Friday, December 05, 2003

Movies You Really Should Own (and Don't) Volume 2: Psycho Beach Party

(2000, directed by Robert Lee King)
available on DVD from Strand Releasing Home Video

The makers of Psycho Beach Party sure love their B-movies. From the ginchy soundtrack by Ben Vaughn and Tennessee’s finest surf rock outfit, Los Straitjackets, to the absolutely incomprehensible dialogue and plot courtesy of writer Charles Busch (adapting from his stage play), the movie reeks of 50s and 60s B cheesiness.
Chicklet (played by Six Feet Under’s Lauren Ambrose) is a typical teenage girl, yearning to blossom into womanhood, but stuck in a flat-chested, boyish body. Typical, yes, but also totally insane. Chicklet suffers from multiple personality disorder and can turn into a demanding psycho bitch or a timid Mexican grocery clerk on a moment’s notice.
After watching some surfers, Chicklet decides she wants to ride the long board too. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon plays Starcat, a psych major-turned leader of the local surfers. She hears about the Great Kanaka (Thomas Gibson), the king of the surfin’ crowd and decides he’s the man to teach her. Kanaka doesn’t agree until he gets a taste of Chicklet’s Anne Beumont persona, a dominatrix.
Did I mention that there were horrible murders? No? Well, there are murders. The movie’s called PSYCHO Beach Party. There’s gotta be a psycho involved. It’s a rule. Of course, this being a horror movie, I should mention that it’s only the sexually promiscuous teens that get the ax…or the slashed throat…or beheaded…or whatever. You guys, being net junkies, are totally safe.
Chicklet starts noticing that she’s blacking out when her alternate personalities take over, and begins to suspect that she might be the murderer. There’s also subplots with a faded horror movie actress, a Swedish exchange student, two surfer guys who like wrestling with each other a little too much, a bitchy chick in a wheelchair and there’s a transvestite cop. Well, actually, the cop is a woman, but she’s played by Charles Busch, who is very much a trannie.
There’s enough sexual ambiguity in this movie to fuel a David Bowie comeback. There’s some honest attempts to salute B filmmaking from days of yore. There’s hot chicks (including Catch Me If You Can’s Amy Adams) in bikinis. There’s ghey guys glistening with sweat. There’s serial killing. There’s a plethora of double entendres (“These guys only have one thing on their minds…Want a weiner?”). There’s a plot in there, somewhere. And, of course, there’s a surf rock band from Tennessee who perform in Mexican wrestling masks.
Buy it now, and discover the goodness. Would I lie to you?

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