Nightmare Beach (1984)


I saw this one doing the rounds on the “so bad, they’re good” social media conversations recently, but to risk a fight with the people yelling “cult classic!” one too many times I can safely put this slasher on the “so bad it’s actually just a disappointing viewing experience” pile instead. And I use disappointing with great care because had the filmmakers put any care into it there was the chance of a decent film.

“Tell my agent they’re fired!”

To give the film its due, the opening two minutes and forty-three seconds are really good, using nothing but ambient sound and real tensions to show the execution of Diablo, the local head hoodlum. Unbeknownst to us, we also get introduced to the major players in the rest of the film, but then some shitty pop-rock kicks in, and we’re exposed to Spring Break shenanigans that feel uninspired and cliché even by 80s standards. This is then the main tempo of the movie; brief moments of quality slasher horror and enough swimsuit-clad bodies (mostly female, obviously) getting up to mild misbehavior to hit the magic 90 minutes mark.

It takes real talent to beat the excitement out of a film that looks like this.

There is the central threat of Diablo having risen from the grave to enact his revenge on the living, mostly by giving them a lift on his custom murder bike that electrocutes them to death. He then loses focus, either because he’s bored or the writer forgot the core premise, and just starts ganking victims (mostly female, obviously) in a variety of methods and for no discernible reason. Individually the kills are impressive bits of visual despicability, but are short, infrequent, and when the mystery behind it all is revealed so many of them stop making sense.

This is also a nice shot

The rest of the film is the aforementioned Spring Break lack of parental oversight and a bunch of actors that I’ve seen do much, much better work in other films, steadily collecting their paycheque. There is a core plot, but it has far too many stupid moments and doesn’t make up for the lack of real direction. It’s like someone glued a sex-comedy to a crime-drama and had just enough contempt for the audience to think they wouldn’t notice. Occasionally it made me chuckle and feel some interest in the ongoing existence of the core cast, but that might just have been desperation.

Lots of this kind of thing

Ending as it started, the last ten minutes of the film are moderately good; which manages to make the intervening seventy-seven minutes even more annoying. Although the twist does raise several questions, and it’s not quite clear how 20 bikers managed to take out the whole police force of Miami, at least the writer did something interesting and the cast had a go at acting. Why they didn’t do it before then is anyone’s guess. Similarly, the audio and visuals rock back-and-forth between Italian Giallo chic and the transfixing urge to knock off early.

The resulting chase is slower than the one in The Ali G Movie

That tangible lack of effort is also a major hurdle to considering this worth of cult status, as it didn’t have the trying-but-failing element I feel is needed for that accolade. There is no “the little movie that almost could” factor, this is clearly something that could have been done better but just couldn’t be arsed to. It’s a lazy and cynical film, with all possible joy beaten with a stick of middling indifference.

If you want to watch the kills (they are honestly well done) then go and find the super-cut. If you want to watch the drama then Baywatch Nights does it better and with as much coward’s porn, and if you want to listen to the music then you’ve just fallen out of a timewarp. This is Trash, and I’d advise keeping it buried. Some films are just bad in an uninteresting way, and this is absolutely one of them.

The Ragggedyman

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