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!]

 

Saturday Night Fever

With its iconic suit and lapels that look like if they flapped hard enough they’d send a wearer skyward Saturday Night Fever comes with a lot of fashion baggage, that’s for sure.

However, what most people who haven’t seen it would not be aware of, this disco flick is more like Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting with corny ethnic strife gang violence and casual racism — there’s a helluva lot of carnage, fist-fighting, death.

Needless to say, this is a move that’s on the surface, a Bee Gees four-on-the-four platform booted dance-fest, and yet it’s dragged in all different directions and doesn’t really know what it wants to be.

At its centre, John Travolta as Tony Monera (and a brief appearance by Fran Drescher as his teen sister), a bridge-and-tunnel hardware store lunkhead. The reason for his existence is taming the dancefloor at 2001 Odyssey, a nondescript warehouse that looks more like a downmarket Hells Angels clubhouse.

He connects romantically with a college student, a more schooled dancer. Him and his moron buddies clown around atop the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge, and he realizes that despite having no ambition, smarts, or focus, he’s no longer the black sheep of the Monera clan as his brother’s left the priesthood.

A mystifying breakout hit that grossed 68X its budget, and even Pauline Kael gushed, “Nirvana is the dance; when the music stops, you return to being ordinary.”

However, the themes, at their core, resonate perhaps now more than ever: aspirational stardom (regardless of how relatively insignificant) to escape the hum-drum, pre-social media peacocking/preening, and misplaced youthful priorities/exuberance/drug taking.

*** (out of 5)