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Set in 1966, all-girl band The Violas (Claire Bronson, Mary Kraft, Cynthia Evans) are out on tour when their van breaks down in a small Southern beach community. Short on cash for repairs, the girls agree to play at a young garage owner's annual beach party in exchange for said repairs. Unbeknownst to the troupe, a murderous Skunk Ape (the Florida Everglades' version of Bigfoot) has made its way to the island community, and is currently killing some time by killing some folks.
Formerly known as STOMP! SHOUT! SCREAM!, MONSTER BEACH PARTY is writer/director Jay Edwards' tribute to those cheesy B-movie beach party films of the 1960s. Specifically, the ones that involved rock 'n roll, chicks in bikinis, gravity-defying hairdos and guys in monster suits. Despite the fact that these drive-in movies are now fodder for drunken laughfests for some, MONSTER BEACH PARTY sticks to its guns and delivers a send-up that is equally cheesy as its predecessors, but at the same time, equally charming.
Almost right away, you can tell that Edwards knows what he's doing in steering this parody/send-up. Rather than be the heavy-handed and generally unfunny type of film, MONSTER BEACH PARTY plays it straight and has fun, and not resorting to becoming intentionally campy. Like another recent tribute flick, ALIEN TRESPASS, MONSTER BEACH PARTY embraces the era its predecessors dwelled in, maintaining the aesthetics such as 60s-styled rock & roll songs for music, authentic-looking production design and costumes, and the bright and colourful cinematography.
Character-wise, the film nails it again. Everyone involved gets what Edwards was trying to do, and provide great performances in response. In particular, Jonathan Michael Green's take as the smart and attractive John Patterson had me thinking of all those stereotypical scientist types on more than one occasion. Really, can you blame him? The guy always seemed to have an answer for everything. Likewise, Claire Bronson channeled Annette Funicello for her role as Theodora (despite the fact that she looked like Melissa Joan Hart). I was taken aback by her big musical number, though. The subject wasn't something I'd sing about if it happened to me, but hey, the whole thing is fun (the music, not the subject).
The film gets points taken off when it comes to pacing. Yeah, it sticks to the films that inspired it a little too closely in doing the leisurely stroll. As a result, things get fast-forwarded near the end of the film in such an abrupt way that it's hard to not notice, whether intentional or otherwise. Also, like ALIEN TRESPASS, those viewers without the slightest idea of what the film's trying to do will be left in the dark, wondering just how this film got put to DVD. As a result, the film isn't as accessible to everyone, which is unfortunate, since it's a fun film if you know what to expect.
At the end of the day, MONSTER BEACH PARTY is a delight. Edwards and company deserve kudos for coming up with and pulling off successfully a film such as this. Having great performances by everyone involved without being heavy-handed in parody, combined with some great music and production make the film a groovy way to spend your afternoon while it snows/rains outside.
Video: Sporting an anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen transfer, the film looks great for an indie. Shot on 35mm, the film exhibits a bit of grain in the lower-lit scenes, but even then it's not distracting. Unfortunately, there are some interlacing errors present throughout the transfer, with some more noticeable than others. Despite that, the film is colourful and bright (as it should be).
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is equally as good as the transfer. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and the great 60s-inspired music comes through without any distortion.
First up is an audio commentary with director Jay Edwards, director of photography Evan Leiberman, producer Arma Benoit and actors Mary Craft, Cynthia Evans, Ned Hastings and Jonathan Green. Obviously cut from separate viewings with different groups (Edwards being present for all of them), there's some good info and fun to be had with this commentary.
Behind The Scenes is broken up into 11 segments that can be played separately or strung together. In addition, you can enable the optional commentary with director Jay Edwards and director of photography Evan Leiberman, who explain just what you're watching. The segments cover things such as the girls rehearsing, breakdown of shots, a cameo by Dana Snider aka Master Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, interview with the cast and other tidbits. Again, fun and informative.
Deleted Scenes & Raw Footage is self-explanatory, with Edwards and Lieberman again providing optional commentary. Most of the scenes were cut for time, but you'll still want to check them out for Edwards' input.
Production Stills Slideshow is a 2-minute piece of shots from production set to music from the film. Nothing earth-shattering, but at least you get another opportunity to take in the music.
Finishing up the extras are Sneak Previews of other films from Indican Pictures, and MONSTER BEACH PARTY's theatrical trailer.
Pay no attention to the DVD cover, which is probably the only unfunny thing associated with the film. Jeez.
Another film homage that gets it right, MONSTER BEACH PARTY is a fun romp through 60s drive-in films. If you know what to expect, you'll be pleasantly entertained. Extras-wise, you'll be entertained and informed thanks to some great input from Edwards.