Directed By: Umberto Lenzi
Were the 80s the worst decade for film? Arguably so. Personally I don’t think the rot set in until about 85 or so and then lasted until some time in the early 90s. By that logic, 1989 is the nadir of cinema. Certainly when movies like Nightmare Beach are involved, you come to believe it.
It didn’t have to be like this. In fact it starts off awesomely enough when Diablo, the leader of a motorcycle gang, is led to the electric chair. Upon seeing the gallery of people waiting for him to be executed he says, “I didn’t kill your sister bitch!”. It’s certainly a convincing argument, but one that ultimately fails to get through and Diablo, sadly, gets the hot seat.
Sometime later we meet Skip and Ronnie. Both are in town for Spring Break. Skip is something of a wet blanket, so of course he’s our protagonist, whereas Ronnie’s only concern is boning down. He’s the one who proclaims them the beaver patrol, something that would surely neuter his chance for sex if anyone else happened to hear him say it.
Along the way they meet Gail, who’s sister Diablo didn’t kill. Amusing sidenote to me and possibly no one else: Gail is played by Sarah Buxton, who played the super-bitch Annie in my personal favourite soap, Sunset Beach.
Anyway soon enough we’re introduced to a hitchhiker who is offered a ride by a mysterious man on a motorcycle. She climbs on the back and when he goes to fast she tries to get off. However, the rider flicks a switch and she gets electrocuted, frying to death just like Diablo did.
Could it be Diablo back from the dead? He promised people he would be. And his body went missing before it could be buried. It’s a proposition one character floats all too quickly, as though it’s the only logical explanation.
Nightmare Beach is awesome for about all of 20 minutes as its hokey charms give way to something a lot more conventional and boring. We get these disparate threads that take way too long to come together. So we get Skip and Ronnie and their beaver patrol, we have the practical joker whose pranks we have to endure every 10 minutes, we get a hooker staying at the same hotel as Skip and Ronnie, we get a thief whose modus operandi is just stealing purses on the beach, we have John Saxton as a seedy sheriff who’s covering something up and we get Diablo’s old motorcycle gang. Every now and then the killer shows up to get someone and that’s about it. What’s worse is that it feels like there’s a good stretch of about 45 minutes where there are no kills, and instead we watch as Skip tries to find out what happens to Ronnie (Spoiler: Ronnie gets got).
It’s somehow appropriate that this was directed by Italian Umberto Lenzi (Working under the name Harry Kirkpatrick) since there’s something so distinctly European about the movie. It feels like the low budget ripoff of something that didn’t actually exist, and lord knows there’s room for a better version of Nightmare Beach out there.
By the end the only reason to keep watching is to see the killer be revealed, and when they are it’s a bit of a let down because the character only has the vaguest of motives (Also, nitpicking, his first victim doesn’t make a whole lot of sense). The only bright side (Apart from Ronnie, gone too soon) is that the death scenes are pretty fun. It’s basically that face melting from the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark but like 5 times over. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’ll take what I can get.