled with some excellent choices (Sea of Teeth by Sparklehorse has long been one of my favourite songs so seeing it used here made me smile) effectively add to the narrative without overpowering the main story. It’s a difficult balance to achieve but once again it’s pulled off really well in Starfish.

Starfish is a beautiful film, probably the most beautiful horror film I’ve ever seen. It’s touring begins March 13th before hitting VOD in May and if you have a chance to see it, I can’t recommend enough that you do.

Highly recommended.

Re:Born

Re:Born (Directed by Yuji Shimomura. Starring: Tak Sakaguchi)

I was really hoping to go into an in-depth review of this movie, but the same thing just kept popping into my head: Do you want to see more kills than John Wick 2 in a shorter amount of time? If the answer is “Yes,” then you need to watch this. If the answer is “No,” then you might want to reflect on yourself a little bit.

This is much more action than horror, but it’s on Shudder so it should be readily available to anyone reading this review. It’s a good time. Check it.

4/5 pools of blood.

All The Creatures Were Stirring – 2018

Anthologies seem to be on the rage lately, but I am not complaining! Let’s have a look at 2018’s Christmas themed anthology, All The Creatures Were Stirring. As with any anthology there is a framing device in place here, and a rather clever one at that. Jenn and Max are two people alone on Christmas eve and decide to get together to go see a play. At this point you may be wondering if you accidentally selected a Hallmark Christmas movie, but hang in there. Once in the theatre, the play begins it’s first story.

The Stockings Were Hung

This story starts off with a rather mundane gift exchange at an office. However, things start to get effed real fast, and boy was it a treat! What we have here is a sadistic killer who has sabotaged the gift exchange. Some gifts will help, some will hurt; think saw-esque here. Once the fun begins it is quite fast paced, and ends quickly, which I liked. Although not super original, it was well executed and my favourite of the segments. 4 / 5 We then cut back to the actors in the play finishing the scene, as it will from here on out. This framing device is simple yet effective.

Dash Away All

This segment is certainly more original than the first, and gives off some Lovecraftian vibes. We got a man who has locked himself out of his car after some last minute Christmas shopping, and there is no one else around save for a creepy van in the parking lot with two women inside. I can’t say much else because the unraveling of the story is the key here, but it does get weird in an unexpected way. There’s even some good practical effects in this one! My only gripe was it took a little long to get there, but at under 20min, is that saying much?

3.5 / 5

All Through The House

I feel like this is where we start to fall off a bit. This segment is disjointed, and definitely maniacal. Jonathan Kite (2 Broke Girls) is great, and certain scenes are well shot with creepy lighting, and cinematography that is unsettling. Just straight up weird with not much of a resolution. On the bright side it does contain my favourite quote of the movie, “Take that you rosy-cheeked son of a bitch.” Worth it.

2.5 / 5

Arose Such a Clatter

I turned into a bitter old man on this one, and I had some petty complaints throughout. This time we get a discount Russell Crowe driving at night before smoking a huge deer wearing a collar. Yup, that big ‘ol boy was Blitzen, and he is pissed. The vengeful stalker ends up tracking down buddy at his home and well, you can imagine the rest. There was some cool stuff about this one such as the premise, and how they shot the POV scenes, but the pros wear out pretty quick. So off to the complaint department. We’re dealing with a huge reindeer here. The fact that the car had limited damage was bothersome enough, but the fact that HE HAS ANTLERS MOUNTED IN HIS HOUSE BUT DIDN’T TAKE OR CALL A BUDDY TO TAKE THE DEER HE JUST SMOKED was REDICULOUS. Ok, I’m fine. This one’s pretty boring overall, but fair waring. The cut back to the theater is hilarious.

2 / 5

In a Twinkling

Ending on a higher note, this segment has some serious Twilight Zone vibes. I felt like it was setting up for a werewolf story, but quickly turned around and we ended up getting probed. Nice. Some of the characters I wish I could have reached in and punched them in the face, but a minor gripe to a cool story. Throughout this segment we get twist after twist while getting weirder and weirder, yet somehow it works. Being so Twilight Zone-y I was expecting some sort of morbid or twist ending, but instead it’s quite wholesome..also nice.

3 / 5

After this we are brought back to the framing device for a little extra creep factor before sending us off to the credits. Overall I really enjoyed this anthology, it was fun without trying too hard. I really commend the production team for effectively using the tools they had at their disposal, and not reaching too hard beyond their budget. It’s Christmas, sit down with some popcorn, don’t set the bar too high, and you’ll have some fun.

Overall Score: 3 / 5 Broke Girls