Psycho Beach Party (2000) — A send-up of ’60s shore fiestas

“Oh wow! This is like meeting Walt Disney or Helen Keller.”

DnaError’s rating: Campy kooky killings concern crazy kids

DnaError’s review: This is a weird movie. Not weird like David Lynch, cause that I could handle. No, Psycho Beach Party is weird because it seems like the kind of movie I should love. A campy, bizarre silly romp with murders. Yet, something is *off*. Just thinking about it makes my head hurt. Maybe I should start at the beginning.

Psycho Beach Party begins, as all bizarre camp-fests do, as an off-off-off Broadway play which then became a movie. The plot deals with a bunch of bum surfers on an over-lit beach who lie around, surf against back-projected waves, and are slowly picked off one by one by a mysterious killer. It’s a parody of the 1960 beach movies (think titles like Beach Blanket Bingo and Gorilla of the Sea!) and the teen horror genre. As a horror parody, it works. The mannish Detective Monica Stark (writer Charles Bursch in drag) is a brassy and playing it just short of winking. And the killings are delightfully eccentric.

(Note to self: never say “delightfully” again.)

But all through the movie I keep getting the feeling that this SHOULD be funnier. Damnit, why am I not laughing? Part of it could be Nicholas Brendon who plays the oddly named “Starcat.” It’s not that he’s a bad actor; far from it, he’s too good. Six years of watching him as Xander on Buffy: the Vampire Slayer has imprinted that role on him in my mind. He IS Xander. If he commits a horrible crime, the headline will read XANDER KILLS 7: (Anya: I always saw it coming!)” So it’s impossible for me to separate the Xandery-nature from Brendon.

Another reason could be the ’60s beach movie spoofery. It feels flat. Most of us where pre-pre-natal when the genre was big and the movies, like teen slashers, do a pretty good job of making fun of themselves. There is a little too much winking at the audience. Too much of “isn’t this silly!?!” Like Mars Attacks, this film makes the mistake of pretending it’s above the stuff it’s parodying.

Of course it has a few good spots. The B-movie actress Betina Barnes (a breathy-voiced Kimberly Davis) is a gem, a sweet bombshell who is blissfully unaware of how goofy everything is. Davis does the smart move of playing the part of a ditzy starlet completely straight-faced, making it much more funny then it should be. Ditto the mother, her tick-tacky tupperware kitchen is funny on its own.

So, much like the beginning of this review, I’m ending all confused. Psycho Beach Party is not a bad movie — it’s very funny in parts, and when it stops winking it can reach that level of goofy camp its working for (especially the ending which is worth the wait if only cause it’s so delightfully (dammnit!) surreal). I got the same feeling after seeing Mystery Men (whoa, two movie references in the same review, I need to stop reading other people’s reviews) of a movie that could have been a lot more funny then it is.

Andie’s rating: Let’s go surfin’ now, everybody’s killin’ now, come on a safari with meeeeee!

Andie’s review: I’m so glad I rented this. Seriously. It’s hysterical and I love Lauren Ambrose now more than ever. I thought she was great in Can’t Hardly Wait, and I like what I’ve seen of her on HBO’s Six Feet Under, but she really got to showcase her talent on this movie. Her personalities are so distinct, I absolutely can’t believe it. One minute she’s sweet little Florence/Chicklet, the next minute she’s sexy, sultry Ann Bowman. And every once in awhile she’s some Safeway checkout girl with an attitude. It’s bizarre and crazy and so funny at the same time.

This movie is such a great mix of cheezy ’60s Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon beach movies combined with twisted psycho slasher movies. I was too busy laughing to even care who the killer was and I thought each character was great.

I’ve already sung the praises of Lauren Ambrose as Chicklet, but I also thought Nicholas Brendan was great as Starcat and I loved the Mrs. Robinson turn of Chicklet’s mom. Berdine is a great geek girl and the gay surfers were cracking me up in every scene they had. The movie actress was kind of grating on my nerves, but she was okay. Thomas Gibson was so surprising as someone other than Greg Montgomery on Dharma and Greg that I almost couldn’t believe it. But I did end up liking his character.

The choreographed dance/fight at the Luau is my favorite part of the whole movie. I love dancing scenes and anything that pays homage to West Side Story always cracks me up. I was also totally digging the surfing scenes that were so obviously fake and I liked the way Starcat and Chicklet were constantly fighting. I think that is best form of flirting in the movies.

Overall, this was a great rental and a good addition to my collection of little-known cult flicks that I enjoy. Go check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

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