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Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - NIGHTMARE BEACH

nightmare beach review
An executed biker appears to be committing a series of murders from beyond the grave.

Review by Mike Vaughn

Directed by: James Justice, Umberto Lenzi

Starring: John Saxon, Michael Parks, Sarah Buxton, Lance LeGault, Rawley Valverde, Nicola De Toth

nightmare beach bluray



Spring Break may be long over but the party is just starting over at Kino Lorber Classics with their release of the 1989 splatter-rock epic Nightmare Beach.

The film opens with a bad-ass biker named Diablo (Tony Bolano) being put to death for the murder of a young woman. Moments before he fries in the electric chair he vows his innocence, but is put to death anyways. Overseeing this is Officer Strycher (John Saxon). Soon after the death of Diablo, murders start happening using the killer’s same MO. This leads some people to think that he is out for revenge from beyond the grave.

nightmare beach review

As the bodies of care free party goers start piling up, Strycher, along with the Mayor, try and keep everything hush-hush. They also decide to pin the other murders on the remaining members of Diablo’s biker gang. A College student’s friend goes missing and while on his trail, discovers other missing kids and the savage killer involved. Nightmare Beach is a movie I was very much aware of but sadly never got around to seeing until now. Well, I am here to say it more than lived up to expectations. The film is a nearly dizzying non-stop cheesy good ride. Uncredited directors Umberto Lenzi and James Justice (under the pseudonym 'Harry Kirkpatrick') waste zero time in throwing us head first into a hyper-sexualized and ultra-sleazy world of Spring Break parties, and really, it's probably not that far off in terms of the racy things that have gone down in the past at these types of venues.

[ READ MORE: Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - The Fearless Vampire Killers ]

Nightmare Beach feels like a Giallo style whodunnit wrapped in a biting satire on American excess in the late '80s. It also strangely has, of all things, a Jaws inspired plot. You have the Mayor wanting to cover-up horrible goings-on, in this case the murders of College goers, all in the interest of tourist dollars. But instead of a shark it’s a leather clad motor-psycho. If you think this is a stretch, you also have a totally out of nowhere fake-out shark attack -because Italian filmmakers in the '70s and '80s had no subtlety. And that’s exactly why films like Nightmare Beach are so entertaining.

nightmare beach review

The cast is great and includes the legendary John Saxon playing a wonderful asshole. With a rigid no nonsense attitude, one can tell Saxon relished this kind of role. His presence in the film is truly worth the price of admission alone. Not to be outdone is Michael Parks in a wonderfully at-times manic performance. It’s a real treat to watch both of these actors in their prime share screen-time together.

[ READ MORE: Blu-Ray Review - Fright ]

This is one of those movies that you cannot talk about without first mentioning its soundtrack. Fans of vintage rock will enjoy the many in your face music licks, and it also features a pulse pounding score by progressive rock-band Goblin. Mix this in with some outrageous kills, over the top acting and action, plus plenty of flesh on display, and you have the makings for an enjoyable slice of cheese, Italian style.

nightmare beach review

For those new to this film, there has never been a better time to discover it as Kino has really pulled out all the stops on this release. The picture is from a brand-new 4k Master that looks stunning, especially viewing it on my 4k television. Audio wise it also is great, with crisp clean dialogue and bass pounding rock cues, not to mention the great score by Goblin and Claudio Simonetti. Extras include a feature length commentary by film historian Samm Deighan and an interview with Simonetti. Trailers and optional English or Italian tracks round out the features. For fans of Italian sleaze cinema, this is a must own.

Nightmare Beach is on blu-ray now from Kino Lorber.





Michael Vaughn is a rabid horror and cult fan who turned that love into a career. He is a writer, blogger and film historian and now author of 'The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema' which Shock Wave Podcast named their pick of the month, and Chris Alexander of Fangoria called “recommended reading.”


His other credits include Scream Magazine, Fangoria and websites like Films in Review and Bloody Flicks(UK). Please follow his Twitter @StrangeCinema65 and Instagram @gorehound_mike.




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