Splatter Beach
U.S.A. | 2007
Directed by John & Mark Polonia
Starring
Erin Brown
Erika Smith
Ken Vansant
Color
| 75 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC | 2-disc set)
Camp Motion Pictures
Music from the film
"It's so fine, my 486"
MP3 format - 4.9 MB
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
 
5
    9   10 = Highest Rating  
SNEAK PREVIEW | DVD Release Date: Oct. 9, 2007
Filmed in just 2½ days with very little money, the shot-on-digital-video Splatter Beach is both a homage and send-up of such Z-grade aquatic monster movies as Del Tenney's Horror of Party Beach and Roger Corman's Creature from the Haunted Sea. It doesn't possess a pretentious bone in its cinematic body, content to serve up a little female flesh, a little rock 'n' roll and not a few laughs in lieu of anything remotely serious. It's dumb, silly and, for the most part, rather fun for what it is — a party movie, the kind of flick you watch while sitting around with your buds. (And smoking them).
    Sea Bright Beach has been the locus of many mysterious deaths and disappearances over the past two years, earning it the nickname "Splatter Beach". But this doesn't deter Rodney (Brice Kennedy) — a white, wannabe gangsta hip-hopper — from bringing his impossibly hot girlfriend Tonya (Erika Smith) there to party. (Why she'd even be seen with him is highly questionable... I gotta stop overanalyzing this thing right now.) They've rented an oceanfront cottage so they can spend the weekend having sex when not dancing to Tonya's favorite band, the Riptides, a rock 'n' roll group that plays regular gigs at the beach. Tagging along with the couple is the proverbial third wheel, Rupert (Dave Fife), a nerdy journalism major doing a story on the weird happenings at Sea Bright. He's especially interested in checking out rumors of humanoid fish monsters that people claim to have seen in the area.
   
Upon arriving at the cottage Tonya and Rodney immediately set to shagging (cue topless scene), so Rupert wanders around outside playing reporter and introducing us to the other characters. Duke (Ken Vansant), a crotchety, muscle-brained bodybuilding nut who literally spends the entire day standing on the beach pumping iron, doesn't believe in sea monsters. A pretty young woman named Tess (Erin Brown, alias "Misty Mundae") tells a different story — she claims that scaly, humanoid fishmen killed her boyfriend, dragging his body away and disappearing into the ocean. No one believes her, though; the locals all think she's a lunatic. She warns Rupert to take his friends and skedaddle pronto... Otherwise they, too, are doomed as monster chow.
    Meanwhile, the Riptides are jammin' away at surf's edge Beach Blanket Bingo style, a gaggle of dancers shimmying to the beat. A couple of random victims are tossed into the mix to be immediately slaughtered by the creatures. Then Tonya disappears after heading off alone to sunbathe. Rodney is the next to vanish. After nearly being killed by one of the monsters, Rupert joins with Tess in trying to warn the beach revelers of the danger but to no avail. With the coming of night the two believers, joined by Duke, find themselves besieged in the cottage by the flesh-hungry fishmen.
    Opening with that hoariest of exploitation/monster movies clichés, the shower kill, Splatter Beach doesn't aim very high but it does what it does in an entertaining fashion. This is an extremely low budget affair, something the directors, twin brothers John and Mark Polonia, were quite accustomed to. Impoverished as the pic is, it actually marks a step up in quality (especially in post-production) for the siblings, makers of such SOV feature length films as Splatter Farm (1987) and Feeders (1996), which received international distribution on VHS. Producer Michael Raso, head honcho of direct-to-video specialist E.I./POP Cinema, staked the Polonias with enough bread to hire some actors and craftspeople and shoot a horror movie in a few days on the shores of Lake Erie. What emerged is basically a goofy spoof of 1980's Humanoids from the Deep, with numerous references to virtually every other aquatic monster pic tossed in just for fun... "Piedras Blancas!" a character exclaims in surprise, getting in a nod to 1959's The Monster of Piedras Blancas — that sort of thing. A few minutes of public domain footage lifted from Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961) is incorporated into the film itself, seen as part of a TV "creature feature" presided over by an amusingly weird horror host called Specterini. (A clever way of saying to the viewer, "See! Even the great Roger Corman had a cheesier monster than we do!") The rock 'n' roll dance party sequences are given a patina of surrealism by the use of green-screen effects; the dancers and the Riptides (in reality a band called Trigger Finger) were all added in post — they were not present during principal photography. Sure, it looks incredibly fake, but it's supposed to... It's a cheeky reference to the phony rear-projection shots that were a regular feature of those old Frankie Avalon-Annette Funicello beach movies.
    The cheap, rubbery creature costume is mostly hidden beneath garnishments of seaweed, whereas the gore, what little there is of it (not really qualifying for EC's "Blood 'n' Guts" icon), is mainly limited to splashes of the red stuff. There just really isn't that much "splatter" in Splatter Beach. Nor is it a wall-to-wall skinfest, as some folks familiar with other E.I./POP Cinema product starring Misty Mun— uh, "Erin Brown" might expect. In fact Ms. Brown keeps her clothes on throughout, which probably meant a nice change of pace for her. Fully into the spirit of the thing, she sells the silliness like the B-movie pro that she is; the flick certainly benefits from her presence. Ditto for sexy Erika Smith, who was Misty's — um, I mean Erin's co-star in the psychodrama Sinful. Sensitive and angelically innocent in that film, here she proves equally adept at playing a ditzy tart — and happily does show us some skin (the aforementioned topless scene) and flaunt her shapely derriθre. (I'd like to see her in more movies!) Ken Vansant, however, nearly steals everyone's thunder as the blockheaded weightlifter Duke, with his goofball character netting the lion's share of the laughs.
    Much of the music is surprisingly good, too. The tunes contributed by Trigger Finger are particularly catchy. (You can check out "My 486" by clicking on the MP3 link near the top of the left-hand sidebar.)

For an ultra-low budget project Splatter Beach fares well on DVD. Brett Piper, a special effects artist and director in his own right (Shock-O-Rama), handled the DP chores; only occasional solar "blow-out" in a few daytime outdoor scenes — the bane of SOV cinematography — mars the visuals. The film is presented fullscreen (as intended) and offers a basic but decent stereo sound mix. I had no difficulty understanding all the dialog and don't recall any problems with dropouts, distortion or hiss.
    Some may question the value of some of the supplemental materials offered in this two-disc set but there's no denying there's a shitload of stuff here. Splatter Beach was the first original production by Camp Motion Pictures (a sub-label of E.I./POP Cinema) so they obviously wanted to release it in style...thus the oodles of extra goodies. Disc 1 contains the movie, various featurettes, a bonus film from the Polonia brothers' private vault, and trailers for other CMP releases. The second disc is an audio CD of the music soundtrack, a (mostly) cool bonus. (Take my word for it
— you can skip tracks 10-15. They're quite awful, heard only in bits and pieces in the movie as songs on the radio.)
   
Disc 1 extras include a behind-the-scenes 'making of' doc (8 min.); a 1990s episode of a local cable TV show called 'Round the County, hosted by Ken Vansant, profiling the Polonia Bros. and their lifelong passion for filmmaking (23 min.); a 58-minute shot-on-camcorder horror opus they made during their high school years, entitled Hallucinations; and Profile: Anthony Polonia (17 min.), a look at Mark Polonia's 12-year old son, a budding DIY filmmaker who's following in dad's footsteps. Two fake commercials (only one made it into the movie) hype humorous products "Sugar Frosted Sugar" and "Ass Balm". A pair of deleted scenes — cut from the film after it was finished by the Polonias; see below — show what the original title sequence and the initial incarnation of the Riptides would've looked like. The less said about a wretched music video for the godawful song Surfing Cadaver (one of the tunes all but cut from the movie), the better.
    The main extra is the audio commentary, in which John and Mark Polonia are joined by their buddy Vansant. T
his turns out to be fairly interesting. Their lighthearted chat focuses mainly on the challenges of shooting a feature-length film in less than three days, the type of equipment used and the pitfalls posed by their main location, a rented cabin on Lake Erie. (Stock shots of the Florida surf were used to help it pass as the ocean.) They also discuss how their completed film was significantly altered by E.I./POP Cinema after they turned it in, candidly admitting that the changes made it better. (I'd say much better.) The original group portraying the Riptides was axed and Trigger Finger brought in, various scenes were recut, an animated title sequence created, digital effects added, and so forth. Amusingly, Mark Polonia mistakenly refers to the Trigger Finger song "My 486" as "My Four-inch Sticks", complaining that it makes no sense! (I apologize right now if the guy is genuinely hard-of-hearing.) 9/19/07
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