Welcome to Spring Break
Year of Release: 1989
Also Known As: Nightmare Beach, Nightmare Beach - La spiaggia del terrore
Running Time: 90 minutes (1:30)
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Nicolas De Toth ... Skip
Sarah Buxton ... Gail
Rawley Valverde ... Ronnie
John Saxon ... Strycher
Lance LeGault ... Rev. Bates
Michael Parks ... Doc Willet
Luis Valderrama ... Dawg
Fred Buck ... Mayor Loomis
Yamilet Hidalgo ... Trina
Spring Break is usually the time for an old college tradition: hitting the beach for a little sun, surf, suds, and wet T-shirt contests... a nonstop party of the wildest kind. But, this year, there's a difference. This year, one of the locals, Ed Diablo, has just been given "the chair." His last words were, "I swear I'll come back for revenge," which could explain the mounting body count of grisly murders being piled up by a terrifying biker with a shocking way of killing his victims - more shocking even than the electric chair. His targets are pretty girls, Peeping Toms, anybody who gets in the way. Local authorities, like the sadistic police chief, the town's alcoholic doctor, and the sinister minister, keep the killings under wraps while the rest of the town is removing theirs.
Welcome to Spring Break, remindin' us that the only thing separatin' a public strip show from an indecent proposal charge is sex appeal. Life just ain't fair sometimes. For instance, I try drivin' to the Jiffy Mart for some Pringles, sans shirt, an I get hauled in for blindin' oncomin' traffic. But some beach bunny does it an the cops pay 'er to taser their hineys, it's discrimination at its worst.
An speakin' of things you might wanna get on tape, it's that time of year again. Spring Break; that magical time in a kid's academic career where they load up their Mustang with 36 cases of Miller an 17 of their closest friends so they can drive down to Lauderdale an drum up business for Planned Parenthood an Girls Gone Wild Productions. Sure, it's an inconvenience in the interim, but really, it's a small price to pay for a ready supply of young people we can feel morally superior to when we're feelin' down on ourselves. Course, we're nowhere near a beach here in Chickawalka County, less'n you count the shores of Lake Gunkamucka, but that don't mean we don't get our share of Spring Breakers stoppin' at the Gas, Grass, or Cash 24-hour Fuel, Lawn Care, and ATM Station askin' questions like "excuse me, but can you point me to toward the organic pork rinds?" an "deodorant's a crutch for superficial phonies afraid to search for true emotional fulfillment." That's right, they're here; hipsters. Ugly guys with bad beards an $100 vocabularies tryin' to prove they're nothin' like regular people so emotionally damaged girls'll think they're enigmatic an let 'em put their hands up their shirts. Anyway, they come pourin' outta the community colleges every year to rough it in the woods an generally freeze their asses off for about three days until they finally look around an realize there's nobody else out there to SEE that they're freezin' their asses off, an finally get a hotel for the rest of the week. That's what normally happens, at least, but this year things got a little strange, cause apparently one troupe of these clowns found a puddle of white stuff oozin' up out of a red digger burrow an thought it was naturally occurrin' marshmallow fluff, at which point all four of 'em ate it. Turns out said white stuff was mushroom goo that'd prolly been regurgitated by a bear after it got sicker'n the cops who opened up Jeffrey Dahmer's refrigerator, an after about 10 minutes the whole group was runnin' around stark nekkid like they were filmin' a Bo Derek movie. I heard it all on the police scanner, an apparently by the time Deputy Mackle tracked 'em down they'd named all their ticks an tried havin' sex with a porcupine, which, despite the psychological trauma endured by the porcupine, is prolly for the best, given how their scrotums must be lookin' about like voodoo dolls an been rendered incapable of passin' those defective genes on to any future offspring. I gotta be honest, I have my doubts that any of this schoolin' is havin' much of an effect.
Fortunately, the spring break in the movie's only a little weirder'n that, so it shouldn't be too big a shock to the system for everybody when the evil biker with the Red Power Ranger helmet starts pickin' up hitchhikers an zappin' 'em to death with his electrified Homicycle to avenge his death in the electric chair. It's basically The Wraith with two less wheels an a lotta topless spring breakers when you get right down to it, so obviously we're gonna hafta delve in pretty deeply if we're to understand the intricacies within the writer's plot processes, an I think these three fun facts are just the ticket to get everybody on the same page. First, John Saxon's been on the cinematic police force so long that he gets an honorary electric chair in every county he serves. Second, don't expect many local scholarships to be given out when the mayor's office is chock fulla empty bookshelves. An third, bein' part of a leather jacket biker gang in Florida is one hot son of a bitch.
Now that's what I call writin'. Only thing I can see that's really wrong with this flick is that it can't decide whether it wants to be sexy or not. I mean, we start out on the beach with a buncha trophy-wives-in-trainin' havin' a wet t-shirt contest (an you know they're prime marriage material too, cause they don't even realize they forgot their shirts), so everything's fine there. You've even got an oily man belly-flop contest for all the slatherin', hungry cougars on the prowl, an then what's the movie go an do? Takes us over to John Saxon's trailer an shows us the chains, whips, gimp masks, an various other instruments of sexual degradation he's got stored in his own personal pain locker. Excuse me while I launch my lunch into orbit, but does ANYONE wanna know about John Saxon's S&M tendencies? Cause I'm thinkin' we've got a pretty unanimous "no" vote on this topic. Even the 50 Shades creepolas'll tell ya that the Grey ain't supposed to pertain to pubic hair. Once you've seen that, the crew could pay Monique Gabrielle to do jumpin' jacks in your livin' room all day an you STILL wouldn't be able to jump your battery. John's a great asset to the character actor's guild of America, don't get me wrong, but that don't mean we wanna know what goes on behind locked cuffs, ya know? That kinda thing'll put you off your New York steak in a New York minute. So to summarize: nobody wants to go motorboatin' an find a sweaty, week old Fruit Loop in the cleavage, comprende? Unless maybe it's one of the red ones. I really like those.
The movie begins with a mean ole biker gang who've stolen both the name an the font from Lamberto Bava's "Demons" holdin' a silent vigil outside a prison where Master Bra'tac from Stargate SG-1 (Diablo) is about to be executed by the crustily typecast John Saxon for the murder of a promising young waitress. Diablo tells the victim's sister (Gail) that he didn't do it an vows to return from the grave to strain John's body through the metal screen in his police cruiser, but John just ignores 'im an straps a Catwoman-style gimp mask over his head an causes a brownout all over Lauderdale turnin' Diablo's brains into British cuisine. Then the director ratchets up some hair band beach metal an sends us into town where two kids who missed their callin' when they turned down the starrin' roles in a CHiPS prequel (Ron an Skip) are checkin' into the Candy Store an preparin' to embark on a fun-filled week of explorin' beach bunny burrows an crushin' conch shells against their skulls. But later that night, some gal's hitchin' a ride with a biker wearin' the red Power Ranger's helmet an freaks out when it becomes apparent that he, like Sammy Hagar, cannot drive 55. Eventually the biker hasta stop cause he's afraid 'er screamin's gonna shatter his visor an put his eyes out, an by that point he's so P.O.'d about missin' the Miss Crab Shack bikini contest he slaps this button on his dash that fills the backseat of his hog with an electrical current that barbecues 'er britches an makes 'er look like a Buddhist monk protestin' the Vietnam war. Meanwhile, Ron an Skip're bein' criticized by the Demons for majorin' in athletics an havin' nothin' to fall back on in the event they're drafted by the Cleveland Browns, but fortunately John shows up an makes like Max Von Sydow an exorcises the Demons so Ron can go bitch combin', while Skip elects to brood in the hotel room after bein' hit on by some gal with a nose implant. I'm not kiddin', that thing's so big that if she were a voodoo priestess she'd need a brontosaurus femur to shove through there. We're talkin' a nose so big she's got a cricket followin' 'er around warnin' 'er about the dangers of tellin' lies. I don't mean to dwell on this, but the woman stands under balconies an coaches imbeciles on the art of romantic poetry in her spare time, we're talkin' Dumbo the elephant here. Seriously, it's really big. Anyway, the next day, it's back to the beach, where Ron an Skip ogle the ladies at an impromptu no t-shirt contest, but then Skip ditches out again cause he's still depressed about accidentally handin' the ball off to a defensive lineman durin' the Orange Bowl, an by this time the bartender (Gail) is startin' to get the hots for 'im after two days in a row of his bein' the only guy in Florida who hasn't tried Donald Trumpin' 'er genitals.
Then Ron leaves the bar an gets picked up by one of the Demon dolls (Trina) an ends up bein' lured into an alley where the bikers turn his face into a used menstrual pad, an when Ron finally gets his bearings the only thing he sees is Gnarly Davidson sittin' in the road all by his lonesome. Ron is P.O.'d, an he knows his only chance is to take the guy out before he morphs into the Megazord an turns 'im into road pizza, so he gets it together an starts throwin' drunk punches that all whiff like a buncha Shaquille O'Neal free throws til he eventually misses so bad that he ends up on the ground grabbin' the rear foot peg an gets fried like a squirrel walkin' an exposed power line. So the next mornin' Skip goes lookin' for his friend an spots Ron's necklace on the biker broad who lured 'im into the alley an trails 'er out to their hideout where he just about gets chained an brained, until John shows up to execute a search warrant for Diablo's executed corpse. Only while that's goin' on, the electric bugaboo's over at the hotel stranglin' the lecherous desk clerk an deep throatin' a cosplay hooker with an electrical cable. Eventually the sun goes down an Skip's still no closer to findin' his barbecued bro, so he heads back to the bar to ask Gail if she's been sexually harassed by any greasy haired Poncherello impersonators since he was last there. She says she ain't seen Ron, but offers to take 'im around town an show 'im all the hottest accidental balcony bomb spots an swing by the 24-hour stomach pump plaza to see if he got Steve Irwin'd by a stingray. All they manage to turn up is a doctor who's more nervous than a chess club nerd in P.E. class, an as it turns out, that's cause he, John, an Mayor Dobish've already seen the corpse an seem to be fully aware of the dude from Electric Avenue. So the next day, Skip hides out in the backseat of the doc's Chevy Caprice til he starts drivin' down The Strip an puts a flat-head to his jugular an threatens to scratch up the lenses on his prescription sunglasses if he don't tell 'im where Ron is. Apparently all the cool kids're dyin' out at this phosphorus quarry just past the Banana Republic on the way outta town, so Skip heads out there an digs up Ron's body so he can tell it how sorry he is that it ended up lookin' like an Irishman who fell asleep sunbathin' on the banks of the River Styx. Course then John shows up cause he's apparently got a trackin' bug planted in Skip's swatch or somethin', an John tells 'im to rebury the body an get the heck outta town before he tells 'im about the time he hadda use the bathroom after Burt Young on the set of Blood Beach. Then Gail gets followed home by the Cheesy Rider an just about parts Skip's feathered hair with a 9mm round when he startles 'er from behind, an once she calms down he tells 'er about how he's been hidin' out there ever since John threatened to kill 'im an that some pervert's been doin' weird stuff in 'er underwear drawer.
But in the meantime, the Motorpsycho's gone down to the beach an grabbed 'imself a fresh chunka fender fluff an taken 'er down to Freddy's boiler room where he proceeds to open up the door to the blast furnace an roast 'er to death like a steak knife salesman soliciting 1313 Mockingbird Lane. By the followin' mornin' John's gone an locked up the head biker (Dawg) on suspicion of bein' a big meanie, only charbroiled chicks keep croppin' up all over town like somebody's been handin' out free passes for the Fourth Reich Tanning Salon, an so now John an Dobish're startin' to get a little spooked thinkin' Sonny Barger mighta found out an put a voodoo biker hex on their beach. Then the doc calls up Dobish an resigns from their conspiracy group by sendin' a hollow point through his skull for a little exploratory brain surgery, an while Dobish an John fight over who's gonna scrub the 50 Shades of Grey Matter off the wall of the doc's office, Skip an Gail head out to John's trailer, mace his pooch, find his stash of incriminatin' murder photos, rifle his S&M whip locker, an split right around the time John comes home an notices his dog's eyeballs smell like peppermint schnapps. Now we know why Gail never could get accepted into the ITT Technical Institute, cause when she came across the picture of 'er sister bound an bloodied in the woods, not only did she destroy the evidence, but she also left it on John's bed for 'im to find an now he's really P.O.'d. Unfortunately, he ain't the only one who's P.O.'d, cause now the Demons want Dawg the Mountie Hunter back, an they decide to storm the jail an appeal the sentence an the faces of anybody who tries to stop 'em. Cept for Trina. Trina musta drawn the short straw an hadda stay behind to clear all the dislodged teeth from the nightly toughman contest outta the drain trap, an when Weevil Knievel walks in wearin' Diablo's Power Ranger helmet she goes for his throttle an ends up gettin' dispatched by another conveniently severed power cable that pops 'er eyeball like a silicone breast implant durin' a Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling grudge match. Then John drops by the bar to tell Gail she'll never schlep drinks in this town again on account of 'er impendin' deadness, an Skip figures that since she's as good as dead anyway he might as well use that to his advantage an have 'er tool around dark alleys on 'er Moped to see if she can't entice the killer outta the shadows. Gonna cut it off here, an since we all know that John Saxon's our designated red herring, you'll just hafta grab yourself a copy to see who the real killer is. Spoilers: it wasn't O.J. this time.
Alrighty, Welcome to Spring Break, probably the best mash up of The Wraith and Baywatch ever directed by the man who brought us Cannibal Ferox. Kinda lacks the intensity you'd expect from Umberto Lenzi once you've seen any of his various cannibal/zombie flicks, and generally harkens back to his days spent producing Giallo movies. And if we're being completely honest with ourselves, any honest to goodness horror title with less blood than a Giallo must be considered at least a partial failure. That said, it's a rare example of an Italian produced feature that conceals it pretty effectively. Primarily due to the fact that it was filmed in Fort Lauderdale, and featured actual sound recordings of the shoot that wouldn't require all the dialog to be dubbed in later. The only thing that kinda tips it off is the soundtrack composition (at least the tracks not consisting of American-produced '80s hair metal). Directing credit is alleged to belong to a Harry Kirkpatrick, but that's a tired old deception used by foreign directors that serves dual purposes; the first being an attempt to conceal that fact from American audiences, and the second being an attempt to make foreign audiences believe the movie is American, as we generally had more money to sink into film productions to improve their overall quality. Of course, if you've seen as much of our garbage as I have you might be inclined to question that line of reasoning, but it must have worked, because foreign directors utilized that trick for years and years. It's too bad Lenzi didn't jump on the slasher bandwagon when it was still going strong, because by 1989 it'd pretty well petered out and people were startin' to get tired of 'em, which seems kinda funny now, because these days even the most pathetic, obscure '80s slasher movies have become sought-after gems by collectors. But even though the box office returns on these kinda movies had pretty well dried up (less perennial favorites like Friday the 13th sequels), the one thing it does do exceptionally well is to capsulize the 1980s spring break in Fort Lauderdale tradition. Then again, if you wanted to relive that you could always watch Sean Cunningham's immortal Spring Break from 1983, which does a much better job. Ultimately, I feel like the movie's just being pulled in too many different directions to be truly effective, because in addition to the borderline Giallo atmosphere and the slasher elements, it's also very nonchalant. This aspect is best demonstrated by the cheesy but lovable '80s rock music that chimes in *immediately* after we watch the biker get electrocuted in the opening sequence. That opening sets the tone for the movie perfectly, because what it's basically saying is: "look, you've seen all this before, so just sit back, don't expect too much, and you'll probably have a good time." And generally speaking, that's what it delivers.
In any event, it's time to attach the ole jumper cables and see if this thing's got enough juice to light up our lives, or whether it simply blows a fuse. The plot is a bit predictable, given the way it frequently bounces between the principal characters and a fellow who would otherwise be of no importance were he not going to become important later on. Anytime you see that level of foreshadowing and a motive becomes apparent, you've probably solved the mystery. That said, I don't particularly care that a movie's predictable, as long as it's fun, and the plot, simplistic as it may be, doesn't have any gaping holes, despite being pretty hackneyed. The acting is no doubt the low point of the movie, with much of the cast having been tragically born without an amygdala (apparently that's the emotional center of the brain). This particular affliction affects the two protagonists more than most, although Michael Parks is pretty good as the stressed-out doctor who's up to his eyeballs in corruption, and John Saxon does his usual bang-up job of playing the same character he plays in every movie he's ever been in. Rawley Velverde also does a decent job as Skip's raucous, douche-bro buddy tryin' to conquer South Florida one twat at a time, but pretty much everybody else with anything even approaching a significant role stinks of inexperience.
Here's who matters and why: Nicholas De Toth (The Stuff), Sarah Buxton (Primal Rage), Lance LeGault (Mortal Kombat II, Coma, Dark Breed, The Silencers, Captain America 1979, and he played Alamo Joe Rogan on Werewolf), Michael Parks (The Dead One, From Dusk Till Dawn, From Dusk Till Dawn 3, Sorceress, The Savage Bees, Tusk, Red State, Planet Tarror, Death Proof, The Dead One), John Saxon (From Dusk Till Dawn, A Nightmare on Elm Street 1, 3, & 6, Hellmaster, The Arrival 1991, Blood Salvage, Aftershock, My Mom's a Werewolf, Blood Beach, Criminal Act, Death House, Hands of Steel, Prisoner of the Lost Universe, Tenebre, The Scorpion with Two Tails, Battle Beyond the Stars, Cannibal Apocalypse, Beyond Evil, The Bees, Strange New World, Black Christmas 1974, Planet Earth, Queen of Blood, Blood Beast from Outer Space), Ben Stotes (Popcorn, Primal Rage), Gregg Todd Davis (Shallow Grave), John Baldwin (Primal Rage), Luis Valderrama (Primal Rage), Fred Buch (Shock Waves, Cocoon 2, The New Kids), Turk Harley (Primal Rage), Buffy Dee (Mako: The Jaws of Death), Dan Fitzgerald (The Final Countdown, Island Claws, Eyes of a Stranger, Mako: The Jaws of Death), Barry Schreiber (Primal Rage), Joe Del Campo (Primal Rage), Jennifer Hingel (Primal Rage, Scared Stiff), Earl L. Simpson III (Primal Rage), Bill Wohrman (Cocoon 2, Killer Crocodile, Primal Rage), Frank Logan (Barracuda, Scream Bloody Murder), Lisa Vidal (Star Trek 2009, Dark Mirror), Tom Boykin (Primal Rage), Jay Amor (The Mist, Primal Rage, Scared Stiff), Kirk Alderman (Cocoon), Kathleen Carrier Pefferkorn (Worm), Daniel Selby (Popcorn, Mindkiller Night Vision, Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell). I'm afraid that we've got another series of soap opera defections on our hands with regard to the roles these folks're puttin' up near the top of their resumes, so I'm just gonna give it to you straight and rip the band-aid off as quickly as possible: Sarah Buxton was Annie Douglas on Sunset Beach, and Morgan DeWitt on The Bold and the Beautiful, Rawley Valverde would go on to play Amado Gonzalez on Santa Barbara, Lance LeGault would be best known as Col. Decker on The A-Team, John Saxon was, of course, Roper in Enter the Dragon, and Lisa Vidal hopes you remember her not for Welcome to Spring Break, but for her portrayals of Kara on Being Mary Jane, and/or Magdelena Ramirez on The Division.
The special effects are just okay. As I mentioned earlier, there's not a whole lot of blood in this thing, although there are a few grisly electrocutions and immolations. The barbecued victims are pretty rubbery, but the editor has the good sense not to linger too long most of the time. The worst effect is probably the electrical cable that gets stuffed down the call girl's throat, which consists of a super-imposed jittery graphic intended to represent an electrical shock. It's really bad, and tends to become just transparent enough at times for you to see little more than the girl's horrified expression. But on the plus side, there's the second death by electrical cable kill of the biker babe, and even though the electricity doesn't look much better there, the end result is the bloodiest scene in the movie, and includes a dangly eyeball popped out of the socket. The charred corpses aren't too bad either, and the aftermath of the girl being roasted by the incinerator is far better than the actual incineration. So it's a mixed bag, with one terrible effect, one great one, and others that fall in between.
The shooting locations are probably the high point, with a lot of great shots of Lauderdale back in it's heyday as the college spring break capital of the universe. Pristine beaches, several nice panoramic shots that do an excellent job of encapsulating the atmosphere of the event, and even a few scenes that show off the city night life. Beyond those scenes, you've got the biker stronghold (nothing special, possibly an abandoned building that'd been gutted by a fire or partially hauled away for scrap), the prison execution area (just okay), and a junkyard (pretty good). Really though, it's the beach scenes that radiate the desired mood, and they're also the most enjoyable to look at, so the money they no doubt spent on licenses to shoot in Fort Lauderdale, I feel, was worth it. The soundtrack is the other critical support beam in propping up this '80s Fort Lauderdale spring break time capsule, and whatever you might personally think of the music, all the rock/pop songs fit in perfectly as part of that spring break motif. On their own the songs aren't that great, but as part of the overall picture, they're truly excellent. Lenzi really nailed the atmosphere he was going for in this thing, and although what he was going for isn't exactly what I'd personally consider the best recipe for a successful horror film, his shooting locations and music are in perfect alignment. As for the base composition, it's pretty repetitive, but also damn catchy. I've still got that borderline goofy (yet strangely intense) loop stuck in my head two days after the fact, and it's really the only Italian thing about the entire movie, having been composed by the great Claudio Simonetti, who composed the music for all of Dario Argento's best titles. Overall, there isn't a damn thing here that you haven't seen before. The characters are emotionless, the general feeling is one of detachment, and it's among the last in a long line slasher flicks to be produced after the fad had begun to die... but it's still a fun little movie. I'd probably recommend it to all the slasher completists out there, but it may also prove enjoyable to anyone who enjoys a flick bursting at the seams with that debaucherous spirit of the '80s. So it's up to you, but it's really not too bad.