Tuesday, October 9, 2012

31 Nights of Terror '12 #2 - Blood Beach

Blood Beach (1980)
Director: Jeffrey Bloom
Starring: David Huffman, Marianna Hill, Burt Young
Format: DVD-R

Plot: Something or someone is attacking people one by one on the beach. Some of them are mutilated, but most of them are sucked into the sand, disappearing without a trace. What is the creature responsible? Where does it live, and where did it come from? And is there any chance of it reproducing? Meanwhile, David Huffman and Mariana Hill are once-almost-married old friends, reunited over the death of her mother on the beach, and searching for clues in the abandoned buildings where they used to play when they were young.

When a movie from 1980 fails to get a Region 1 or 4 DVD release, it usually means it's craptacular and only of interest to lovers of bad cinema. That's what I was expecting from Blood Beach (which has only been released on German DVD). Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a damn good low-budget horror flick!

The basic plot isn't exactly genius. One line of Jaws-inspired dialogue from the film sums it up - "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, you can't get to it". But around that writer-director Jeffrey Bloom (who also helmed the anthology flick NIGHTMARES) weaves a nice little story about a Harbour Patrol cop (Huffman) and the woman he let get away (Hill). There's a few clunkers (like how Huffman's developing love triangle quickly resolves itself thanks to the creature), but they're the exception rather than the rule.

The kill scenes (victim sucked down into the sand by their feet, rinse, repeat) sound corny but they're actually effective. The concept was used 20 years later in Tremors, albeit in more of an action b-movie way than here. Bloom builds up suspense nicely, so the repetitive kills don't get boring. And the main thing he does right is keeping the monster off-screen until the finale. By then it doesn't matter that the creature effect is pretty bad.

But what really ties Blood Beach together is the acting. The two leads are great and have good chemistry. It's a shame that Huffman (WOLF LAKE) was lost to acting at the age of 39 (he was murdered just five years after this movie), because he's a likeable leading man. Hill's career was waning after earlier starring alongside Eastwood in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and playing Fredo Corleone's trashy wife in GODFATHER PART II, but she's also cute and likeable.

The supporting cast is also good. Genre veteran John Saxon is in usual form as a perpetually-grumpy police captain, while Burt Young (ROCKY) offers comedic relief as a loud-mouthed, un-PC detective who's always eating.

Here's hoping Blood Beach gets a legit DVD release soon (my DVD-R is a scratchy VHS-rip), because it's a nice piece of early-80s horror/scifi.

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