Nightmare Beach (1989)

It’s the late eighties, and it’s Spring break, somewhere near Miami, Florida. Thousands of young people are in bars and cars all along the seafront, drinking, sunbathing and having sex. A biker gang has a vendetta against local police chief Strycher after he framed their leader, Diablo, who we see die in the electric chair. But within days a mysterious biker with a devil’s trident on the back of his motorcycle starts electrocuting random people, and the Mayor, who is desperate to keep the murders under wraps, begins to wonder if Diablo is back from the dead.

Nightmare Beach shouldn’t work. It’s cheesy and sleazy, the acting is ropey, the dialogue is so-so, and the premise is ridiculous. The Lighthouse, my original pick, was boring me silly, so I flicked through my watchlist and picked Nightmare Beach instead because it seemed like the complete opposite. It was only on my watchlist at all because of its link to director Umberto Lenzi, who made the bonkers-wonderful Nightmare City.

But there is a lot to love in Nightmare Beach. It’s made well, with solid cinematography and an all-out eighties rock-style soundtrack, and the central pairing of Skip and Gail are surprisingly sweet and well played. The redoubtable John Saxon plays the villainous local police chief, and the special effects of the various kills are pretty good. It’s fun! I would have been fifteen when this was made, and even if I was American, I would never have gone on Spring break like these characters do, so there is some nostalgic wish-fulfillment going on in me, for sure. Everyone is so young and beautiful. An unexpectedly solid slasher that made me feel like a teenager again.