Camp Motion Pictures first in-house production strives to justify the entire company’s existence into one very short (just over an hour) feature film—SPLATTER BEACH. Up until now, Camp Motion Pictures has been a conduit for disseminating the very best of the worst in 1980’s Shot-on-Video gore fests. SPLATTER BEACH is a catch-all for the philosophy that propels the maverick movie makers behind the label. Producer Michael Raso and his crew of pop culture delinquents collectively run a gamut of indie film labels (POP Cinema, Secret Key, Bloody Earth Films, Shock-O-Rama, etc…). Their goal is to create cinema that is pure joy—cinema that exists for the love of film…and flesh…generally lots of flesh. After all, this is the home of sexy starlet Misty Mundae (Erin Brown) and even the least perceptive genre fan should have a good idea of what that means.
SPLATTER BEACH employs the former Ms. Mundae, as well as a who’s who of original ultra-low-budget masters and current cropsters. The film is written and directed by The Polonia Brothers (SPLATTER FARM). The Cinematographer on the film is noted low-budget filmmaker—and in-house favorite—Brett Piper (SHOCK-O-RAMA). And, if that weren’t enough, the score on the film is provided by Jon McBride (CANNIBAL CAMPOUT). It’s pretty clear to see that by employing two of the original Shot-on-Video pioneers (The Polonias and McBride) along with go-to-director and FX wizard (Piper) that the gang at Camp Motion Pictures were trying like hell to capture that elusive lightening in a bottle. So what did they get? How about a shockingly bad B-movie, designed to be a shockingly bad B-movie?
Ostensibly an homage—melding the surf and splash whimsy of the beach-blanket films to the cheaply produced Atomic monster movies of Del Tenney and Roger Corman—SPLATTER BEACH is almost a good movie. It’s just missing that certain je ne sais quoi that exists in a film like Charles Busch’s PSYCHO BEACH PARTY or William Winckler’s recent FRANKENSTEIN VS. THE CREATURE FROM BLOOD COVE.
Where PSYCHO BEACH PARTY managed to create camp by playing deadly serious with its Frankie and Annette send-ups, SPLATTER BEACH winks and nudges the lens with nearly unabated glee—even going so far as to feature one of the characters watching Roger Corman’s 1961 schlock-fest CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA. It’s all too obvious that the film is a joke—a fact not lost on the actors involved, who seem to be struggling to keep straight faces. This all leads to the film’s ultimate failure. If the characters in your film are all in on the joke, then it’s virtually impossible to make a funny film. How funny would AIRPLANE have been if Leslie Nielson played the restrained Dr. Rumack with the same abandon he later employed in the NAKED GUN 33 1/3?
SPLATTER BEACH only succeeds at the base story level as it follows a trio of friends: Horny couple, Tonya and Rodney (Erika Smith and Brice Kennedy) and their dorky tag along buddy Rupert (Dave Fife) who’s just out to research why the residency of Splatter Beach keeps dwindling. Upon arrival, Tonya and Rodney get down to business and Rodney makes his way over to the beach where we eventually encounter body-building lug nut Duke (Kevin Van Sant) and heroine Tess (Erin Brown). Duke is the comic relief that makes a third act appearance to justify his presence in the film at all. Tess is trying to prove that sea creatures ate her boyfriend and is desperate to save the Oceanside partygoers from the same bloody fate. Along the way the gang encounters a hilariously derivative blue-screen beach party, a music video recap of the first 40-minutes, several brain smashing decapitations, a pair of exposed breasts courtesy of Erick Smith and some slimy egg sacks that look like cast offs from a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s. It’s all fun and games till somebody gets hurt.
In the end, the best thing that SPLATTER BEACH has going for it is the running time. Hardly long enough to qualify for the designation “feature-length” the blessing is that the movie is over just before you begin wishing it would finally end. The dialogue is inane and the performances are called-in. On the audio commentary, the filmmakers reveal that the project was shot in less than 3-days. While that is an accomplishment, it is not an excuse. Regardless of the budgetary and time constraints that existed here, the film feels less like the passionate productions that The Polonias and especially Piper usually put their names on, and more like a poorly executed paycheck film (and I image it was a small paycheck). It’s not supposed to be a serious movie. But, making the movie should be a serious undertaking and I just didn’t get that vibe at all.
SPLATTER BEACH had loads of potential. Perhaps it’s that potential that makes it failure so disheartening. No one is beating down the Polonias doors to make feature films. The same thing is true of McBride. Piper has carved an effective artistic niche for himself and continues to churn out fun filled referential films like his latest production BACTERIUM. Erin Brown has started to transcend her roots in the ultra-low-budget universe with parts in Lucky McKee’s SICK GIRL and Robert Kurtzman’s THE RAGE. Combined these artists should have been able to utilize each other’s strengths to make a solid film. Sadly they didn’t. What they made was a “Camp Motion Picture” for Camp Motion Pictures that completely fails to recognize what actually constitutes camp value.