STIFF Presents 'The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell'
Movies used to be weird, dang it, and proud to be so. Sadly, even the once-mighty homegrown-cult-film phenomenon has become more and more vanilla lately, with the truly strange stuff being mostly relegated to brief YouTube blips. Where is this generation’s long-form equivalent to 1980’s Forbidden Zone, a movie where Hervé Villechaize played the King of the Sixth Dimension? Or The Apple, where peppy teens attempted to out-dance Satan? Or, hell, even the likes of Xanadu?
The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell, the inaugural entry in Seattle True Independent Film Festival’s monthly screening series at the Central Cinema, may not quite reach (descend?) to those mondo-bizarro heights of yesteryear, but it’s not for lack of effort. Melding political satire, slasher flicks, and survivalist pulp, it quickly generates an infectious, ungodly thrum untouched by studio hands. While the narrative momentum does occasionally get lost in a haze of dorm-room brainstorm babble, the overall flow of manic invention is honestly something to see—even if you’re not exactly sure what it is you’re seeing.
As for the plot, well, here goes nothing: Set in a post-apocalyptic 2096, the film follows the self-appointed Vice-King of New America (writer/co-director Kevin Wheatley) as he attempts to gain rightful rule over the last remaining subterranean populace. Accompanied by two brain-dead robot bodyguards, he roams the wastelands on a national tour with his bloodthirsty cousin in hot pursuit. Think Road Warrior crossed with Surf Nazis Must Die (and maybe just a hint of Woody Allen’s Sleeper), and you’ve got a toehold. Any such summary, however, fails to do justice to the glut of stream-of-stoner-consciousness flashbacks, surprisingly lush animated segments, left-field celeb cameos (Daniel Baldwin, Jane Seymour), authoritarian voiceovers, and seemingly whatever else was rattling around the filmmakers’ collective brainpan at the instant of filming. Put simply, this is the loopiest thing to come down the pike in many a year. Fans of What-the-F Cinema, get thee to the theater.