Nightmare Beach (Umberto Lenzi, 1989)

posted in: Duane, Review | 2
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A year after a big bad biker named Diablo is executed for the murder of a young woman, a nutjob on a motorcycle starts killing coeds during spring break in Daytona. Could it truly be Diablo back from the grave or is something more sinister afoot?

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Ok I’m going to come right out and say it – this movie is completely absurd, but god damn if it isn’t a lot of fun. The story plays out thusly: Diablo, the leader of the nasty biker gang “The Demons” is put to death (in what has to be the shortest electrocution in human history). Unsurprisingly, his last words are an oath of revenge. Enter: Spring Break – Daytona 1989. Inebriated/retarded college kids litter the beachside like flies on road kill. Amongst the mirth and merriment there’s some creep cruising around on the lamest looking motorcycle contraption ever devised (replete with improvised electric chair for the back seat – yes, seriously), murdering people left and right. When Diablo’s grave is discovered empty, rumors amongst the city’s administration suggest that perhaps Diablo is behind the killings. Meanwhile, two college lunkheads that just arrived to take in the festivities run afoul of The Demons and when the dumber of the two ends up missing, the all-American football champ hooks up with the local hot-barmaid-with-a-troubled-past to get to the bottom of the murders.

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I was actually quite taken aback to discover that it was Umberto Lenzi (Cannibal Ferox, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids) who directed this considering how downright American and affable it appears. There has been much deliberation over the years as to whether Harry Kirkpatrick (rumored to have co-directed the film after Lenzi had a falling out with the producer) was just a pseudonym or if he in fact is a real person. Lenzi has purportedly stated in interviews that Kirkpatrick does exist and that he even convinced Lenzi to stay on the production in an uncredited advisory capacity. Facts on both sides of this argument seem dubious at best, so for the purpose of this review I’m assuming that it’s Lenzi’s hand alone guiding the helm of this doomed ship. There’s no debating that the man had a hand in writing this mess, at least.

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As ridiculous as the premise is, the killings are actually very entertaining albeit pretty hokey with the special effects (admittedly seeing all the fake heads getting electrocuted and set aflame does lend an air of nastiness to the whole proceedings). I was initially concerned when I learned that the gimmick here was going to be electrocution considering that’s likely to get old pretty fast – fortunately there’s plenty of variety with the carnage that Lenzi unleashes upon the viewer. The lack of believability of most of the deaths adds to the entertainment factor here, and the awful canned heavy metal music that plays whenever a kill is about to happen doesn’t hurt either. This is pretty much a celebration of shitty 80s slasher clichés – and that’s not a bad thing.

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Nightmare Beach emulates the sophomoric teen comedies that were so prevalent in the 80s especially the drunken shenanigans and blatant stereotypes: the jocks, the slutty minister’s daughter, the insufferable prankster, the stoner… you get the picture. On top of that there’s the biker gang aspect which often feels like an amped up exploitation/action film complete with campy speed metal soundtrack, and of course there’s the horror element thrown in for good measure. Normally such a ridiculous mishmash would end up as a frustrating mess but Lenzi manages to pull it off quite well in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way.

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The film is padded with a liberal dose of stock footage featuring spring break idiocy i.e. bikini sluts, wet t-shirt contests, and drunken assclowns caterwauling and being annoying attention whores. John Saxon (The Glove, A Nightmare on Elm Street) hams it up as Strycher, the local corrupt police heavy who can stare down even the toughest biker into submission. Also notable is Michael Parks (Caged Fury, Django Unchained) as the perpetually liquored up local doctor tasked with keeping the murders quiet so as not to scare away the tourists (sound familiar?).

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Fans of terrible movies will revel in the atrocious dialogue (which is at times so appalling you won’t believe your ears) as well as the constipated performances by everyone save Saxon and Parks. The motorcycle thugs look ridiculous, as if the filmmakers just took some spring break surplus idiots and threw leather jackets on them as they leer menacingly comically at the camera. The entire production reeks of ineptitude and was pieced together by someone who clearly has no clue how human beings interact with one another.

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If you’re looking for something of quality from Lenzi this certainly isn’t it – seek out some of his older work. However if you’re a fan of bad movies and are looking for a good laugh then you can’t go wrong with Nightmare Beach. The film is infinitely entertaining in all the wrong ways.

Official COSDS Nunspank Rating: 

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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

2 Responses

  1. Where did you grab those screenshots from? They’re rather clear looking at least compared to the DVD I own under the title Welcome to Spring Break from Lionsgste

    • Oddly enough they’re sourced from a VHS rip. Sounds like Lionsgate really dropped the ball there. 😉

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