Halloween Scene: Nightmare Beach a.k.a. Welcome To Spring Break (1989)

You know how sometimes you hear about a movie the combines to fairly different genres and it turns into a “two great tastes” kind of thing? I was hoping for that when I read my pal Ricky Purdin’s post about Welcome To Spring Break (a.k.a. Nightmare Beach, a far better title) on his blog VHS Notebook. As even the least informed UnitedMonkee reader will by now have noticed, I’m a big fan of horror movie as well as 80s teen comedies. See, the flick is a slasher-type horror flick set in spring break that was actually made in the 80s. That sounds like a pretty perfect cocktail.

And it sort of is and sort of isn’t. Yes, it’s a perfect amalgam of those kinds of films, but it also carries over the low quality that was common in both genres towards the end of the 80s. These kinds of movies had made a ton of money and were being churned out like crazy for the waning drive-in market and the increasingly popular home video one. It does have three very recognizable faces to horror fans, though with John Saxon of A Nightmare On Elm Street (as well as Enter The Dragon), Michael Parks who went on to star in Kill Bill and Red State and character actor Lance LeGault who was also in Stripes.

I should probably explain the plot. A college quarterback who blew a huge game finds himself on spring break with his pal. As it happens, this particular spring break town is the home of a biker gang known as the Demons whose leader El Diablo gets killed in the beginning. People start getting killed by a helmeted biker whose motorcycle electrocutes people (I know I’ve seen another movie about a killer motorcycle but can not place it for the life of me). Some people think it’s El Diablo returned from the dead, others think it’s one of the gang members and there’s even some signs pointing towards one of the cops. The quarterback gets involved when his pal gets murdered and he teams up with the cute bartender whose sister was killed by El Diablo previously.

The movie has some alright kills, though nothing mind-blowing. I did think it was kind of cool how weird the mode of murder was. This could have just as easily been your basic slasher flick with a guy running around spring break and offing naughty teenagers, but going with the somewhat odd choice of a vehicle doing a good portion of the killing was kind of interesting. I didn’t even see the killer coming, partly because I wasn’t paying full attention and partly because you never really know who’s going to turn out to be important in these things and who’s just there because they’re the producer’s niece or whatever.  Actually, I’m winning myself over the more I write this post. It felt a little long when I watched it, but thinking back, I’m kind of digging the weird experience. I think this movie would have been a lot better if I was watching it with some pals and beers.

80s Space Odyssey: Battle Beyond The Stars (1980)

I’ve realized in the past few years that I can add “well intentioned Star Wars-esque space opera with practical effects” to the list of sub-genres that I can really get behind. Buck Rogers, Black Hole, Barbarella, Star Crash and a few other Roger Corman movies I’ve seen have all really impressed me. And, in truth, when it comes to Corman’s most expensive-to-date film Battle Beyond The Stars, it’s way more of a Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven lift than a Star Wars one, though they do seem set on making Richard Thomas of Waltons fame look as much like Luke Skywalker as possible. Our hero Shad is worried about the fate of his home planet, so he goes out into the galaxy to bring back a sextet of people including Robert Vaughn, George Peppard (Hannibal from A-Team) and Sybil Danning to square off against none other than John Saxon who played the cop in Nightmare on Elm Street as well as one of the white dudes in Enter the Dragon.

It should also be noted that, while the plot borrows from Akira Kurosawa, it also pays homage by naming Shad’s home planet Akir where the people are known as the Akira. There’s also some fun had with the people he gathers. One’s a bodacious Wonder Woman-esque warrior, a lizard like alien, a cowboy from Earth, a group of mind-melded three-eyed aliens, Robert Vaughn as well Robert Vaughn and more. Shad also has a sassy talking spaceship that’s pretty fun.

All in all, I thought that Battle Beyond The Stars was a nice effort. Even the spaceships look pretty great, though the main one looks like a combination of Hammerhead from Star Wars and the female reproductive system. So, if you’re looking for a practically done, somewhat campy, but still enthusiastic sci-fi flick from the early 80s, you can do a lot worse than checking out Battle. Plus, it’s on NetBox, so you don’t have to wait for a rental!

Halloween Scene: A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) & 4: Dream Master (1988)

As I mentioned in my review of the first two Nightmare movies, the concept has all kinds of potential that never really quite got reached, but Dream Warriors comes the closest. Widely regarded as the best of the bunch, I’ve got to agree so far. The idea in this sequel is that a bunch of kids in an asylum have to face off against Freddy with the help of Nancy from the first movie who is now a dream expert grad student and a helpful shrink.

Freddy starts to get a little snarky in this one, but for the most part, he’s still a pretty scary dude who has some fantastic abilities. For the first time, the kids actually seem to have some power by using their dreams to fight Freddy (like one kid dreams of being super strong, so he is against Freddy), though they are still mostly out of their league, so it leads to a good amount of tension. The story’s solid and the acting pretty good (including future stars Patricia Arquette and Laurence Fishburne), plus we get to meet Freddy’s nun mom and hear a little about how he came to be, but the real draw in this film is the special effects.

Man, they’re cool. From the kid who gets turned into a meat puppet to the Freddy puppet to the syringe fingers, this one gets really close to if not flat out surpassing the effects in the first one. Really, though, it doesn’t matter if they’re better or worse, the Dream Warriors kills are so well thought out and so interesting, that it easily makes this the best of the bunch, though the Freddy skeleton thing doesn’t look so good.

I’d say, even if you’ve got no interested in Freddy or the Nightmare franchise as a whole, that you should still check out Dream Warriors. It’s that good.

Dream Master, on the other hand, was fairly unmemorable, which so far makes all the even numbered Freddy flicks nonstarters for me. Mind you, I was doing work while both movies were on, yet I remember much more about Warriors than Master, possibly because the story isn’t as well put together or interesting. It kind of picks up where Warriors left off with a few of those characters getting pulled into someone’s dreams. I don’t remember a ton, but there is the scene where the tough chick’s arm’s fall off to reveal huge bug arms and the kid karate fighting with an invisible Freddy and his visible glove knives. Oh and the person-in-the-waterbed gag which was a nice surprise because your mind automatically goes to exploding blood fountain from the first flick.

I really have to call “my bad” on this being a generally crappy review. After loving Warriors, this one left me flat and I can barely remember why thanks to me tap tap tapping away on the keyboard, though still in the same room. Oh, I also remember the crazy opening sequence back in the junkyward with all the cars and whatnot. That was fun.

I need to give this one another watch, though probably not anytime soon because, well, I just watched it and I’ve still got Dream Child, Freddy’s Dead and New Nightmare to get through.

Halloween Scene: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) & 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

This might sound strange coming from a horror fan, but I’ve only seen the Freddy movies I’ve seen once, which makes it my least-watched franchise. Halloween’s probably the highest with Texas Chainsaw, Friday the 13th and Final Destination definitely ranking higher than it on my repeated viewing lists. When I turned 16 and could rent movies from Family Vidoe, I immediately started going through all the franchises I could, but never went back to Nightmare for whatever reason. That doesn’t mean I never wanted to go back though, so I asked for the two 4 Film Favorite packs that include all the Nightmare movies including Freddy Vs. Jason which I have seen plenty of times and already owned. On Friday, I had myself a little double feature and watched the first two Freddy films.

I think the original Nightmare still holds up pretty well. I can’t say it ever actually scared me, but I can imagine someone first getting into horror movies could still appreciate the classic scenes like the glove-in-the-tub, room-spin and geyser-of-blood deaths. Plus, in this first entry there’s a lot going for the franchise. The concept is incredibly cool: a killer who can only get you in your dreams. Hell, the entire idea of building a movie and then a series of movies around the craziness of dreams sounds fascinating, especially after seeing some really cool dream sequences, like the ones in The Sopranos. And, of course, Freddy himself is very creepy and potentially terrifying.

The problem is that the series doesn’t really hold up to all of those potentials from what I can remember. Perhaps the remake will pick up on some of these and run with them in new and interesting directions, but all the trailers are showing me is that they will be doing all of the exact same gags, but this time with computers.

If memory serves, a lot of fans don’t go in for the first sequel which came out a year after the original. This time, instead of the kids only contending with Freddy in their dreams, they’ve got to worry about Freddy actually taking over a dude’s body and killing them that way. It’s an interesting concept that gets ignored for the rest of the series from what I recall, but it seems like a logical next step for the narrative.

The film also has some pretty good effects itself, like when Freddy bursts out of the dude’s chest and brushes him off like Jay-Z does dirt off his shoulder. I will say that the film isn’t particularly memorable. I was working on some freelance while I had it on and I remember the main kid having to contend with a weirdly strict father who demands he empties the boxes in their room (they recently moved into the house on Elm Street from the original) and then dating a blond girl who becomes the final girl for lack of a better word. The main guy makes friends with a guy who seems mostly like an enemy who doesn’t go to the big party at the end of the movie. Oh, and the parents of the girl throwing the party go inside the house to have sex. As soon as they do the kids are like “Let’s really party!” and start blasting the music. Guys, they just went inside, it’s not like they hopped a flight to Crystal Lake.

Anyway, the film ends in the party scene where Freddy is free to run around and go after plenty of teenagers, but doesn’t really do anything but stumble around. Maybe he was enjoying a pool party of his own before crossing into the real world? Like I said, I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember enjoying the movie, or at least not being put off by it.

Actually, here’s something I’ve never thought of: what does Freddy do between terrorizing children? If he’s got all this power, he’s probably got a pretty rad set up in dream world. Ooh, I wonder if Morpheus from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman created him. Okay, I’m getting off track. I dug these two movies enough. I’m glad I’ve got them around along with my Friday the 13th box set and collection of Halloweens 1-5, but still prefer those other franchises so far. One thing I do remember liking about the series, aside from the next installment, is that I appreciated how they continued to build on Freddy’s origin, even if it got crazier and crazier as it went on. I don’t necessarily need an origin story for this psychopath, but I like that they tried to build on the character after a fashion. Oh, plus the covers to these movies are CRAZY.