Robert Lee King”s “Psycho Beach Party” traveled the festival circuit, hit a few college towns, then disappeared from theaters last winter. The fact that it never really found a large audience is not surprising for a film that actually shows TV”s Thomas Gibson”s (“Dharma and Greg”) ass after a delusional 16-year-old carves a message in it with a knife. The surprising part is that this low budget satire is hysterical, and works as a dead-on parody, as the poster touts, of the 80″s teen slasher films, the 60″s beach party operas and the 50″s goof-ball psychodramas. And it has a no-nonsense female cop played by the very male scriptwriter, who, if the script is any indication, enjoys nonsense a great deal.
The film recounts the harrowing story of Chicklet Forrest (Lauren Ambrose), a square peg trying to fit through the round hole of popularity. She starts hanging out with the surfer dudes, including: Starcat (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”s” Nicholas Brendon), a smart dude who had two semesters of psych in college, Junior, who has to wear a shirt on the beach because of psoriasis and YoYo and Provaloney, who enjoy wrestling each other a bit too much. Her new-found beach-bum friends are lead by Kanaka (Gibson), the king of the beach who is so cool he speaks in rhyme.
The main problem plaguing these hip kids is the dead bodies that start turning up. Enter Captain Monica Stark (Charles Busch, who adapted his own screenplay) to solve the case. Suspects include B-movie starlet Bettina Barnes (Kimberley Davies), kindly Swedish exchange student Lars (Matt Keesler), sexually repressed Mrs. Forrest (“Sabrina the Teeange Witch”s” Beth Broderick) and Ann Bowman, Chicklet”s liberated second personality. The film”s camp value is high, but it perfectly exploits the sex and perversion that permeated each of the three genres it pokes fun at.
The DVD itself is not loaded with extras, but has a very entertaining filmmakers track with both Busch and King. It is a crash course in Guerrilla filmmaking, as they discuss how some of the film”s classier shots or funnier bits sprung up due to lack of budget. King explains how the scenes with more cuts were filmed earlier in the day, before the cast and crew started to tire, while Busch laments on how he refused to let the stunt man”s ugly legs stand in for his own “sexy” gams. Also included is the standard theatrical trailer, as well as a music video by Los Straightjackets, who provided much of the film”s soundtrack. The band is a sort of acid jazz music, think Dick Dale on Quaaludes.
The simple fact that this film now has the chance to reach more keen guys and way-cool girls could mean that “Psycho Beach Party” may finally become the cult classic it so richly deserves to be.