The Beach House, a Shudder original, is an engaging crossbreed of cosmic and body horror. Just when you think you have it figured out, it reminds you that you don’t and throws you for a loop. We have Jeffrey A. Brown, a location manager turned director, to thank for that. I was lucky enough to speak to Jeffrey, and we discussed what inspired him, why he loves horror and not musicals, and of course, horror movies.
PopHorror: Hi Jeffrey! So The Beach House is so good.
Jeffrey A. Brown: Thank you!
PopHorror: You wrote and directed it. What inspired the story?
Jeffrey A. Brown: I’ve worked in production for about 20 years. I came from doing really low budget movies, not just horror films. They don’t make a ton of horror in New York. I mean, there’s Larry Fessenden [Depraved 2019 – read the PopHorror review here]. He makes a lot of horror movies here, but I’ve never worked on any of his. But it was how to make a low budget movie.
I kind of did it in reverse where I had the idea of four characters in one house, and I had been to a beach house—I think on the Jersey shore—with a friend of mine many many years ago. And we said that these beach houses are super cool, and I’d love to see a movie set primarily in a beach house. They’re nice and big, and whenever you shoot a movie, the more space you have the better, because you can always make something look smaller, but you can’t make a small space look big. A beach house having that aspect was going to be good.
And also the fact when you have a beach house, if the character talks about it being frozen in time, you don’t really remodel it, so in some of these cases, you have the look of a place that’s 20 or 30 years old. And that was another thing dealing with the scenes in the script about the concept of time and change. Having a location that kind of resists change and nature was something that I think helped thematically. And they just looked cool. How can we set a movie in an isolated environment that’s naturally a bit eerie? Off-season vacation homes are very eerie because nobody’s there.
So that was something when you’re on a low budget, you kind of have to take the hand that’s dealt as opposed to creating something from scratch, so knowing that this movie was going to be low budget from the get-go, that was another thing that we thought would help elevate it and the story would benefit from that setting.
PopHorror: I appreciate the beach house setting because you mentioned it being isolated… usually in movies like that, you see in a cabin or some place out in the woods. I liked that this was a different setting and had a completely different feel to it.
Jeffrey A. Brown: Sam Raimi kind of cornered the cabin in the woods. Can’t really top that one.
PopHorror: What draws you to the horror genre?
Jeffrey A. Brown: I love horror. I grew up with it. I think I blame my father. He liked horror more than my mother. That’s something my mom grew into. But growing up, there would be Saturday nights when my dad, my brother and I would watch movies, and I was always famous because I got scared by the opening credits of Alien when I was like three or four. Why would my father be showing me Alien at that age? I don’t know. But that was a Brown family legend. I blame him for it, and it’s really the baseline for my appreciation for movies.
That’s where my interest started for horror films, and as I grew up. I kind of assumed that everybody liked horror movies. It wasn’t until I was an adult that people were like, “No, I hate horror movies!” Really? How is that possible? Do you like movies? It’s just like… horror movies are awesome! I don’t quite get it, you know? And there’s all sorts of horror movies. Horror fans are very passionate. They either love it or they hate it, so you’re kind of dipping into deep waters, but I love all sorts of horror films. It was a very important thing. And it was also a movie I hadn’t seen before. I wanted to make a horror film that would surprise me and surprise people. So it’s just kind of how we wound up.
PopHorror: I love stories of people discovering horror at young ages. And it still blows my mind that people don’t like horror. I don’t understand it.
Jeffrey A. Brown: Yeah! I mean, I get it, because there’s definitely types of movies that I’m not partial to. Like I’m not a big musical person. I do appreciate a musical here and there, like Singin’ in the Rain is an amazing movie; The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is great. But generally, I’m not going to put one on, you know? And I’m sure someone could say, “How can you not like musicals? They’re so pretty and so joyous.” That’s the same thing with horror. Those two genres are kind of fantasy from the get-go. There’s a sense of fantasy in both of them. I guess I’m the dark side of the yin-yang.
PopHorror: Oh, absolutely! And I know that Covid has stalled a lot of projects and a lot of things have been cancelled, but what’s up for you next?
Jeffrey A. Brown: I’ve been writing a lot during Covid. And you’re right. I live in New York City, and I’m in the production world. It’s been my job for the last 20 years. Production halted completely here, and it’s definitely back up and running now, but I’m noticing that most of what is going are TV shows. Episodic television is shooting, whereas movies have really, really stalled unless they had started filming before Covid, and then they had to finish them. Those are going. But movies have stalled. So, I’ve been writing a lot. I always would write.
When we were cutting The Beach House, I had three or four scripts, and I was just kind of taking what I learned from making The Beach House and applying them to the scripts, because I think the biggest thing was about the relationship between the script and the shoot and the edit. If you haven’t been through the process, it’s kind of hard to know what’s important in the script and what’s important in the shoot, because it all plays into the edit. There are some aspects of the movie that were on the cutting room floor, and it was one of those lessons where the editor was like, “If you don’t draw attention to it, no one is going to ask that question.” Whereas when you’re writing it, you’re like, “Well, the audience is going to wonder, ‘What about this thing?'”
It’s a learning process through that, so I applied that to some scripts I had already written. I optioned a novel, so I’m still working on the adaptation of that. Just a lot of writing and trying to get the next one off the ground. Hopefully, you’ll see another one from me in the next year.
PopHorror: That’s exciting! Just one last question for you, Jeffrey. What is your favorite scary movie?
Jeffrey A. Brown: Aw, man. There’s like movies that you love, and then there’s the great movies. I love Alien. I guess that would be way up there. That’s a genius movie. I think The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is genius. The Exorcist is great. I could go on. The Lost Boys was a big one when I was a kid. I loved that movie, but I have trouble saying that it’s a horror movie on the level of Alien and The Exorcist. I love Videodrome. I think that’s a genius movie, and I’ve seen that too many times. That’s one of my favorite films.
Thank you so much, Jeffrey, for taking the time to speak with us. Be sure to check out The Beach House, currently playing on Shudder and is now also available on VOD, Digital HD, BD and DVD.