It’s Spring Break, y’all. Woo-hoo! Hordes of fun-loving college kids swarm the Florida beaches, looking to get drunk, get laid and party all night long, baby, dancing to bad Eighties rock music. Notably exempt from the good times is Diablo, a badass biker chief-cum-convicted criminal. His protests of innocence fall on deaf ears as he fries in the electric chair, observed by Gail (Sarah Buxton), sister of his last victim, and hardened police chief Striker (John Saxon). Meanwhile, Skip (Nicholas De Toth), a disgraced college football star, and his obnoxiously horny pal Ronnie (Rawley Valverde) are out on the town when they fall afoul of Diablo’s biker buddies who are out for revenge. Later, Ronnie has a fatal encounter with a madman in black leather and a biker helmet out killing wayward teens with his customised electro-shock death-dealing motorcycle. When Striker proves strangely reluctant to delve deeper, Gail and Skip team up to solve these murders themselves, while the body count ratchets ever higher.
“Welcome to Spring Break, the annual migration of the idiot", quips alcoholic coroner Doc Willet (Michael Parks). As Italian exploitation entered the Nineties, struggling schlockmeisters like Umberto Lenzi went all out to ensure their films were all but indistinguishable from American product. Hence films like Nightmare Beach, ostensibly a giallo though more or less a hybrid of the slasher and spring break-themed teen sex comedy along the lines of, uh, Spring Break (1983). Indeed the film’s alternate American title was Welcome to Spring Break. Despite opening in relatively sober fashion, the film quickly abandons all pretence at seriousness. Cheesy synth pop flares on the soundtrack followed by a montage of sun-soaked shores, buff jocks and beach bunnies whose horny antics make the teenagers in Porky’s (1982) look like the cast of A Room with a View (1985). Lenzi later claimed he only served as an advisor citing Florida-based screenwriter Harry Kirkpatrick as the film’s real auteur. More likely is that American co-producers hindered his input, driving him to adopt a pseudonym.
Slasher fans expect the usual hypocritical moralising whilst revelling in acres of nubile young flesh and sexual shenanigans, but Lenzi plumbs new depths of sanctimoniousness serving up a dollop of Catholic guilt. His ill-disguised contempt for the assorted beach revellers, wet T-shirt contests, unrestrained boozing, spandex clad rockers and happy hookers fleecing old men with sob stories about college tuition fees, practically seeps through the screen. Characters repeatedly denounce the raucous teenagers as “pigs” whose “parents should be whipped” hammering home an irksome conservative bent, though Lenzi’s attitude towards authority figures like Striker and the local mayor is equally muddled and inexplicably turns a bunch of homicidal bikers into upholders of justice.
Maybe it boils down to the sun-kissed bikini frolics or the self-consciously campy tone including characters with in-joke names like Loomis and Bates, but despite a legion of flaws Nightmare Beach proves a strangely agreeable time-waster. Alex Rambaldi’s electrocutions are memorably grisly and compensate for Lenzi’s lacklustre staging of the murders, perpetrated by a psycho-cyclist that bears a passing resemblance to the antagonist in Massimo Dallamano’s vastly superior What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974). Although leading man Nicholas De Toth is more wooden than Pinocchio, Sarah Buxton essays a fetchingly feisty and resourceful as heroine Gail. Led by veterans Saxon and Parks the American cast grapple gamely with Lenzi/Kirkpatrick’s inane dialogue, though a number of supporting players prove distractingly amateurish.
Prolific, workmanlike Italian director and writer who dabbled in most genres throughout his 40 year career. Started work as a film critic before making his directing debut in 1961 with the sea-faring adventure flick Queen of the Seas. The two decades years saw Lenzi churn out westerns, historical dramas, Bond-esquespy yarns and giallo thrillers among others.
It was his 1972 proto-cannibal film Deep River Savages that led to the best known phase of his career, with notorious gore-epics Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive and zombie shlocker Nightmare City quickly becoming favourites amongst fans of spaghetti splatter. Continued to plug away in the horror genre before retiring in 1996.