Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Prime Time: Nightmare Beach (1989)

Nightmare Beach starts with an execution, the execution of a biker named Diablo. He claims to have been set up, and also vows revenge. Skipping forward a year, it's Spring Break time in Miami. Two friends (Nicolas de Toth and Rawley Valverde) join in with the drinking and partying, but soon find their fun being spoiled by a number of inconvenient deaths. Yes, a mysterious biker is picking off a number of revellers, often killing them with a fatal dose of electicity. It's eventually up to Skip (De Toth) and a young woman named Gail (Sarah Buxton) to uncover the identity of the biker, and try to put an end to his killing spree.

Released in 1989, nightmare Beach feels every bit like a film made much earlier in that decade. It has a bit more of a sheen to it, perhaps, but the pacing and characterisations already feel quite archaic (especially most of the moments involving Valverde, the kind of guy who enjoys telling a woman that smiling more would make her much prettier). Perhaps that didn't seem so obvious back when it was released, and there are a number of films from the end of the decade, and even the start of the '90s, that feel almost designed as quintessential slices of '80s cheese. It makes the film impossible to take seriously now, however, but also helps to make it a hugely entertaining experience.

Directed by Umberto Lenzi, who wasn't really happy with the film he ended up making and so credited himself under the name of writer Harry Kirkpatrick, this is a real bag of mixed treats. People looking for a quality classic horror can skip it just now and look for something else, but those of us in the mood for entertaining trash? This is a perfect pick.

De Toth, Valverde, and Buxton are a mixed trio of central performers. None are really memorable, but they're fine. Genre fans will have more fun with the "old guard" onscreen here. You have a small role for Michael Parks, and fun turns from Lance LeGault, as a reverend, and John Saxon, playing a tough cop who may or may not have something to hide. Luis Valderrama is a biker spoiling for a fight, and Yamilet Hidalgo makes quite an impression as his fiery girlfriend.

Despite the attempted mystery element, it's hard to care about the identity of the biker. What matters here are the death scenes, all of them surprisingly impressive and somehow managing to feel different from one another while often managing to use the same method of murder. The pacing is perfect, with deaths interspersed by moments of humour and gratuitous sequences like a wet t-shirt competition (hey, it's Spring Break), and there are enough enjoyable random diversions (e.g. the plot strand with the thief that plays out and then just... ends) that will soon lead you to realise that this is not a film concerned with a cohesive narrative that makes complete sense.

It's a fun time by the beach, that's all. Watch it when you're in the mood for sand, sex, and senseless murders committed by a vengeful biker.


Pick up the bluray here.
Americans can get a disc here.

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