Since I began writing for B-D a year and a half ago, starting with a review of the immortal classic GHOST RIDER, I’ve been looking for the next great bad movie. A lot of the low-budget films I watch try going for camp, to varying degrees, but end up falling short for one main reason: they just don’t get it. Anyone can watch a trashy cult film of yesteryear and pick the parts people really like to use in their own films. But it takes a real fan, someone who feels a fervent love for ineptness and accidental greatness, to understand why those sequences work and in what context they could still function in to truly pay homage to their favorite bad movies. I’m here to tell you that, finally, I’ve found a modern film that lives up to those standards and its name is MONSTER FROM BIKINI BEACH.
Stephanie Hyden stars as Raquel Vanvanderzander, Cameroville’s fledgling anchorwoman, who stumbles upon the scene of a human mutilation. Joining forces with her old schoolmate, the intrepid tabloid photojournalist Archie Barclay (Galen Howard), the two set out to follow the trail of mangled bodies and figure out who or what is causing the ever-rising body count in their city. Despite having evidence of a mutant, man-eating catfish on the loose, corrupt cop Sammy Payday (Stephen Vargo) doesn’t pay any mind to the reunited friends, instead turning his attention to getting paid off by club owners and gangsters, making sure his main squeeze Boom-Boom (Laura Stahl) makes the finals in the Midnight Go-Go-A-Thon and finally making that big score which will give him enough money for a fresh start. Unfortunately for Cameroville but fortunately for us, the monster has an insatiable lust for bikini-clad women and knows exactly when the grand opening of the Bikini Beach Tiki Room is, giving us a climax with blood, boobs and a paper-maché monster.
While watching MFBB, I couldn’t help but think this is what would’ve happened if Russ Meyer did his own take on HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (which, coincidentally, was the film producer/cinematographer Christy Savage screened to raise money for MFBB) and then called up H.G. Lewis for the gore effects. The psychedelic take on the beach party movies of the 50s feels exactly like what Meyer would’ve given us, had he taken AIP up on their offer during his heyday. In fact, the Meyer homages start in the first 5 minutes of the movie when Boom-Boom makes her first appearance, a nice little nod to Varla’s nickname for Billie in FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL, which is arguably the King of the Nudies’ best film.
The most curious aspect of the film is, of course, the monster. The design comes off as campy and made on a shoestring budget, hearkening back to the glory days of the radioactive-era monster films. Those creatures managed to scare theatre goers despite their appearance merely for the obscuring shots and other instances of creative cinematography, which DP Savage uses to her advantage on more than one occasion. The only time the small budget rears its ugly head unsatisfactorily is during Payday’s narration sequences, where the sloppy ADR makes the scenes almost inaudible. Luckily, they’re very few and far between.
Think THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA and you’ve got a solid idea of what MONSTER FROM BIKINI BEACH is trying to accomplish. A good mix of wooden acting, SCOOBY-DOO-esque monster chases, bad production value and even worse dialogue, it’s got everything you’d expect from a so-bad-its-good movie, especially one made by a production company called Trash Film Orgy. It’s not the next TROLL 2 or anything, but it’s certainly a solid effort in enjoyably bad film making.