The Beach is Back - A Horror Film Playlist
Here we are, Summer 2021. Temperatures are on the rise and the world is slowly shifting back to some semblance of normalcy. Bikinis are being dusted off and blow-up beer pong tables are coming out of hibernation. School’s out and the Fourth of July is just around the corner. It’s officially Beach Party Season. Luckily, with every beloved and pleasant societal convention, there is a slew of horror films on deck to crash the party.
Let’s set the scene: Coolers are stocked with awful beer and fruity sugar bombs. Blankets litter the sand. Carefree Co-eds launch beach balls back and forth. LFO’s Summer Girls thunders from a bluetooth speaker. The film nerds crowd around a nearby rock face being set up as a projector screen.
It’s a hypothetical all night Beach Party Horror-thon and I’m your V-J.
Suns out, guns out. Time for the first film on our list. Pull up a beach chair and grab a sandy hotdog.
Disclaimer: You’ll notice there are no shark films on this list, this was entirely intentional. The staggering umbrella of sharksploitation is too vast a cavern to pick out one specific pearl for this list. They also get enough love on their own. This particular playlist is intended to give some love to the B-sides and sub-genre outliers.
The Sand (2015)
If Asylum fare and lingering childhood quicksand phobia is your bag, this is the one for you. The film opens with a group of friends who wake up after a wild party on the beach. But when they attempt to make the slow trudge home, they quickly realize that danger is lurking below the sand, as a flesh eating and largely unseen force begins picking them off, one by one. As the group seeks refuge on the nearby lifeguard stand, it begins to feel like the soul sister of the much-loved Creepshow 2 segment: The Raft.
For our millennials in the audience, you’ll recognize Hannah Montana’s Mitchell Musso and an appearance by everyone’s favorite Scream video clerk, Jamie Kennedy.
Despite it’s below B-Grade appearance, this one is better than it has any right to be. It even delivers a heavily CGI’d Tremors-esque climax that is sure to get this party started.
One down. Time to go get a refill and settle in for more beach creatures.
Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
Produced by the B-Movie Master himself, Roger Corman and directed by Barbara Peeters, this one has everything you could want in a beach set creature movie: Boobs, Blood & Bipedal mutated frogs. In a quaint coastal community, scientists absolutely ruin the annual boardwalk carnival by genetically altering the local ecosystem for better salmon fishing. Due to their negligence and failure to listen to the hot lady-scientist’s warnings, the town comes under attack by a pack of 6 ft razor jawed frog creatures who only want two things: kill the men and mate with the women. Despite it’s less than original plot, it’s arguably a decent commentary on the side effects of GMO’s and the importance of always listening to the hot local lady scientist. Warning to any animal lovers in the audience, one of this film’s biggest transgressions is the dog body count. But if you can hang in there, Humanoids from the Deep delivers a final scene that would make David Cronenberg cringe with glee.
The sun is down. A cool breeze has begun. Time to bust out the tiki torches and Mai Tai’s for our next surf rock installment.
The Horror of Party Beach (1964)
An MST3k favorite, Stephen King himself described this one as “an abysmal wet fart of a picture”, Horror of Party Beach is a campy attempt to simultaneously cash in on the beach party and sci fi genres of the early 60’s. Our setting is once again a small coastal community whose local teenagers just want to party. Instead they are ravaged by a humanoid fish creature after a large ship dumps a barrel of radioactive waste just off shore. As the locals band together to come with a solution to their monster problem, they are consistently bailed out by the, rather racist, mammy archetype Eulabelle, who proves repeatedly to be the only person in the film with any sense. What this film lacks in self-awareness, it makes up for in chocolate sauce blood effects and production assistants in rubber suits.
At this point in the night I’ve probably lost a few of you. As a treat to those of you who have stuck around, we’re turning up the volume a bit and diving back into some contemporary cheese.
Piranha 3D (2010)
A loose remake of the 1978 Joe Dante directed, Roger Corman produced film. Piranha 3D shows the early brush strokes of Alex Aja in this pitch perfect ode to Corman schlock. Self-awareness is something this film possesses in spades. It’s Spring Break in a small lake town and college kids are arriving in droves. For teenager Jake, this is his opportunity to reconnect with his crush Kelly when he unwittingly lands himself a job as tour guide for a crew of porn stars and their sleazy director, played by Jerry O’Connell. But while Jake is living his best life, his sheriff mother, played by Elizabeth Shue are doing their best to track down a hoard of oversized prehistoric piranhas before they make their way to the unsuspecting coeds at the shore. Rife with the unapologetic sleaze of the mid 2000’s, Aja packs his punches and knows when and how to go full carnage.
Familiar faces pop up left and right with appearances by Christopher Lloyd, Eli Roth and Ving Rhames. Aja’s comedic timing and ruthless callbacks leave no gory rock unturned, making this one of the few mid-200’s remakes that actually get it right.
11:55, almost midnight. Enough time for one more story. One more story before 12:00, just to keep us warm.
The Fog (1980)
Obvious choice is obvious. But I’m nothing if not an opportunist and it would be downright criminal not to include this film. In the town of Antonio Bay, it’s the 100 year anniversary of a tragic shipwreck and a mysterious fog bank makes it’s way to shore. With it comes a crew of vengeful ghosts hellbent on exacting their revenge on the town that wronged them. Directed by John Carpenter and Co-written and produced by the incredible Debra Hill, this film is near genre perfection. Starring horror heavy hitters: Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Adkins, Jamie Lee Curtis and her mother Janet Leigh. Every viewing of this film gets me one step closer to dropping everything and starting a radio station out of a lighthouse.
Alright folks, the swan song is over and it’s time to go home.
If you’ve been a final straggler at a party, you’re familiar with the existential dread that comes along with the half-drunken process of stepping over your passed out friends to begin shoveling the never-ending graveyard of red solo cups into a garbage bag. At this point, this process is futile and we should just give up and welcome the arrival of either blood thirsty creatures from the surf or beach patrol.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my fantasy Beach Party Horror-thon! Thanks for reading and it’s good to be back!