The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
Two hipsters, alone during the apocalypse. What’s the worst that could happen?
Oh, wait, you can’t Google survival skills during the apocalypse, can you? Whoops.
Save Yourselves! prides itself on being a quirky indie comedy with an apocalyptic turn. The bigger jokes hit, but the smaller stream of jokes don’t do much more than keep the lighthearted quirky tone going. On the flip side, the stronger dramatic moments stumble from the lack of setup but the more muted dramatic narrative works for the most part, keeping the scenes and story beats stitched together. The direction as a whole is pretty cut and dry, but it helps make the film easy to follow along.
Su and Jack, a young couple from Brooklyn, head to a remote cabin to disconnect from the web and reconnect with each other. Happily bonding, they remain unaware that the world is being invaded by poufy aliens and are left to fend for themselves.
At its core, this film is a romantic comedy with an apocalypse as the backdrop. However, there aren’t any strange going-ons until halfway through the film. There is an argument to be made that the protagonists beginning to notice the aliens serves as a good midpoint, there is also the argument that the dramatic narrative between the protagonists needs to be potent enough to fill in the first forty-five minutes. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough weight on the protagonists’ relationship to feel the stakes or goals outside of wanting to take a break from their phones to be less distracted, so the plot really meanders until it gets to that midpoint.
Then, when we finally get there, the second half of Act 2 is fairly fun and gives us what the premise promises. Once we hit the climax and enter into Act 3, however, the film begins to meander again. This isn’t so much as a plot problem as it is a character problem.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Outside of the simplistic yet endearing cinematography and serviceable editing, it’s the chemistry between Sunita Mani (Su) and John Reynolds (Jack) that keeps the film going despite the shortcomings of the script. The dialogue is believable, the blocking of actors feels organic, and the mannerisms of the characters feel… Well, in character.
Where the problems lie is the lack of narrative drama: What do the characters want? What do the characters need? All that fun stuff us critics like to talk about. Throughout the film, there doesn’t seem to be a strong promise of character arcs because the only problem the characters have is being addicted to their phones. There’s nothing complicating the relationship, no personal flaws, nor is one of them scared to propose to the other. They are a happy boyfriend-girlfriend couple that learns, in the end, what they already knew. (That sounds more poignant than it actually is.)
The apocalypse backdrop is used to help emphasize this point for both the audience and the characters, but it’s a payoff with no build-up. The characters’ wants don’t go outside of wanting to disconnect and then wanting to survive (and then a decision to not be terrible people, which I can’t dig into for spoiler reasons). The emotional core is there, it’s just very flimsy and strains to keep the plot afloat.
Two Hipsters, Alone During The Apocalypse. What’s The Worst That Could Happen?
Save Yourselves! (2020) | VOD
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
The filmmakers make creative use of their lower budget with having the aliens as little pouff balls, incorporating some cheap effects for laughs and showing what those aliens are capable of (It’s more than you think). I would definitely like to know the budget of this film. It seems relatively small and definitely looks like they collaborated with a VFX supervisor beforehand to make sure all the effects blended in seamlessly, especially for that ending.
In short, the craft of filmmaking and the visuals are the strongest aspects of the film.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
You know that meme that floated around a few weeks ago and the jokes about TENET of poor sound mixing and sound design? Well, Save Yourselves! is a victim of this too. This is one of the few films I’ve watched where I actively had to keep turning my volume up and down because the quiet dialogue was too quiet and the loud dialogue was extremely loud. In terms of score, it’s your typical indie comedy score. Nothing stands out, but it also doesn’t negatively call attention to itself. Thankfully, it’s not as wild in volume as the dialogue.
Save Yourselves! reminds me a bit of Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn, where the film starts off as one thing then switches to something completely different at the midpoint. But here’s the thing: From Dusk Till Dawn gave no hints to its twist, treated the first and second half as completely different films, but still had a strong emotional core to carry it through to the denouement. It breaks all the promises it sets up, but makes up for them with something better.
With Save Yourselves!, the alien invasion is teased throughout to give us a sense of dramatic irony (where the audience knows more than the protagonists). We know what’s coming from the marketing material alone, but what appears in the trailer is really the best parts of the film with barely serviceable connecting tissues. The haphazard juggling of characters and plot bog down the potential of the film, but, at the very least, the tone is consistent and the performances and overall direction will keep you entertained during the slower parts.