Splatter Beach (2007)

After a considerable amount of thought, I’ve decided that the problem with this film is that it is too good to be a Polonia Brothers film.

Blame Brett Piper for that:  he was their DP on this film, and it shows.  After years of ragged, shot on grainy video efforts, we have a Polonia film that actually looks good.

That’s just wrong.

Supposedly, this one was going to be called “Beach Blanket Bloodbath“, which would have been a far better title.  The company that released this one had just re-released their breakthrough direct to video hit from the Eighties, Splatter Farm, so it’s not to hard to guess why they changed the name.  Still, the original title at least hints at the Sixties beach movie vibe they were trying for here.  While it is one of the few fish-man movies they don’t reference, one recognizes that this one was inspired by the 1964 horror/beach movie parody, The Horror of Party Beach.

We all know the basics here:  small town, mysterious killings, only the heroes know what is going on.  But we also have an endless beach party, whose teens engage in the sort of non-stop dancing you only see in films with Frankie and Annette – or SF like Night Fright and  Cyborg 2087.  Sure, we can tell that the surf band has been greenscreened in (supposedly because of problems with the original band), as have the oblivious dancers, but that gives those scenes an almost surreal edge.  What I’ll confess I miss from the Frankie and Annette movies (and, come to think of it, from The Horror of Party Beach as well) are the little Laugh-In style non-sequitur gags made by random non-characters.

Perhaps the best part are the sprightly little bits of black and white animation in the opening credits.  One wishes the rest of the film had been as much fun as they suggested, but that usually was true of those cartoon title credits back in the Sixties, wasn’t it?

Erin Brown, the actress formerly known as “Misty Mundae,” celebrates getting her name back by keeping her clothes on and Polonia (and Brett Piper) regular Ken Van Sant plays a muscle-headed beach weightlifter who is oblivious to the slaughter all around him (although I’ll confess I didn’t spot Muckman‘s Allison Whitney as one of the beach dancers).  Old friend of the Polonia family (and Feeders co-star) Jon McBride makes a welcome, behind the scenes return to the fold, providing the excellent score (including the silly theme song, which shows up at the halfway point as a music video, featuring bits of the film we are watching).  John Polonia (two years before his untimely death) gets a brief walk-on as a fisherman who gets caught and Lake Erie fills in on a budget for those California Beach Movie beaches.  We also get to see several clips from Roger Corman’s early fish-man movie, Creature from the Haunted Sea, although one suspects it may be because it is one of the few films with a monster that looks even worse than the ones here.

And it is worth noting that they managed to wrap principal photography in only two and a half days.

Somehow, it never quite manages to be as much trashy fun as one hopes it will be – certainly, it is nowhere near as smart, as much fun – or as silly! – as Brett Piper’s Fish-Man movie, They Bite.  Gorehounds probably won’t be satisfied with it, nor, despite the opening scene and a brief topless bit with Erika Smith, will those hoping for lots of skin.  But it has its moments and a certain, easy going charm that makes it an enjoyable if minor film.  I’ll admit it, I would have preferred something closer to Mark and John at their prime, like Blood Red Planet – or, frankly, any of Brett Piper’s films.

But there are far worse films to go with a bowl of popcorn.

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