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Soapy, twisty thriller Seaside lacks punch

Soapy, twisty thriller Seaside lacks punch

Seaside, now out on Digital and VOD, is one of those deliciously bad romantic thrillers that yields pleasure only if viewers just surrender to every outrageous twist. Written and directed by Sam Zalutsky, the film unfolds mostly in a coastal Oregon town. But it could just as easily have taken place in a theater. The small cast and few locations would be well suited to a stage, and the three main actors—Tony nominee Ariana DeBose (Summer: The Donna Summer Musical), Matt Shingledecker (who currently stars in the road company of Les Miserables), and Steffanie Leigh (War Paint)—are best known for their stage work. 

Daphne (DeBose), is a 24-year-old caring for her broke and broken mother, Angela (Sharon Washington), and seeing Roger (Shingledecker) on the sly. He’s the scion of a wealthy man who used to employ Angela. When Roger’s father dies, he is bequeathed the family’s seaside house, but no money. The millions Roger expected are put in a trust for his heir. This news is a blow to the aimless and privileged young man. 

When he and Daphne head out to the inherited coastal home, the impetuous Roger proposes, and Daphne, who loves him, accepts. But their happiness is short-lived when the couple encounter Roger’s ex, Susanna (Steffanie Leigh). He last saw her when he dropped her at an abortion clinic. Daphne didn’t know about Susanna, which makes her feel betrayed. It is awkward for all three characters, actually, but it does provide some fun for viewers as a revenge plot takes shape.

Alas, Seaside doesn’t have fun with the possibility that Susanna didn’t change her mind and keep the child—and therefore claim Roger’s fortune—but to his credit, Zalutsky has another, equally juicy plot twist (or two, or six) in mind. The soap operatic dramatics keep this silly thriller engaging even if it is completely ludicrous. When Angela warns Daphne why she should stay away from Roger, the reason is a real howler. 

Equally unbelievable are other aspects of the film (that shouldn’t be revealed). But one of the biggest issues is that as the handsome Shingledecker’s plays Roger, one can’t help but read him as gay. Whenever Roger opens his mouth, a purse drops out—although it is a Prada. The fact that he got Susanna pregnant and makes love to Daphne, is more amusing than credible. Moreover, the actor emotes to the hilt. That kind of acting is fine on stage, but he needs to dial it down for the screen and not express every line and emotion for the back row. 

DeBose does better in her more complex role, acting sullen when she learns about Roger’s past, and during her fun, tense exchanges with Zorn (Jana Lee Hambli), Roger’s tough attorney. The actress also manages to handle all the whiplash twists with noticeable aplomb.

In support, Leigh is fine in a part that should have been fleshed out a little more. 

And speaking of flesh, Seaside could have been naughtier—an erotic thriller in the Skinemax mold. Save a brief shot of Shingledecker’s cute nude caboose, there is little passion to get the heart racing here. Most of the action comes from the plot spinning out of control. 

Zalutsky shows he can be clever, but his B-movie is only so-so. 

Seaside is now available to digitally rent or purchase.

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