The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell (2006)
Film review #359
Director: Jonny Gillette, Kevin Wheatley
SYNOPSIS: Twenty years after nuclear war has destroyed the U.S., the radiation levels outside have dropped to a safe level, and people can venture outside into what is left of the world. Tex Kennedy is on a quest with his two humanoid robots Quincy and Yul to retrieve the man destined to be the new King of America, but to do so they must cross into Hell (which is somewhere on the Florida coast apparently) to find him and face all the evils within…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell is a 2006 independent post-apocalypse film. The film begins describing the setting of the film, with a mixture of narration and footage. In the year 2074, a nuclear war has rendered the surface of the United States uninhabitable, leaving all survivors stuck in underground bunkers. Twenty years later, the radiation has declined enough so that humans can venture outside. Tex Kennedy, having left his bunker, is now on a quest to follow the guidance of Clark Remington, a man who broadcast on the radio to the bunkers, who proclaimed his nephew Benny the new King of America, and Kennedy is on a mission to retrieve him and in the process become Vice-King. The story is told in a number of ways: through narration, through a kind of mock-documentary, with presenters/authors telling the history of what happened, and through the action itself. All these different methods of storytelling are constantly overlapping and cutting away from each other, which makes the film honestly feel like a bit of a mess. Maybe that’s because the film isn’t really sure about how to portray itself: I think it’s supposed to be a comedy, but there’s an awful lot of backstory and flashbacks that really makes a considerable effort to flesh out the story and the setting, but ultimately doesn’t really matter. For a film that is only ninety minutes long, it spends a lot of time explaining what is going on, and seemingly trying to justify itself by inventing this grand narrative that doesn’t really go anywhere, leading to a but of a confusing mess. I could forgive it if the film identified itself as more of a comedy film that treated the backstory as secondary, but the fact that it spends so much time setting up this world doesn’t really allow that as an excuse.
So Ted and his robot security guards arrive at the “Threshold of Hell”, where Benny Remington is hiding in a bunker, and they have to get him out and journey to a radio tower and broadcast their message to the entire country. However, the threshold of Hell is full of crazed characters that are out to stop them. These characters all have their own personality, but there’s just so many of them they only get a small amount of screen time each. and there’s not much time to really develop their roles. There’s Clark Remington’s son, calling himself Mr. Jackie, who wants to become the king himself after his Father disowned him for basically being a sociopath, and his whole gang, including his sadistic lieutenant. There’s also Yorick Schlatz, who is a cult leader who hosts the beach party at the threshold of hell and who also possess satanic powers that keeps the partygoers immortal and unaffected by the radiation for the past twenty years. Also Fidel Castro’s descendent Javier Castro shows up to create a dynamic with Tex, the descendent of President Kennedy…or he would do, if he stuck around longer. All these bizarre and nonsensical characters all have some potential to do some interesting things, but the film constantly over-explains everything and never lets the characters speak for themselves. Again, if the film is aiming to be a black comedy or focusing on dark humour, then it could have worked, but there’s just not enough focus on what it wants to be.
Being an independent film, you won’t be expecting any spectacular special effects or ambitious cinematography, and you won’t be surprised with what you get. The camera is all over the place and can barely frame a shot most of the time, the scenes that are filmed in front of a green screen are blindingly obvious, and the acting is pretty wooden throughout. One more surprising element in the film is that it is quite gory. Even though the blood and guts look obviously fake, it further still confuses the tone when it is trying to be funny and then someone’s organs get ripped out. There’s a scene in the middle of the film involved with a giant snake of some sort and the film instantly switches to a hand drawn animation sequence for about twenty seconds with no set-up or transition and it just feels like an acknowledgement that the film could not make this scene any other way, and just tacked in this sequence just to fill the gap. Overall, The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell feels like it is trying to do far too much with far too little. It feels indecisive with regards to the tone of the film or what genre it is trying to establish itself within. Far too much time is spent describing characters and backstory instead of letting the film show it, and the constant interruption to the story to expand on these elements is distracting and makes retaining focus and interest in the film difficult. It has one or two laughs, but there’s nothing really worthwhile here.
Also, the film ends with the teasing words “end of part one”, which suggests more to come, but a sequel was never made, which is probably for the best.