What should the audience take away from Seaside? This pseudo-sexual thriller is patently too ridiculous to work as a sins-of-the-father parable. It is far too serious to be as gloriously debauched and fun as Wild Things. Plus, the “twists” are very predictable; or are revealed so close to the end that they don’t have time to sink in properly. This leaves the viewer wondering why this story was told at all.
Daphne (Ariana DeBose) moves to the quaint town of Seaside, Oregon with her soon-to-be husband Roger (Matt Shingledecker). The oceanfront property they moved into was the only inheritance Roger’s demanding father left him after passing away. His father was so strict that his and Daphne’s relationship was a secret. But, Daphne also kept it from her mother Angela (Sharon Washington).
“Now, the couple sees shadowy figures outside their house at all hours…”
Angela used to work as Roger’s nanny before his father unceremoniously fired her. Thus, she has a grudge against the whole family and would look down upon the union. Also, angry at the pending nuptials is Susanna (Steffanie Leigh), Roger’s ex. He left her upon learning that she was pregnant. When Daphne hears this story, she is justifiably angry, though Roger swears that Susanna is obsessive and made that up to keep him. Now, the couple sees shadowy figures outside their house at all hours and fear for their lives. But, even in picture-perfect small towns, not everything is as it seems.
Written and directed by Sam Zalutsky Seaside is a mess top to bottom. The screenplay is full of odd moments that lead nowhere. Angela lies to Daphne about an impending loan approval from their bank. Daphne asks about the notice every day when she comes home from work, and her mom tells her that if she did not see it, then it did not arrive. The need for a loan is not well explored, and Angela’s need to lie about it even less so. While this is hardly the most glaring issue present, it is endemic of the shoddy story structure present throughout.
Double crosses and shady dealings are part and parcel of films like these. Too bad that the ones here are not particularly exciting or interesting. The first one to happen is not so much a spoiler, but more of a story redirect. However, it could be considered one, so please be forewarned that the next sentence contains a spoiler. Susanna and Daphne are in cahoots and working to rob Roger of his family’s fortune. But since he did not inherit the money, they must concoct a new scheme.
“…pseudo-sexual thriller is too patently ridiculous…”
However, only a brief amount of time lapses before the two women fear Roger might suspect something. This quick turnaround robs Seaside of any possible tension, so the viewer is just passively sitting there, waiting for something to happen. When the action does start, the film is nearly over. By the time the credits roll, there was no one to relate to, invest in, and no actions that took place in a way that made any sense. Again, this is because the script fails to lean into its lunacy and plays things so grim, it is a tedious affair.
Sadly, Zalutsky’s direction is just as timid and dull as his writing. Every scene in Seaside is lit as flat as possible, so the cinematography does build a sense of dread or nail-biting sequences. The cast is not helpful either. DeBose is stiff and awkward for the entire movie, and she has no chemistry with Shingledecker or Steffanie Leigh. While Washington at least tries to bring a sense of weight to the proceedings, she is let down by not having a fully formed character. Also quite effective in the film is Jana Lee Hamblin as the lawyer in charge of the deceased’s estate. She brings a wry sense of humor to her role that enlivens every scene she is in. Try though Hamblin might, her uphill battle against the screenplay fails, as her character is only a plot device and nothing more.
Why was this story told? What does Seaside hope for its audience to leave the theater thinking about? I don’t know, but I can guarantee anyone watching the movie will not care.
"…“... full of odd moments that lead nowhere.”"