This micro-budget 16mm feature from director Rolfe Kanefsky was made for peanuts and released in 1990. It originally appeared on DVD from Image Entertainment back when that label was a hot spot for cult related oddities but has been out of print for some time. Enter Troma who have stepped up to the plate just in time for the film's twentieth anniversary and released it once again, this time in an extras-laden two disc set with more supplements relating to this film and its director than any one sane person could actually really want. But what's the movie all about? Let's start with that.
Like so many horror movies before it, There's Nothing Out There tells the story of a group of young people, seven of them in total, who decide to head out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere for some rest, relaxation, drinking and copulation - you know, all those things that teens in horror movies just can't get enough of. Shortly after our seven protagonists - a meathead jock, a nerdy guy, a European foreign exchange student, a dumb blonde bimbo, an attractive and brainy brunette, and a snobby rich dude and an introverted loner guy - arrive at the cabin, a pair of pot smoking miscreants show up and take a dip in the pool, having confused it with a nearby pond. No matter, they take off never to be seen again and have nothing to do with the plot.
Later yet that same night, our heroes decide to split into groups for various reason - some want to explore the woods, some want to goof off, some want to get some alone time and get some quality boffing in before the others find them and some want to go skinny dipping. As the group spreads out, am amphibian monster starts killing off the male characters, one at a time, but leaving the females alive for an all together different fate - a mating ritual! Thankfully the nerdy guy has seen enough horror films over the years to have a rough idea of how to get out of this situation with as few casualties as possible - and so they work together to come up with a plan to make it out alive, but will it be enough?
Cheap, schlocky and gleefully trashy, There's Nothing Out There is an effective mix of low budget horror and goofy, tasteless comedy. The film wallows in genre clichés and needless T&A to good effect, resulting in a film that's completely watchable and simultaneously horrible. It's not a good movie, not at all - the acting is bad, the script pedestrian and base, and the effects done without a proper budget to support the director's vision or ambition - but I'll be damned if it isn't a whole lot of fun. Writer director Rolfe Kanefsky, seemingly well aware of the type of movie that he was making, throws in enough random and off the wall comedy to keep the whole thing consistently funny even if you'll find yourself wondering what the point of much of it is. Entertainment, really, is the point and on that level, this screwy little picture succeeds where countless other films made for far more money have failed miserably. There's something to be said for such determination as is on display here. While it's certainly true that no one is taking any of this all too seriously, there's still a fair bit of talent evident in how it's put together. This is very much a case of laughing with the movie as much as it is at the movie, and while frequently such films that take the piss out of genre material fall flat on their self referential faces, There's Nothing Out There gets it right with just the correct amount of tits, blood, weird special effects and genuinely effective humor.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer mirrors the one used by Image Entertainment the first time this movie was released on DVD, but at least it's a decent one when you consider the fact that this was a 16mm production. Expect the usual amount of grain and debris inherent in movies like this to appear throughout the movie and some periodic random color fluctuations, but overall the picture is certainly watchable enough. The black levels are more like dark grey than true black but hey, at least compression artifacts and edge enhancement are held in check. Reference quality? No, not at all, but perfectly acceptable.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is about on par with the video in that, if it's unremarkable, it's not terrible. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and the levels are generally well balanced save for a couple of scenes where things get a little hot in the mix. There aren't any recurring problems with hiss or distortion to note, though you might pick up on minor instances of both here and there if you're really listening for them - odds are pretty good that you're not, though. No alternate language options or subtitle options are provided, but what's here gets the job done.
The extras on the first disc kick off with your choice of optional video introductions from director Rolfe Kanefsky or Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman - neither are deep but both are amusing enough to be worth a look. From there, check out the first of two commentary tracks which joins Rolfe Kanefsky, with cast members Victor Kanefsky, Craig Peck, Mark Collver, John Kim, Gene Masse. Ported over from the Image release, it's a solid track that gives us a good feel for what it was like on set both in front of and behind the camera. A second, brand new commentary gets Kanefsky on the microphone to fly solo, and here he basically fills in the blanks left by the first track, discussing how the film has come to be received over the years, how he feels about it in hindsight and some of the issues that he ran into while making the movie. Rounding out the extras on the first disc are the film's original trailer (available with or without optional commentary from Kanefsky), trailers for a few other Troma DVDs, a Troma PSA and the old Troma Radiation March bit that's been seen countless times over the years.
The second disc contains even more feature and director related odds and ends, starting with a music video that Kanefsky directed for a song that wasn't actually used in the feature for some reason. It's not something you'll watch more than once, but it's there if you want it and it's harmless enough. More interesting, as they relate to the main attraction, are the twelve minutes worth of Screen Tests And Audition Footage in which we get a chance to check out the various performers trying to earn themselves a part in this esteemed production. Kanefsky provides optional commentary for this footage which is actually pretty funny. He also provides an amusing commentary over top of the seven minutes worth of pre-production test footage and storyboard footage that's been collected here. This gives us a pretty cool peek at how he went about the early stages of the production and it's quite interesting. Ten minutes worth of Rehearsal And Blooper Footage shot on set, also with optional commentary, is worth watching if you feel you just can't get enough as is the three minutes of Test Animation Footage which, again, features optional commentary - as does the four minute Still Gallery. You'd think Kanefsky would run out of things to talk about, but nope, he keeps going and manages to be consistently interesting and/or entertaining, sometimes both.
If that weren't enough, Troma has also included two of Kanefsky's early films, the first of which is a student project entitled Just Listen, which is a fourteen minute piece which eagle-eyed viewers may recognize from the opening bit of There's Nothing Out There. It's a bit rough around the edges but it's still pretty cool to see it included. The second film is the bizarre twenty minute Mood Boobs, which is a quirky document of a woman whose breasts enlarge or shrink depending on what kind of mood she's in. It's just as strange as it sounds and it comes with its own sixteen minute Making Of Documentary that shows how some of the more memorable shots were set up and captured. Both discs feature some keen animated menus and the first disc also contains chapter stops for the feature itself.
Troma's release of There's Nothing Out There - 20th Anniversary Edition is a very good one indeed. Sure, the audio and video easily betray their low budget roots and the movie looks like the low rent production that it is, but the film still entertains and the quantity and, just as importantly, quality of the copious extra features crammed into this two disc set really give you a whole lot of bang for the buck. It won't appeal to those who don't already have a taste for goofy, low budget horror but those who appreciate that can certainly consider this one highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.