Stop me if you've heard this one before: a bunch of sex-crazed, boozehound teenagers, all played by amateurish actors who appear to be in their mid-'30s, decide to spend a weekend in a remote house, where they're offed one by one by some unseen menace. The difference is that There's Nothing Out There has the sort of glib self-awareness that endeared Scream to so many and returned slasher flicks to the mainstream for a few fleeting moments. In There's Nothing Out There, which incidentally predates Scream by five full years, our plucky cast doesn't just realize they're in a situation closely mirroring a horror movie -- it dawns upon them that they're actually in one. Yes, that seemingly impervious fourth wall is broken, echoing Return of the Killer Tomatoes, where the characters also put the knowledge that they're in a movie to their advantage.
The ::gasp!:: shocking revelation that There's Nothing Out There is a bad horror movie inside a bad horror movie comes at the hands of Mike (Craig Peck), a thoroughly effeminate, paranoid individual who takes every possible opportunity to compare any situation he may encounter to one of many different flicks. No one likes Mike, and it's a safe bet that you won't either. He's a grating, irritating character, and that's what makes him so great. Along on the trip to certain doom with Mike are the usual clichéd stereotypes, including the dumb jock, his airhead blonde girlfriend, the uptight kid, the well-endowed bitchy brunette, and the completely useless, undeveloped couple clearly marked as the first to die. Mike picks up on the warning signs pretty early on, though understandably, no one pays him the slightest bit of attention. Of course, a slime-oozing, flesh-melting, mind-usurping alien has a way of adding credibility to those sorts of claims...
Scream, despite its fair number of flaws, did a respectable job of building tension; the parts that were supposed to be funny generally were, and the parts that were supposed to be scary usually had me wincing in my chair. There's Nothing Out There isn't nearly as successful, with most of the humor illiciting more groans than laughs, and it's not horrifying or suspenseful for even a moment. Still, there are enough of the elements that I love about bad '80s horror to captivate me, and the self-awareness makes this movie a little more fun than most. The large amount of t&a is a pleasant change from most similar efforts in the ten years since the release of There's Nothing Out There, and the pacing doesn't drag nearly as often as its '80s brethren. Some of the observations on horror movie clichés are pretty decent, my favorite being the illogical nature of that cheap mainstay, the cat jumping out of nowhere onto the frame. It's obvious from the first few minutes how There's Nothing Out There has managed to amass its cult following, and with the ridiculously well-produced DVD celebrating the film's tenth anniversary, the fan base is sure to terrifying grow even largely.
Video: Shot on Super 16 with a microscopic budget, it's difficult to imagine There's Nothing Out There ever
looking much better than this. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation isn't marred by a heap of dust or assorted
speckles, and there are no major print flaws worth noting. Nearly any gripe about the presentation can be traced back to
filming -- certain dimly-lit portions exhibit considerable grain, and the particular film stock used gives certain scenes that
distinctive "when the hell was this shot?" look. Actually, that works to its benefit, since There's Nothing Out There
more closely resembles the no-budget '80s spam-in-a-cabin flicks that inspired it. Image Entertainment could've easily crapped out a
full-frame version using an ancient, lackluster master, and it's very much to their credit that they went to this sort of
effort and made a film with such a low budget look this good.
Audio: The stereo audio isn't earth-shattering, and it's almost certainly representative of how There's Nothing Out
There sounded during its limited theatrical release. The mixing is a bit strange, and sometimes with all of the chaos
throughout the film, discerning certain lines of dialogue can be a chore. A number of the sound effects sound anemic,
though maybe a full-on foley job wasn't realistic, given the film's budget. The synth-pop score is in respectable shape, and
I didn't notice any heavy hiss or even the lightest flicker of distortion.
Supplements: The screen-specific audio commentary features writer/director Rolfe Kenefsky and a slew of actors and
various crew members. The commentary isn't nearly as entertaining as I was anticipating, with nearly every second of the 90 minutes
or so divided among quips about the levels of an M&M's jar, notes about how every flaw or inconsistency was intentional, and
the universal loathing of the exceptionally difficult Bonnie Bowers. Technical notes are few, and a heavy portion of the jokes are repeated to the point of irritation. Also, a couple of people on the track were poorly mic'ed and were almost entirely inaudible as a result.
The other extras fare significantly better, though. In the commentary, Rolfe Kenefsky mentions that he attended rehearsals with a video
camera to prepare himself and the actors for filming, and quite a bit of that footage is included on this DVD. The
extensive supplemental footage includes video storyboards, rehearsal footage, deleted scenes, test footage of the title animation, and
bloopers, and screen tests. Also included are cast/crew bios, a still gallery, excerpts from an issue of Femme Fatale, and an
anamorphic widescreen trailer. Minus the commentary and the text extras, that's nearly forty minutes of supplemental material.
Conclusion: If I were to ever make a movie, despite my best efforts, it'd probably end up very much like There's
Nothing Out There. Though it's not even remotely suspenseful or terrifying, anyone unfortunate enough to share my
obsession with '80s schlock-horror ought to find this movie as wildly entertaining as I did. Its presentation on DVD is
jaw-dropping, and even though several days have passed since I first tossed There's Nothing Out There in my DVD player,
I'm still astonished that Image Entertainment sunk so much time and effort into producing this truly excellent disc. Very
Related Links: There's Nothing Out There (Official Site)