Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vampires on Bikini Beach

Though the title misleads you into certain assumptions (mainly: this is going to be awesome!), Vampires on Bikini Beach has climbed into one of the biggest honors Ben's Movie Reviews can bestow - The Worst Movie I've Ever Seen.

Vampires on Bikini Beach
Writer/Director: Mark Headley
Starring: Stephen Mathews, Jennifer Badham, Todd Kaufman

This prestigious honor was previously held by the infamous horror film Crossbones, a sentiment shared by IMDB users who claim Crossbones is "the worst movie ever made...ever!" That film revolves around a reality television crew (ironic, I know) that travels to a deserted island to make a TV show but comes across a resurrected pirate who, for some reason, is hellbent on killing them. If that sounds appealing to some of you, I assure you - it is not. We fell into the same trap. I actually own the movie (Wal-Mart prices of $5.00 have that effect sometimes), so if anyone is interested in seeing how bad it is in its full glory, hit me up and I'll let you borrow it.

Vampires on Bikini Beach, however, came to us through the wonder of Comcast On Demand free movies. It's hard to truly comprehend the cinematic abombination that I beheld viewing this 1988 "film" last night. I was continually shocked with how it got progressively worse over time, my mouth agape as the movie unceasingly lowered the bar for the criteria once thought necessary to create and distribute a legitimate film. (I hesitate to call it "legitimate," since it certainly doesn't fit most definitions of the word - but being added to the Comcast playlist and having the potential to be viewed by millions puts it over the edge.)

This and the poster are literally the only relevant pictures from the movie that come up in a Google search.

The premise revolves around a group of about seven friends, aged in their late teens or early twenties, who have no real jobs and do nothing but hang out at a California beach all day. A couple of the guys, Harold and Bob, are in a pure 80's pop band and perform occassionally at a local club, where all of their beach buddies go to groove to the beats. Too bad we, the audience, are also subjected to this music. There were at least three full songs performed in the movie, and all of them were predictably ridiculous. For two of the songs, the camera sickeningly stays in the club for the entire duration, cutting back and forth between a vapid dance floor with only white people dancing on it (come to think of it, I don't think there were any black people in the entire movie) and the intoxicatingly putrid lead singer - a Steve Perry/Stan Bush wannabe who had about as much stage presence as a can of creamed corn.

When Bob and his new girlfriend Kim get roughed up in a sketchy alleyway behind the club, they discover that their assailants have dropped a "Book of the Dead," which apparently holds spells that will bring back the dead. These scenes are intercut with scenes of a "classical" vampire (complete with medallion, cape, and slicked back hair, not to mention a mask worse than most found at any costume store around Halloween) who has inexplicably made his hideout in a warehouse near the club. His goal, aside from using the Book of the Dead to bring back Hitler and other minions to form an army and take over the world, is a completely useless and poorly conceived subplot in which he tries to kiss various women with the hopes one of them will survive and become his mistress of the dark. Too bad all of them die. Of course Kim gets pulled into the warehouse late in the game and is seconds away from kissing the vampire (whose name is Falcor or something), but she is saved at the last second. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Kim first meets Bob when his old car breaks down on the side of the road near the beach, but it's never explained how the car is repaired and they get in and drive away. The friends (one, a woman, is named Clark) are all brainless morons who serve no purpose, except for one dude who is evidently a computer guru who uses a standard computer to access information about the Book of the Dead. Needless to say, with a 1988 release date, this is pre-internet. Also, pizzas are cooked and delivered in record time in the Vampires on Bikini Beach universe, proven by an elapsed time of about a minute and thirty seconds between an ordered pizza and the doorbell ringing with the delivery guy on the other side. (That is literally the only good thing about this movie. The concept of pizza being delivered in blazing speed.)

One would assume the title would imply an abundance of beach footage, hard bodies, sexy females, bathing suits, etc. This is not the case. There are about three beach scenes in the entire thing, and little to nothing of the implied footage above. There is one montage of a bunch of girls trying on bikinis at "the bikini store" (I wish I was joking when I say that's what it was called) and a group of guys oogling them from the store window. This montage is set to the third song played by the club band, which is thankfully never given a name. It also does nothing to advance the plot, and I don't even think anyone buys a new bikini. They never return to the beach after this point, so we never find out if the trip was even necessary. Here's the part where I lean forward, close my eyes, and start to rub the bridge of my nose.

I won't cover all of the unmotivated actions of the group and the vampires because that would fill a solid thirty paragraphs. So I'll stick to some basics in bullet point form.
  • The vampires have no selection process of the girls they bring to Falcor.
  • I have no clue how our "heroes" discovered the vampire hideout.
  • The heroes didn't call the cops when they found a dead body. Instead, they touched everything they could near the murder site and dug around for clues to something of which they had no knowledge anyway.
  • The group summons a spirit of their own by reciting random spells from the Book of the Dead (always a good idea), and this ghost guy ends up battling the vampire at the end. His weapon of choice? A neon cross that looks like it was two pieces of PVC pipe duct taped together.
  • There is a scene where the group runs into a location to see if someone is there. They open the door, look in, and run out. That's the entire scene.
  • SPOILER ALERT. At the end, two of Bob and Kim's friends are turned into vampires and they lie in a hospital bed frothing at the mouth and spasming in their restraints. Bob asks Kim in a snarky voice if she wants to "grab a BITE" and they leave. They don't tell any hospital employees what happened, or call the cops, or get a real doctor, or try to help their friends in any way. They leave them and go eat.
The production design was nonexistent. It honestly felt like two guys were working on the entire production of the movie, and more than half of their set design came in the form of shining random lights at skewed angles across walls in the background. They didn't ask themselves whether or not there was a reasonable light source for the audience to recognize - even in an alleyway, they clearly illuminated everything in a strange blue hue (why? I have no idea) from a lamp post, and then shone a yellow light at a bizarre angle across the back wall. Where does that second yellow light come from? The moon? Only in that weird strip of an angle? I don't think so. This happens often - and by often, I mean in every single exterior night scene in the movie. It also should be mentioned that 90% of the audio was clearly overdubbed in post production, and in the most shoddy way possible from the sound of it. There were times when the vampire would be speaking a sentence, and then mid-sentence his mouth would stop moving but the words would still be playing: I'm guessing the filmmakers thought we'd figure these speeches were inner monologues (this phenomenon occurred multiple times), but it obviously turned into one of the most piss-poor technical achievements I've ever laid eyes on.

I've seen better acting in high school drama classes. The only accolade you could throw at the actors was they did an admirable job of memorizing their lines. That's right - they completed the most basic task an actor has to accomplish. As far as delivering those lines in a coherent, interesting, compelling fashion? Take a wild guess if they succeeded. So aside from the offensively atrocious acting, the worst crime the filmmakers committed was the choice of where to place the camera. The writer/director (what a talent) Mark Headley and his director of photography (if you can call it that) made the baffling choice to place the camera as far from the action as possible within the confines of the same room. Dialogue would be taking place on the far right corner of a room, and the camera, I kid you not, would be in the back left corner completely away from everything that's happening. And it would stay there. There were no tracking shots zooming in closer to the characters, no panning to closer characters in the room. Most of the time, the scenes that I'm describing were supposed to be scenes of intense significance: a computer geek hacking into a database to unlock secrets of the Book of the Dead, the group figuring out their gameplan, even in the vampire's cave during a "fight scene" when most of the lights go out in the scene. [We decided that someone behind the scenes accidentally unplugged the light cord from the outlet, but they only had enough film for one take so they kept acting anyway.]

I think I've devoted more time and effort reviewing this than it took for the esteemed Mr. Headley and crew to write and direct this entire movie, so I'll stop for fear of making them look worse than they already do (as if that were possible). I'm thankful for seeing Vampires on Bikini Beach because it gave me a new low to measure against all new lows, so if nothing else it made its mark in my personal cinematic archive. I would recommend it only if you wish to mirror the effect, because I truly don't believe anyone on the planet can look at this and say "that was a great movie." I would go as far as to say someone who has only seen this ONE movie out of all the movies in the world would swear off every other film because of how bad this was. But I digress. Until next time...

Two more things.

1.) In 2007, Mark Headley was signed to produce a remake of the classic Gary Cooper western High Noon. High Noon is widely considered one of the best westerns of all time (and I agree - it's phenomenal), so seeing it in this guy's hands will undoubtedly be one of the most disappointing cinematic events of my lifetime.
2.) I came across a review of a movie called Monster of Bikini Beach, which you can read here. Spin-off? I think so. (Not really.)


Ashley said...

good job! great writing as usual! I like the list of everything they did wrong- funny stuff.

Alan Trehern said...

I hope to never hear about this monstrosity EVER again.

Willard Loveloin said...

see this is what i am freaking talking about! this kind of content is what makes shows like the soup so appealing.

top to bottom this review was rife with ballsmacking ecstacy and enough shermstick to eat your lovers heart.

the thought of coming over to "borrow" crossbones amuses me to no end. skeet on, masta ben!

king of derfdom said...

Loveloin speaks true. The reviews of irrelevant movies make you not only more accessible, but you give the image of REALLY caring about cinema, and not just the Hollywood blockbusters.

Although Vampire Bikini Beach may have been as terrible as you say, a faggot legit movie reviewer wouldn't waste time on these small pickins'

And for that, we thank you, minstrel of the most loathsome.

Jacob L said...

That is such a delightful title for a movie. I am tempted to watch it on demand, except I trust your judgment that VOBB is too bad to watch, even for a bad move.