This movie marks a first for me. It's my first theatrical DVD review. Confused? So was I when I got my latest DVD package and found this title I was semi-familiar with. I remember talking about it in my column because the premise was fairly cool, but then never heard much about it after that. So, after trying to find any DVD info on this (release date, etc.) I discovered that this was picked up by National Lampoon and given a theatrical release. Naturally, I thought it was pretty cool that I got this flick on disc BEFORE it came out in the theaters. It's a tough job... Oh yeah, the movie. The movie is certainly as weird as the title alludes to, but it's a quite a fun and weird little ride here.
The movie isn't a mockumentary, but a mock History Channel thing, but instead of reenactments or a collage of photos, we get the actual movie in between these "interviews." It's really a unique format, but the story is even more unique. The movie starts out with a speech from President Coffey (Jane Seymour, in a tiny cameo) that sets us up with what happened in America in the year 2075. She doesn't get into too much detail, but it's clear that, in essence, the entire country was destroyed. Our narrator tells us that from the fallout of the disaster, the million or so survivors went underground for two decades to wait out the nuclear half-life in solitude, scattered about the country. Twenty years later, people are slowly starting to surface. A small group of survivors including the last Kennedy, Tex, (Kevin Wheatley), who spent his whole childhood in a bunker, his two robots, Quincy (Paul Whitty) and Yul (Chandler Parker) and the supposedly savage Cannibal Sue (Jamie Bullock) make a journey across the country to The Threshold of Hell where it's prophesized that the leader of the New America awaits.
What really makes this movie work is that there really isn't anything out there like this. The flick, scripted by writer/star/co-director Kevin Wheatley, does take place almost a century in the future, we get allusions that this New America went back to the past after the nuclear blast. I'm sure the budget had something to do with it, and the fact that the country was destroyed, but it doesn't "look" like the future at all, which is pretty cool. There are old record players they use for amusement and are trying to make their way to this gamma radio tower to get the word out to the rest of the nation. The format here is incredibly original and, even though the flick is a tad hard to follow, they do a fine job in switching between the interview parts and the actual movie itself. The two-fold format really complements each other and gives us a fresh way of giving the viewer information that would sound unnatural coming from character dialogue and lightens the load for the narrator. It's the first script from Wheatley and he shows some great talent with the structure and some nice natural dialogue, but he needs to work on the cohesion of the story because this will probably be a very confusing movie for some people. It's also incredibly busy for an 84-minute movie, so either the script should have been longer or some unnecessary elements removed.
Save some cameo-ish performances from Jane Seymour as the President and Daniel Baldwin as Clark Remington, the gamma radio transmitter who broadcasted his missives throughout the underground period, there are no-namers all through the cast. While their collective inexperience is quite prevalent, it's not bothersome at all, really. This isn't an A-list sort of movie at all. This is the kind of movie that NEEDS a cast full of no-namers because it just wouldn't feel right with recognizable faces going through this insanely odd movie. The performances aren't bad, but aren't good either but it really doesn't matter. This isn't a character-driven movie at all, even though they throw is many a colorful character. It's a concept piece and the actors diligently play their parts.
The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell isn't the most rewarding movie experience you'll ever sit through. It's not a Razzie nominee either. The budget is low, the actors have very little experience and the script doesn't flow the way traditional movies do. That being said, I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone, moreso to the folks who appreciate non-traditional flicks like this, but to everyone else too. To paraphrase Kanye West (yeah, I know), everything this movie isn't, makes it everything it is.