The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell
Film review by: Witney Seibold
There’s a lot here, so follow closely.
In 2077, the U.S. will be decimated by nuclear attack, killing most and forcing the rest underground. Life underground is harsh, but kept bearable by the inspirational speeches of used car salesman Clark Remington (Daniel Baldwin) broadcasted over the country’s one remaining radio tower. Remington claims that the sons of great leaders (well, his own son Benjamin, played by Bill English) will one day emerge, defeat evil, and reclaim the destroyed nation.
Twenty years hence, when the radiation has dropped, Tex Kennedy (Kevin Wheatley), a descendant of JFK, emerges from below with a plan. With his two robot bodyguards (Paul Whitty and Chandler Parker) and vicious man-eating ex-girlfriend Cannibal Sue (Jamie Bullock) in tow, Tex must find the pale and blind Benjamin, and take him to the Threshold of Hell, the site of the radio tower to broadcast his kinghood to the nation and reclaim America.
Bent on intergenerational revenge is Javier Castro (Jonathan Davidson), a bumbling descendant of Fidel Castro. He wishes to kill Tex and take the nation for himself. He is not himself too frightening, but he has in his own posse a dangerous and cold-eyed killer named Marcellus St. John (Ted Schneider).
Another complication: the Threshold radio tower is guarded by a cadre of college kids led by Yorick (Alex Reznik) who once made an unholy pact with The Devil which allowed him to rule the beaches of decimated America, and also granted he and his bikini-clad teens immortality.
There. That’s the story of this little oddity.
I saw “The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell” as a midnight screening at the L.A. Film Festival back in 2006. It is finally getting a release in theaters, albeit a very limited one. When I wrote articles on the LAFF at the time, I said that “Beach Party” was one of the better films I saw there. I’m still right. Despite the film’s obvious reach for a cult (most of the lines are delivered for the express purpose of making sound bites for previews and for teenage boys to repeat after the movie; it’s as if the writers wanted the whole script to sound like Ash’s “Groovy” line from “Evil Dead 2”), it still has enough genuine strangeness to hold its own water.
A lot of the actors mug unnecessarily. A lot of the story twists are designed to be weird rather than being just naturally weird, but there’s something gritty about the whole endeavor that give it an honest-to-goodness B-movie quality. The photography looks like a long-lost Mad Max sequel, the characters seem escaped from several underground exploitation movies, and there’s even a few strange animated sections when the obviously low budget wouldn’t allow for real-life killer eels. The film is rated “R,” and earns its rating with buckets of blood, but its use of blood is not a cheap, gratuitous zombie-esque excess. It’s rather a brutal and violent and hard-working spillage, it makes every drop seem important.
National Lampoon ended up producing and distributing the film, but don’t be fooled, “Beach Party” is not a Spring Break frat-boy raunch fest. It’s more a labor of love by young sci-fi nerds. And bless the sci-fi nerds for laboring.
“The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell” is goofy, often forced, and sometimes cheeky, but still immensely enjoyable. It’s like a higher-concept version of “Six-String Samurai,” but with an equal budget, and a much larger cast.