Hello and welcome to Terror Tapes! This is the Horror Squad weekly feature fully endorsed by Vestron Video and the Cannon Group...in my head at least. Each week I pillage the film archives that are Austin's local videostores and bring you dusty old relics of a lost era. Turns out the horror genre has one of the biggest back-log of titles that were tragically abandoned on the doorstep of the video orphanage. Well, actually if you've been following this feature you'll know that most of these films are better off sheltered from the cruel, discriminating world of DVD. Nevertheless, like Daddy Warbucks I will continue to adopt these titles, at least for a weekend, in an ongoing effort to find a few that can thaw my icy, Blu-ray-loving heart. I have an abundance of optimism about today's title: Blood Beach. Let's see if we hit it off and foster a bond through the magic of montage!

Blood Beach
is the story of a small coastal town that, on the surface, appears to be the perfect spot for a summer getaway. The problem is, of late, people have been failing to return from their days at the beach. Turns out there is a nasty beastie residing just below the sand that has developed a real taste for Bermuda shorts and Coppertone. The town council is decidedly beside themselves as the tourists flocking to their shores account for a large percentage of their yearly revenue. They send in familiar horror movie policeman John Saxon to investigate, but with limited resources and an overwhelming pressure to produce results. How many bikini-clad victims will the monster claim? Will our favorite put-upon cinema lawman be able to find and destroy the beast? Will the town council actually move forward with filing the dreaded RS-753 form against him and partially reduce his employer-matched IRA contributions?!

I actually enjoyed this flick. Write it down, it hasn't happened in awhile, but I had a great time with it. That being said it's not what I would call a quality horror film because, well, it's not a quality horror film. But it had enough entertainment value to make it well worth the rental price. It is one of the myriad creature features released in the early 80's designed to capitalize on the success of Jaws. And when I say "capitalize on the success", what I really mean is unscrupulously rip it off. Of all the Jaws pretenders I find this one to be among the most brazen. You remember that classic tagline from Jaws 2 stating, "just when you thought it was safe to go in the water"? Well Blood Beach's poster proclamation, that is actually granted utterance in the film, is "just when you thought it was safe to go in the water, you can't get to it." Amazing!

Something I found really interesting about Blood Beach was the creativity employed in the absence of budget. Throughout the movie, it is clear that the filmmakers did not have the money to show the monster during each kill. What they did instead was to create a really cool, but admittedly understated, sand vortex to represent when the creature was lurking about. It was tantamount to the foreboding dorsal fin of our favorite Spielberg shark. I also loved the slow, horrifying descent into to the sand of the victims. We get the money shot of the beastie at the end, but what was more likely a budgetary constraint actually feels like a legitimate attempt to build tension to the climax.

The film also features one of the greatest castration scenes in all of filmdom. A woman is walking underneath a pier when a man jumps out and attempts to rape her. She thwarts him enough that he ends up face-down in the sand and suddenly the proverbial excrement hits the fan. He begins screaming and the folly artists go to work. Before you know it he rolls over and his entire lap is covered: in blood. Oh yes kiddies, this reprehensible d-bag is made a eunuch complements of a monster with a clear understanding of poetic justice. For better or worse, it's a scene that leaves an indelible mark.

As far as complaints, it is paced like a long walk through a molasses tank and it takes awhile to find its stride. As you would expect, there are performances that are more than a bit lackluster, but that I can forgive. What truly befuddles me is the inequity of screen time among the actors. Not only does Blood Beach have John Saxon, one of my favorite cult film heroes who plays this same role in both A Nightmare on Elm Street and Black Christmas, but also features the immensely talented Burt Young from the Rocky series. Yet those guys don't get as much face time as the disposable "leads" who couldn't act their way out of a sandbox...and I know that because I watched them try! I cannot fathom why these two great actors weren't used more effectively; really holds the film back in my opinion.

All in all, Blood Beach amounts to an entertaining B-movie Jaws rip-off. It also features an ending that is equal parts ridiculous and wholly satisfying. I know it sounds ludicrous but I have to wonder if this film wasn't an inspiration for Tremors. The way the beast moves underground, the kill scenes and the style of the creature itself once you actually see it all smack of the worm monsters in Tremors. Normally I would dismiss this as mere coincidence, but S.S. Wilson & Brent Maddock, the writers of Tremors, are huge horror geeks like us. It does make one wonder; even if it's false.

CATEGORIES Reviews, Horror