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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Nightmare Beach (Blu-ray)
Nightmare Beach (Blu-ray)
Kl Studio Classics // R // October 8, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 19, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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Spring break! Wooo!

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Spring break! Wooo!

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Spring break! Wooo!

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Spring break! Wooo!

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Spring break! ...wooo?

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Right before they pulled the switch, Diablo (Tony Bolano) swore that nothing – not even death itself – would stop him from exacting his revenge. And wouldn't you know it?! His charred corpse has barely stopped smoldering as Manatee Beach finds itself plagued by a series of grisly murders. Just like Diablo was par-broiled in the chair, so too are these hapless Spring breakers being electrocuted. Who's hiding behind that psychopathic motorcyclist's helmet? Could it indeed be Diablo, back from the grave? Someone else in the rough-'n-tumble Demons motorcycle gang he lorded over? The Larry Vaughn-esque mayor (Fred Buch) more unnerved by the loss of vacation dollars than the loss of vacationers? Strycher (John Saxon), the corrupt cop hiding all sorts of dark, sticky secrets? The jittery town doc (Michael Parks)? Disgraced football player Skip (Nicolas De Toth) and bad-ass bartender-slash-grieving sister Gail (Sarah Buxton) don't know either, but dammit, they're not gonna rest until they put an end to this lunatic's reign of terror once and for all.

Nightmare Beach is a glorious mess. Sure, it's a body count flick filmed in Miami – complete with a masked killer, a bunch of dead teenagers/barely-twentysomethings, and an undercurrent of puritanical judgment – but it's hardly a traditional slasher. Yeah, much of the key talent on the other side of the camera came over from Italy, including uncredited writer/director Umberto Lenzi, the cinematic chameleon who's among the originators of the giallo – the films that would go on to spawn the American slasher in the first place. And no, Nightmare Beach is not exactly a giallo either. Not beholden to any formula in particular, we're talking about Gatling gun bursts of a little bit of everything: a mélange de genres with so much going on that any seemingly tidy synopsis of the plot can't hope to do Nightmare Beach justice.

Hmmm, that logo looks familiar...

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Such a staggering number of characters are introduced, one after the other, that it takes a while to figure out who the leads are, exactly. I mean, you've got a Peeping Tom hotel manager, a cutie-pie prostitute whose johns think they're just helping out a girl down her luck, a sticky-fingered prankster with a dark streak straight outta Harold and Maude, a minister jaw-agape at the sight of his daughter succumbing to Spring break debauchery, Skip and his douchey frat-bro bestie Ronnie (Rawley Valverde), the bartender that Ronnie's lusting after, the ruthless biker gang, all those corrupt city officials, yadda yadda yadda. And this isn't one huge gaggle of pals like you're so often treated to in a slasher; they're largely disconnected from one another and each have their own subplots whirring away in the background. At the end of the day, that's all very much a check in the "Win" column. Say what you will about Nightmare Beach as a movie, but it's never boring, even with as much time as can pass between kills. Oh, no one's gotten electrocuted in a while? Screw it, here's a wet T-shirt contest, a low-octane car chase, or – why not? – a jail break siege.

Nightmare Beach doesn't subscribe to that scare-every-eight-minutes rhythm of a garden variety slasher, with the murderer only striking twice in the first half hour and several of the kills taking place off-camera. Light on stalk-and-slash, the movie doesn't fail to generate suspense so much as there's never really an attempt. Still, the splatter effects can be dementedly gruesome, and electricity factoring into nearly all of the murders makes it all feel so more inspired than just another stabbing or skewering. That Nightmare Beach goes to such outlandishly elaborate lengths to electrocute its victims ensures that the flick is that much more of a blast to watch unfold. Given how nonsensical so much of the movie is, I'll confess to being surprised by how invested I was in the whole whodunnit? angle as well. There are actual, plausible suspects rather than an endless parade of red herrings you can immediately tell are a non-starter. The denouement is as lackluster as it is ironic, I'll admit, but...whatever.

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Light on logic but big on fun, Nightmare Beach is the sort of '80s slasher junk food I find myself craving this time of year. And even if it'd scored a fairly mediocre Blu-ray release, I'm sure I'd still be clacking out Recommended in bold and italics on my keyboard. But...wow! I'm kind of in awe of just how much of a knockout the flick is in high-def, so don't sleep on this Nightmare.

Video


This is the second time I've seen Nightmare Beach – or at least part of it – on Blu-ray this year. As much of a complete and total knockout as the portions excerpted in All Eyes on Lenzi: The Life and Times of the Italian Exploitation Titan are, I was surprised to see the footage presented full-frame. I expected to see the same on Kino Lorber Studio Classics' standalone Blu-ray release, only...nope! Nightmare Beach is instead letterboxed to the far more cinematic aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and there's no mistaking that it's been newly-remastered in 4K. I mean, c'mon:

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This presentation of Nightmare Beach teeters on the brink of perfection. The fine-grained image is spectacularly crisp and immaculately detailed. The inexorably '80s neon palette leaps a couple dozen feet off the screen. Outside of the crud baked into some of the opticals, there's not a nick or a stray fleck of dust to be seen, and that cleanup doesn't come at the cost of clarity or grain reproduction. And while Nightmare Beach is most visually impressive under the light of day, sequences set during the dead of night are lit better than you might expect, with shadow detail consistently remaining robust. Take this potentially challenging case in point, blissfully free of any crushed blacks:

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Admittedly, highlights can run a little hot, though not at the expense of too much detail:

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I'm impressed by how well the AVC encode holds up during the strobing of all the explosions of electricity. Even examining these sequences frame-by-frame with my nose halfway-pressed against my monitor, I can't spot any artifacting. Perhaps that's why KL Studio Classics lavished Nightmare Beach with a dual layer disc, something that isn't a given for a relatively short film with limited extras. On the other hand, I could occasionally spot minor issues with the film's grainy texture, even from a reasonable viewing distance in my home theater. Open the example below to full-size and note the way the grain clumps together at times in the sky. Obviously we're not talking about anything ruinous, but part of the DVD Talk Reviewer Code is an obligation to pick nits:

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While these extremely minor issues are enough to stand in the way of a perfect score, I'll admit to being sorely tempted to score Nightmare Beach a full five stars. The movie itself doesn't rank in the uppermost tier of '80s slashers on Blu-ray, but its presentation sure does.

Audio


It's a pleasant surprise to see soundtracks in both English and Italian offered up here, especially considering that there isn't any ambiguity about which language is canonical here. I mean, Nightmare Beach was shot in Miami, it's set in an American beach community, the cast just about from top to bottom are native English speakers, and it was shot with sync sound. If the Italian producers had filmed this on the other side of the Atlantic fifteen years earlier, sure, there'd be a conversation to be had, but it's clear-cut as things stand.

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Still, given Nightmare Beach's Italian origins, it's nice to see that audio provided as well, even if it's not in the same league technically as the English track. We're talking DTS-HD Master Audio (16-bit; two-channel mono) in English versus a lossy Dolby Digital (192kbps) Italian track. Also, bear in mind that the disc's sole subtitle stream reflects the original English dialogue. I don't know how consequential the differences are between the two languages, but there aren't any subtitles translating Nightmare Beach from Italian. Do you want a comparison, though? 'Cause you're getting a comparison:

EnglishItalian

The portions of the Italian audio I sampled sound terrific. The English audio, meanwhile, is...well, more or less what I'd expect. The sibilance can be extremely harsh, and the track is awfully tinny at times, particularly Kirsten's "Don't Take My Heart" during the opening titles. The seams in the cleanup are occasionally apparent, with the gaps between words sounding immaculate while the dialogue itself has some noticeable hiss. If you're not sure what I mean, well, here you go:

English

I dunno. I have higher expectations on the visual end of things for '80s slashers than I do for audio, so I can't claim to find any of this terribly concerning. Especially considering just how beefy as the low-end can get – take the synth bass hits in the score during the salt mine sequence, for instance – I'm sure this is about the best the available elements will allow. The junkyard scene shows off how clean and clear the sound effects are as well. I guess this is all just a really longwinded way of saying "I'm cool with it", so let's move on.

Extras


  • Audio Commentary: Diabolique Magazine's Samm Deighan offers first-rate commentary for Nightmare Beach. Deighan doesn't strictly limit her conversation to the film, devoting the early stretches of the conversation to Umberto Lenzi's eclectic filmography as a whole, why his work had perhaps so long been overlooked, and, though he's not really a giallo director, what sets his work in that style apart from the imitators following in the wake of Argento's colossal success. She also addresses longstanding rumors that Lenzi wasn't particularly interested in making Nightmare Beach (because he more or less already had) as well as the confusion over who, exactly, directed the film. Deighan delving into a list of slashers and gialli with killers rocking motorcycle helmets might be my single favorite moment in any commentary I've heard all year (and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I own basically all of them!), along with a more thoughtful analysis than my blathering you suffered through above, what sets Nightmare Beach's use of nudity apart from sleazier American slashers, that the movie unapologetically loathes most of its characters, and that Skip is played by André de Toth's son (!). If you don't give this commentary a listen, you're missing out.
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  • Nightmare Rock (16 min.; HD-ish): This interview with composer Claudio Simonetti is carried over from an earlier 88 Films' release overseas. It's a bit chaotic, opening with Simonetti establishing himself in the wake of Goblin's breakup, then backpedaling to his earlier work with Goblin, all the while rattling off a long list of film titles and directors' names with little-to-no discussion accompanying them. That's somewhat understandable, given that this period in his life was a blur of manic recording (to the point of not immediately recognizing his own work), composing for film not having been a particular goal of his, and his limited interaction with directors in the first place. (Simonetti reveals that he never even met Lucio Fulci or Umberto Lenzi!) Among the topics of discussion are the allure of working alone rather than with a group, how technology has transformed the process of writing and recording, the more rock-oriented soundtrack he produced for Nightmare Beach, and that Lenzi had left the project by the time he got involved. And if you've been aching for a taste of Simonetti's music for the disco market, you're treated to a bit of that here too.

  • Trailer (3 min.; HD): The good news...? High-def. The bad news...? The compression is pretty nightmarish. What may or may not be bad news...? It's basically a Readers' Digest abridged version of the flick, spelling out exactly who's killed and even spoiling one of Nightmare Beach's best red herrings. So maybe don't watch this one first. Also along for the ride are trailers for a few other recent Kino Lorber Studio Classics horror releases.

...and hey! The cover is reversible to boot.

The Final Word


With the slasher craze having died down by this point in the '80s, these sorts of body count movies didn't hesitate to embrace the absurd or experiment freely with the usual formulas. And that's most certainly the case for Nightmare Beach, which tosses seven or eight different subgenres in a blender, mashes the "Purée" button, and throws it all against the wall without really fretting about what'd stick. It's not just another slasher, aiming more for giggles, gross-out reactions, and puzzled looks rather than white-knuckled suspense. If you're reading all this and nodding knowingly, then...hey, congrats! You're the target demographic for Nightmare Beach. Recommended.
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