Nightmare Beach – Italy/USA, 1988

Nightmare Beach – aka Welcome to Spring Break – is a 1988 Italian-American slasher horror feature film directed by Umberto Lenzi (Cannibal Ferox; Nightmare CityEyeball) as Harry Kirkpatrick from a screenplay co-written with Vittorio Rambaldi. The movie stars starring Nicolas de Toth, Sarah Buxton, John Saxon, and Michael Parks.

Diablo, leader of a  motorcycle gang known as the Demons, is being executed for the murder of a young woman. Confronting the victim’s sister Gail (Sarah Buxton), he proclaims his innocence and vows to return before being killed via electric chair.

A year later, at the annual Spring Break celebrations in Miami, two football players, Skip (Nicolas de Toth) and Ronny (Rawley Valverde) are amongst the partygoers for the week-long festivities.

While Spring Break is occurring, a mysterious biker appears and begins to kill people. The back of his bike has a lever that when pulled (combined with a button pushed by the biker) causes the victim to undergo a treatment similar to the electric chair…

Nightmare Beach is released on Blu-ray in the UK on October 22 by 88 Films.

Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.co.uk

Review:

Did Umberto Lenzi direct the 1988 film, Nightmare Beach?

That’s a question that Italian horror fans have been debating for a while now. The film’s credited director is Harry Kirkpatrick. Due to the fact that Kirkpatrick has no other known credits, it’s generally agreed that Kirkpatrick was a pseudonym. But was it a pseudonym for Lenzi, screenwriter James Justice, or both of them? In an interview for the book Spaghetti Nightmares, Lenzi said that he was originally hired to direct but, at the last minute, he changed his mind because he felt the film was too similar to his 1972 giallo, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids. Lenzi says that he withdrew from directing but that he remained on set to provide technical assistance to the film’s actual director, “Harry Kirkpatrick,” who Lenzi also says co-wrote the script. That may sound simple enough but sceptics point out that worrying about repeating himself didn’t dissuade Lenzi from following up Eaten Alive! with Cannibal Ferox. (Add to that, would Lenzi really have been concerned about duplicating a film that he made seventeen years previously?)

As for what the film’s about, it’s a strange combination of genres. It starts out with a prisoner named Diablo (Tony Bolano) being sent to Florida’s electric chair. Diablo was the leader of an infamous motorcycle gang. He was convicted of murdering a teenage girl but, as he dies, Diablo yells that he’s been framed and that he was innocent.

However, no need to worry too much about Diablo! No sooner has Diablo been sent to the chair then suddenly, Nightmare Beach turns into a spring break comedy! Teenagers and college students are flooding the beaches of Florida and all they want to do is have a good time. The local fire-and-brimstone preacher (Lance Le Gault) can’t stop the party, no matter how many times he says that everyone’s going to Hell.  The police chief (John Saxon) puts extra patrols on the beach. The local doctor (Michael Parks) prepares to treat a hundred cases of alcohol poisoning.

The beach turns into a huge party!  Bands play. T-shirts get wet. For some reason, one dorky frat boy does the whole pretending to be dead while floating in the pool routine. A young woman tries to stay in a hotel for free without getting caught. Meanwhile, two college football players, Skip (Nicolas de Toth) and Ronny (Rawley Valverde) roll into town. Skip is depressed because he lost the big game but Ronny is determined that his best friend is going to have a good time and get laid! Whenever Skip gets depressed, Ronny pelts him with condoms. It’s Spring Break! Everyone’s going to have a good time…

Except, suddenly, a mysterious figure on a motorcycle rolls into town. He never speaks. He never takes off his helmet. However, he does electrocute everyone that he meets. Sometimes, he uses live wires and sometimes, he just has them sit on the back of his motorcycle, which has been designed to act as an electric chair.  Could it be the ghost of Diablo, seeking vengeance? When Ronny disappears – No! Not comedy relief Ronny – Skip is determined to find out what’s going on. Working with him is Gail (Sara Buxton), the sister of the girl that Diablo was convicted of murdering…

One reason why so many Italian horror aficionados are convinced that Umberto Lenzi must have directed Nightmare Beach is because, with its odd mix of genres and its weird combination of comedy and extreme gore, it just feels like an Umberto Lenzi film. Add to that, around the same time that Nightmare Beach was filmed and released, Lenzi also filmed and released another film about teenagers being murdered during spring break, Hitcher in the Dark.

Because it’s such a strange mix of genres, Nightmare Beach is a much more interesting film than Hitcher in the Dark. The motorcycle-driving killer is somehow both ludicrous and frightening at the same time. Plus, how can you resist a movie with both John Saxon and Michael Parks as ineffectual authority figures?  It just can’t be done.

Lisa Marie Bowman, HORRORPEDIA – An alternate version of this review appears on Through the Shattered Lens

Other reviews:

“While the Porky’s (or, more to the point, Spring Break) shenanigans are a bit at odds with the convoluted killer biker tale, never gelling into a cohesive whole, you could say that the film uniquely cuts back and forth between two totally separate exploitation genres.” Thomas Duke, Cinema Gonzo

“Even though Welcome to Spring Break is nowhere close to earning a place within the palaces of classic slasher cinema it undoubtedly deserves points for its enthusiasm of all things guilty and pleasurable, as well as its surprising capacity for replay value.” Digital Retribution

” …it manages to achieve a great balance of spring break stuff, like boobs and beer-drinking antics, with the wacky murder stuff! Put it this way: have you ever watched a teen sex comedy and about halfway through it thought “Ha ha, I wish somebody would start killing this bunch of goofs!” Well that’s exactly what happens in Welcome to Spring Break!” Ha, ha, It’s Burl!

” …the guessable killer gets a standard slasher movie speech lamenting the immorality of the modern age: “She was a lustful sinner, like these heathen invaders!”. The murders (mostly electrocutions) are largely bloodless, though you do get a couple of delightfully hokey blazing fake heads. Never dull and often hilarious…” Steven West, Horrorscreams Videovault

” …unabashed conflation of boobs and blood, a sex comedy movie that treats its characters like blow-up dolls to be punctured by a madman. If The Burning is a perfect blend of camp comedies and slashers, then this is its trashier, beachy counterpart.” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!

” …there was a clear attempt through the assorted characters to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, they also seem to think that the appearance of effort is enough. Some of the subplot material is pure filler, while other pseudo-characters are pure meat, introduced just so they can be killed immediately afterwards.” Plate O’Shrimp

Cast and characters:

  • Nicolas de Toth … Skip Banachek – The Stuff
  • Sarah Buxton … Gail – Primal Rage
  • Rawley Valverde … Ronny Rivera
  • Lance LeGault … Reverend Bates
  • Michael Parks … Doc Willet – Tusk; We Are What We Are; The Evictors
  • John Saxon… Strycher – War WolvesWes Craven’s New Nightmare; My Mom’s a Werewolf; A Nightmare on Elm Street; Tenebrae; Cannibal Apocalypse; Black Christmas; The Night Caller; et al
  • Ben Stotes … Al
  • Kristy Lachance … Lori
  • Gregg Todd Davis … Ralph
  • Tony Bolano … Diablo
  • Yamilet Hidalgo … Trina
  • Luis Valderrama … Dawg
  • Karen Elder … Mustang Driver

Image credits: Cinema GonzoHouse of Self Indulgence

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Categories: 1980s, cheesy horror, comedy horror, giallo, Horrorpedia review, Italian

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