It’s the Drive-In Special Summer Beach Edition!
As the Drive-In enjoys its long-awaited resurgence I thought I’d make up for the fact that while no, we are not able to hit the beach (seriously people, don’t), it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some fun in the sun on-screen.
The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965)
Beach movies were all the rage back in the day, and either capitalizing, satirizing or just imitating them came several horror iterations of that popular theme.
Directed by Jon Hall (Invisible Agent, The Invisible Man’s Revenge), comes a not too blood-soaked beachy tale of a menacing creature preying on, you guessed it; beach girls. Opening with some of said beach girls dancing on the sand the murders quickly get under way when Bunny ventures away from the group near the apparent lair of the latex monster. One that looks somewhat familiar to Gillman from “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” but hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say…
Now all the teen beachgoers are terrified of the beach, although it doesn’t last as we’ll come to later, and the story settles in on the Lindsay family. Firstly famed oceanographer Otto Lindsay played by the films director. The police investigating the homicide come to him due to the “fishy” nature of the crime scene. The scientist offers his assistance but also a scathing condemnation of kids today and surf culture. I had to double check that this movie wasn’t just some anti-surfing propaganda documentary. He was that angry. Hmmmmmm. After that we meet the oceanographers son, and friend to the victim, Richard. There’s actually a lot going on with this family, so much so that I think the real villain might be Otto’s wife, and Richard’s step-mom Vicky instead of the Monster. Son and stepmom DO NOT get along, partly because Richard’s friend Mark lives with them since a car accident that occurred in events prior to the film. Mark passes his time sculpting and is working on a piece of his buddy’s stepmom after completing a topless mermaid in the likeness of the deceased Bunny for her parents. Mark is kind of a creep. Drama ensues.
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“[The monster] looks somewhat familiar to Gillman from “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” but hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…”
In beach movie fashion there is tons of swinging music sprinkled throughout. Much of it done by an actual surf band at the time; The Hustlers. “Dance Baby Dance”, the theme song for The Beach Girls and the Monster was written by Frank Sinatra Jr. It doesn’t really add to the horror aspects of the film but it still fits with the era in which it was made and that comes across as actually pretty endearing.
By the time this film reaches the 40-minute mark, and it’s only 70 minutes long, the Monster has only appeared twice and the body count remains at 1. That does change after the incredibly awkward and cheesy beach party. Seriously, it’s cringe-inducing in the best possible way. It’s then that the last third of the film flies by towards its neat, but predictable, conclusion. There’s a truly Scooby-Doo moment that you saw coming if you’ve been paying attention.
As far as horror goes, it’s obviously not that scary. In fact, the only true terror I got was watching the simulated driving scene at the 55-minute mark. It’s a good thing we’re not in the backseat while that guy drives! But that doesn’t mean the film isn’t without any merit, these are time-capsules after all and to critique it by today’s standard would be a mistake. It accomplished what it set out to do and it doesn’t need to apologize for it.
Blood Beach (1981)
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water – you can’t get to it”
That’s the tagline to the 1980 beach horror film Blood Beach. Assumedly playing off the previous few years of oceanic horror (i.e Jaws, Piranha, Orca, etc…) this puts the carnage on terra firma once again with a sand-burrowing creature a full decade before the iconic Tremors (1990) did it much better. But that’s not to say it’s without merit. Almost without merit.
The story takes place on sunny, scenic Santa Monica Beach and begins with a violent attack where a woman is pulled beneath the sand while out walking her dog in broad daylight. This spurs an investigation by some over-the-top police detectives and Harbor Patrol Officer, and eye-witness Harry Caulder. Harry will spend the rest of the movie being not very useful compared to the police, who have that stereotypical 80’s embellished behavior that’s good for some laughs though this is probably unintentional. The pair Royko and Piantadosi are one of the saving graces of this film. The former is actor Burt Young who’s best known for his role as Paulie Pennino in the Rocky series and is a sarcastic, grumpy delight.
“I’ll go ahead and give [Blood Beach] props for being one of the first, if not the first, of a short list of sandy horror movies.”
After several more attacks including one where an attempted sexual assault is prevented when the creature severs the wang right off the attacker, and Harry’s best friend Hoagy falls prey to the sand-beast, Harry’s love interest Catherine ventures to an abandoned section of the pier to do some investigating on her own and discovers the lair of the beast. Filled with corpses and corpse bits. This leads to the climax of the film where the police install cameras in the underground lair and wire the entire dwelling with explosives and wait for the right time. When the creature returns home we get our first look at it and it’s pretty under-whelming. A cross between a worm and plant maybe. A few moments before they blow it all a doctor assigned to the case makes mention of some creatures abilities to regenerate. A little too convenient a setup right there at the end but Royko rushes out nonetheless to detonate and gives us the “shocking” conclusion.
While the film is largely forgettable, I’ll go ahead and give it props for being one of the first, if not the first, of a short list of sandy horror movies. It’s definitely no Tremors (1990) and it’s not even a Sand Sharks (2011) but like with a lot of genre films from the era, I’d never say that it’s a total waste of your time.
And did I mention John Saxon (Nightmare on Elm Street) is in it!? Well he is!
Summer continues to swelter on but don’t forget to get outside when you can and hit up that Drive-In if you have a local one. Are you watching anything outdoors? Let us know in the comments, over on Twitter , Reddit, Instagram and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club over on Facebook!