About Really Awful Movies

Horror movie authors and journalists who also review exploitation, action, grindhouse, kung fu, sci fi and other genre films. We are hosts of the Really Awful Movies Podcast, a celebration of low budget cinema - smart genre film chat, predominantly horror movies.

Nightmare Beach

With a motorcycle madman who retrofits his ride with an electrified trident to zap unlucky spring breakers, Nightmare Beach is indeed quite a nightmare — even if few of the kills take place amidst the sun and sand for budgetary reasons.

College students are going missing in fictional Manatee Beach, a city that’s also dealing with the scourge of the Demons biker gang, who wear patches identical to the yellow font used in the Lamberto Bava film of the same name.

The gang terrorizes the local hang-out, Nick’s bar, but this is in no way a call out to It’s a Wonderful Life. What is wonderful though, is this movie, a giallo / slasher pastiche that squeezes out silliness like sunscreen.

There’s a wet blanket college football star, Skip, who distinguished himself in the Rose Bowl by flinging interceptions like a blindfolded Baker Mayfield (or hell, a sighted one). Despite the surfeit of 80s beach babes, cheap booze and pelvic thrusting, Skip simply can’t get into the Spring Break spirit. His buddy Ronny does, chasing skirts like there’s no tomorrow, and eventually falling prey to the masked motorbike killer, who also garrotes his vics when his ride is double-parked.

Unfortunately for Manatee Beach, the only thing standing in the way of both the bikers and the antagonist, is the glowering toupeed presence of law enforcement, John Saxon in a role not dissimilar from his part in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Suffice it to say, it’s up to the non-star quarterback to see what’s up and find out how to stop the worst thing to happen to the state of Florida since Ted Bendy (or maybe Ariana Grande).

There’s so much to like here. There’s the set piece nuttiness of Umberto Lenzi efforts like Nightmare City, a cochlea-pricking soundtrack of knock-off Sunset Strip metal, and naturally, a bevy of babes.

***1/2 (out of 5)

[check out the Really Awful Movies Podcast discussion of Nightmare Beach!]

 

Hereditary

The only horror movie subgenre routinely lauded by critics is the supernatural one, which puts the writers of this site at a distinct disadvantage: we don’t care for it.

Supernatural horrors (like Hereditary, to a certain extent) are punch-pullers, which downshift gory elements to get teen bums in seats and bypass R-ratings.

With a dearth of deaths, and absent the uber-violence of other genres, supernatural thrillers are like a guitar missing its E-strings: they are limited in the extent with which they can compose a full melody, and create broader frights.

Hereditary, (much like ghostly genre standout The Changeling), to its credit depicts a jarring death to kick things into gear and to haunt the living.

Annie, an early-round exit from the Mother of the Year tournament, lets her 13-year-old daughter, Charlie go to a house party with her older, stoner old son, Peter. Charlie gets a food allergy and a wigged out Peter guns it in his parents’ car, hoping to get his sister to a hospital as anaphylactic shock sets in, and kills her in the process.

Charlie is posthumously haunting the home’s inhabitants, with Annie second guessing her judgement (and with good reason: any parent with a lick of sense would notice Peter’s bloodshot Eeyore visage).

From there, guilt wracks the mother-son dynamic, with a helpless psychiatrist patriarch, Stephen, helplessly looking on (played by Gabriel Byrne) as Annie’s mother passes away too and her grave is desecrated.

This is bitter, unflinching, dynamite stuff, which doesn’t even need an actual haunting when the characters are so metaphorically haunted by Charlie’s passing.

Unfortunately, Hereditary’s pacing suffers, and debut director Ari Aster doesn’t put his foot on the gas after the near-vehicular manslaughter leaving a noticeable sag in the middle (this is a 127-minute run-time)

Annie (Toni Collette) is a miniature artist, and this is used to maximum effect in Hereditary very quirky and arresting opener. However, with each successive pass this becomes more and more precious and affected as she buries herself in her craft to escape.

Still, the good outweighs the bad, and the ending’s super fun too.

***1/4 (out of 5)