Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Nightmare Beach (1989)

... aka: La spiaggia del terrore (Beach of Terror)
... aka: Pesadilla en la playa (Nightmare on the Beach)
... aka: Welcome to Spring Break

Directed by:
"Harry Kirkpatrick" (James Justice)
"Harry Kirkpatrick" (Umberto Lenzi)

When I was a little kid I'd always watch the Spring Break coverage on MTV and think, “When I get old enough I'm gonna do that!” Then by the time I actually was in college and realized I could get wasted whenever and wherever I wanted and it wasn't any big thing, the whole concept of taking a “break” to do the same exact thing on some crowded beach instantly lost its appeal to me. Instead, I took road trips to Niagara Falls, New York City and some other places I'd always wanted to visit. Sober. That was my break. Still, I do like watching Spring Break movies now for some reason. Maybe I just want to solidify in my mind that I didn't miss out on anything by skipping the traditional Spring Break experience. And this movie is more up my ally than most as its both a Spring Break movie and a horror / slasher flick. I was sure it would consist of a bunch of irritating, drunken, puking, sex-crazed, idiot college kids with their irritating, drunken, puking, sex-crazed idiotic decision-making getting themselves rightfully killed. Ha, fools!

I'm so glad I was never a part of that. Nope. Not me. I was above all that. Well, except for that time I hammered so many drinks before our Halloween block party that I didn't even get to go to the Halloween block party and spent half the night passed out in someone's bathtub. But we'll keep that between us.

Biker Edward “Diablo” Santor (Tony Bolano) is convicted of murder but has proclaimed his innocence right up until he's being strapped into the electric chair. He says he's been framed and looks right at the arresting officer (John Saxon) and shouts “I'll see you in hell, Strycher!” After cussing out the reverend for trying to give him his last rites, Diablo is finally executed. And what better way to follow up such an intense, teeth-gnashing scene than with credits accompanied by a hair rock song with a female vocalist shrieking “Take my body... Take it good... Take it real slow!” Hell, that may be even less appropriate than Sheriff Strycher later describing the execution as being “...like Julia Childs roasting a turkey” and telling Diablo's brother Dawg (Luis Valderrama) and his former “Demons” biker gang that during the electrocution “He stank... just like burning garbage!"

We then meet the rest of our wacky crew of characters, best described by soon-to-be-busy local coroner Michael Parks as “the annual migration of the idiot.” Nice guy Skip Banachek (Nicolas De Toth), a college football player bummed he missed out on the championship, shows up at a hotel with the hard-partying Ronnie Rivera (Rawley Valverde), who leads the one member “beaver patrol” and encourages his glum buddy to “stop being such a wank.” Rachael (Debra Gallagher) has just turned eighteen and rebels by skanking around town, much to the dismay of her self-righteous reverend father (Lance LeGault). Bartender Gail Jackson (Sarah Buxton), whose sister's murder was what sent Diablo to the electric chair, helps Skip out after Ronnie disappears. The best character is Kimberly (Christina Kier), an enterprising hooker who uses the event – and some ever-changing sob stories – to boost her business at the same hotel the main guys are staying at.

A string of murders occur around the beach after Diablo's body disappears from its grave. Is he back from the dead for revenge or is someone else responsible? The killer drives around on a specially equipped motorcycle with an electric chair back seat used to fry unsuspecting victims. Diablo also uses live wires and a furnace to torch people and garrotes a peeping tom. When the charred corpses start piling up, the corrupt mayor (Fred Buch, from Shock Waves) becomes worried Spring Break revenue is going to take a hit and orders the local fuzz and the alky mortician (whom he's blackmailing because he's been “drugging pretty beach boys” for sex!) to keep quiet. Not only that, but he arranges to have the bodies of murder victims secretly buried at a local phosphate mine.

In between the murders, the rest of the college kids don't disappoint with non-stop boozing, a half-dozen anonymous chicks flashing their breasts during a wet t-shirt contest, bloody practical jokes, pickpocketing, scamming, screaming, mooning, dancing horribly to cheesy hair metal, pretending to be sharks and almost getting themselves shot and more. I knew they wouldn't let me down. And as silly and dumb as all this is, it's fast-paced, there's never a dull moment and it's one of Lenzi's better genre films when it comes to sheer entertainment value. Is this a great film? Nope. But I'd personally much rather watch this than one of those slow, formulaic giallo snooze-fests like Seven-Blood Stained Orchids or Knife of Ice that Lenzi did in the 70s.

This was an Italian / American co-production filmed in Fort Lauderdale, Daytona and North Miami Beach, Florida. Many of the cast members also appeared in Primal Rage (1988), another Italian / US co-production filmed in Florida that “Harry Kirkpatrick” was involved with. Claudio Simonetti of Goblin fame did the score for both. This first debuted on VHS here in America on the Avid label and under the title Welcome to Spring Break. It played late night TV (and was a regular feature on USA Up All Night) under the same title.

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