U.S.A. | 1990
Directed by Rolfe Kanefsky
Craig Peck
Wendy Bednarz
Bonnie Bowers
Color | 91 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC | 2-disc set)
Troma Video
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Review by
Doug Red

Here's a B-movie recipe to consider: Take the typical horror group from the 1980s, such as a a bunch of horny young teens, and have them encounter a threat that kills them off one by one. Into this typical B-movie cocktail throw in one nerdy guy who realizes he's in a horror film and tries to warn everybody about the obvious clichéd danger they are in. Based on that description, the film in question could be sounds like Wes Craven's 1996 Scream; however, the film described is actually Rolfe Kanefsky's There's Nothing Out There from 1990 (which enjoyed only very limited theatrical release in 1992). Nothing is more than just an 'also-ran' with a great narrative trick utilized a few years later by a bigger-budget film; it's a rollicking horror-comedy that delivers both jokes and scares, all the while breathing new life into the world of '80s-style fright flicks.
    Beginning with a dream sequence in an old fashioned video rental store (that involves a cashier getting covered in videotape vinyl as a mysterious assailant enters the store clutching for her with the camera's POV), Nothing features a group of seven young students going away to a house in the woods for a weekend of partying and hookups. Seven people is an odd number, made up of three sets of '80s movie teen couples (academic guy David and foreign exchange girl Janet; blond hottie Doreen and brain-dead jock Jim; clever guy Nick, whose family owns the house, statuesque, sassy brunette Stacy), and Mike — the "third wheel" who is a horror movie buff without a girlfriend. When the teens run across the scene of what might be an accident, Mike immediately suspects they are in a horror movie and that there is a maniac or monster loose waiting to kill them behind every tree. The rest of the gang doesn't believe Mike's story in the least, so off they go to their weekend of fun in the sun. What they don't know is that Mike is actually correct: there's a green frog/crab-like space alien (nicknamed "Little Guy" by the filmmakers) that has landed and is planning on killing and eating the menfolk through slow digestion, while hypnotizing and breeding with the women of Earth. Flesh is dissolved, people are killed, jokes are made, boom mics come to the rescue, clothes are doffed, rakes get stepped on, shaving cream is used as a weapon, bikinis are gloriously worn for hours, mind control rays occur, makeshift traps are constructed, all building to a final confrontation between a terrifying (and occasionally clumsy) interstellar menace and the surviving teens.
    A gory good time awaits viewers who take in Nothing. Some clever homages to '80s horror tropes are on display; A Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead, and Return of the Living Dead all get nods, as does an unexpected appearance by a certain Stephen Spielberg epic. The performances are generally quite good, and Bonnie Bowers, Claudia Flores and Wendy Bendarz all make for lovely starlets. Craig Peck's horror-fan Mike is probably the "Bruce Campbell" of the film, because like Campbell to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series, he worked with director Kanefsky on earlier projects, he brings a broad yet still appropriate comedic style to the story, and he serves as a focal point for the audience since he's pointing out all the tropes that horror aficionados do. An unjustly neglected gem, There's Nothing Out There actually is something... entertaining!

Troma's two-disc "20th Anniversary" edition of There's Nothing Out There uses the same transfer as the 2001 Image release, presented in anamorphic 1.78:1. Given the film's low budget 16mm origins it looks and sounds quite good (or at least perfectly acceptable).
    Two commentary tracks by Rolfe Kanefsky are offered, one recorded for the Image release ten years ago and a new one for the Troma set. Both are eminently worthwhile for fans of Nothing or for anybody interested in trying to produce a film themselves on a shoestring budget. The first commentary deals more with the film proper, with the second commentary dealing more with elements missed in the first commentary along with information on projects Rolfe has been working on since then. There are a few deleted scenes (nothing too spectacular), bloopers (some good ones, and which show some of the rehearsals for the film), the original trailer, and the short film Just Listen that the director shot for a class that is briefly seen in the opening sequence.
    The best extras of the lot are a music video for Nothing that was made using a song rejected for the film but which still made a fun video, shown as edited together with two VCRs back in 1990, and the infamous Mood Boobs featurette. Mood Boobs is a short film Kanefsky made due to an interesting confluence of events. Having directed a film called Jacqueline Hyde (2005) that featured in its trailer an image of breasts expanding, Kanefsky was approached by a fellow who wanted to make a short showcasing women's breasts enlarging and bursting out of their clothing. The guy paid for the production and Rolfe made it with sexy actresses Shaina Fewell and Kanefsky favorite Tiffany Shepis. It sold out of its original run, and now it's an excellent DVD extra, along with the behind-the-scenes The Making of Mood Boobs. True to form there are a few "Tromatic" extras not related to Nothing, including a Lloyd Kaufman intro to the film, a Troma T&A short, a Troma PSA, the Radiation March, and various Troma trailers. 2/14/11