Nightmare Beach (1989)

Who is the deranged maniac that’s killing off all the spring breakers in south Florida? And by “all the spring breakers” I mean one hitchhiker, one biker babe, one call girl, one peeping tom, one all-conference wide receiver, and one spring breaker.

Is it the corrupt and perpetually pissed off police chief with bondage gear and photos of dead girls in his trailer? Is it the mayor who’s trying to keep a lid on the killings so as not to hurt business? Is it the reverend who constantly nags his ugly daughter to go to church and stop drinking Old Milwaukee?

Or maybe it’s the biker leader who got the electric chair for a crime he didn’t commit. Or perhaps it’s the alcoholic doctor who shoots himself while he’s on the phone with the mayor. Okay, it’s probably not him.

It really isn’t much of a mystery since we know that if evil police chief Strycher (John Saxon at his surliest best) wants someone to die, he’ll just frame them and send them to the electric chair and the mayor probably isn’t killing people and dumping their bodies in front of city hall.

There isn’t a whole lot to the investigation into unraveling the killer’s identity either since he just has his motorcycle helmet ripped off during a fight with the heroine at her daddy’s old abandoned junkyard. But you aren’t coming into this one trying to outwit Sherlock Holmes or Encyclopedia Brown, are you?

Hell no! You’re here for the big bad eighties hair! You’re here for the rocking theme song by pop princess Kirsten! You’re here to see skanky broads get electrocuted! And set on fire! And melt! And fat guys get strangled! And you’re here to see the wet T-shirt contest!

Some of you real weirdos may even be here to see Strycher’s dog get maced! Me? I wasn’t here for any of that tripe.

It was all about Skip Banacheck for me. Skip is a man haunted by his past. What awful secret does he have to shoulder that tears him up so bad that doesn’t even want to go on “beaver patrol” as his best friend so eloquently puts it?

Skip threw the game-losing interception in the Orange Bowl, costing his team the national championship! And just to pile it on poor old Skip, his pal helpfully points out that anyone could throw five interceptions in a game! Yeah, anyone who was really sucky!

When Skip’s pal gets beat up by the local biker gang (the Demons) and then electrocuted by the killer’s souped-up motorcycle, Skip must use all his football acumen to uncover the horrifying truth.

He does this by hiding in a doctor’s car and holding a screwdriver to the guy’s throat until the doctor coughs up the location of Skip’s pal’s corpse. Next stop: the old phosphate mines!

Strycher catches Skip at the mines after Skip has dug up his friend (he’d been dumped there by the doctor to avoid bad publicity for Spring Break) and whacks him in the gut with a shovel handle before ordering him to leave town. He also threatens to pin the murder of his friend on Skip, too!

Where the movie shines is in the depth of the characterization of the Strycher/Skip relationship. Why does Strycher have so much antipathy toward Skip? He lost $50 on the Orange Bowl because of that stinky Skip!

Skip hooks up with a local barmaid (Gail) whose sister was murdered, supposedly by the leader of the Demons, Diablo. Strycher and the mayor though knew that Diablo wasn’t the real killer, but they needed a fall guy since they couldn’t solve her murder. But now Diablo’s body is missing and the killings have begun again.

Skip and Gail’s efforts to catch the killer involve rifling through Strycher’s trailer for evidence that he is the killer. This doesn’t lead anywhere other than to have Strycher trying to kill Skip before Strycher gets shot and dragged off by the biker gang.

By this point in things, the real killer was probably feeling a little left out. Here he is all decked out in leather with a really snazzy black and red motorcycle helmet and Skip, the Demons, and Strycher are all involved in their own little movie!

Luckily, Skip remembers that he needs to catch the killer so he hatches the only sure fire plan there is in such a situation: use the old lady as bait!

And like all really great plans, it all comes to a satisfying conclusion with Skip standing around watching as the killer’s motorcycle hits a big tire and throws the killer into some power lines where he gets electrocuted! Oh the irony!

Director Umberto Lenzi of similarly trashed-out late-80s Josie Bisset slash epic Hitcher In The Dark fame, effortlessly delivers another cheap and scuzzy violent video wet dream!

Nightmare Beach succeeds as standout Lenzi fare because in addition to its killer’s awesome fashion sense he cribbed from the killer in Strip Nude for Your Killer it also features plenty of pointless and offbeat characters such as the guy who steals stuff from everyone, the guy who keeps pretending to be dead (until he actually is dead), and the guy who keeps running around painted orange and blue and yelling “Gators!” at the top of his lungs. He’s particularly offbeat since Spring Beak is going on in Miami Hurricane country and not in Gainesville where the Florida Gators make their home. How did that guy not get killed?

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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