Nightmare Beach

(James Justice & Umberto Lenzi, Italy, 1989)

BY LAURA KERN | October 31, 2021

The close of the ’80s brought a consummate entry in that decade’s trash-horror cinema. Nightmare Beach takes a sex-comedy setting—spring break at Miami Beach—and tosses in a killer, who inconveniently disrupts the visiting horny teens’ partying agendas. Chief among them is Ronny (Rawley Valverde), a dude with no redeeming qualities who arrives armed with condoms and hits on every girl he sees, and his forced-along, decent friend, Skip (Nicolas De Toth), who attracts the attention of a hardened local bartender, Gail (Sarah Buxton), clearly used to constant lecherous behavior from her customers.

The film begins with the electrocution of Diablo (Tony Bolano), the badass leader of a local biker gang accused of murdering a woman we later learn to be Gail’s sister. His fellow riders are outraged as they believe he’s innocent, and it’s a belief he shares. “I’ve been framed” are his final words, just after telling the attending cop, Strycher (John Saxon, who also appeared in 1981’s Blood Beach!), he’d see him in hell and requesting that the priest pray for his own goddamn soul. Shortly after he’s fried, his body disappears and people begin being electrocuted by a large mystery man wearing all leather and a motorcycle helmet. Did Diablo survive and escape or is someone else to blame? Meanwhile, Ronny disappears, and Skip and Gail set out to see what’s up.

Giallo and exploitation maestro Umberto Lenzi, perhaps best known for Cannibal Ferox, is credited as co-director on the film, though he requested that his be name removed, claiming screenwriter Harry Kirkpatrick (aka James Justice) as the film’s true maker, and that he offered technical guidance only. But there are far worse movies to separate oneself from. Nightmare Beach, also known as Welcome to Spring Break, is stylish, brainless fun, with some truly nasty, impeccably staged death scenes. It also features a fun supporting turn by Michael Parks (who was put to great villainous use by Kevin Smith in Red State and Tusk) as a sketchy doctor and a soundtrack made up of some classically ’80s songs and a great synth score by Goblin keyboardist Claudio Simonetti. (Mostly) atrocious acting and killer reveal aside, Nightmare Beach is undeniable fast-paced entertainment. And it’s the rare slasher film with an upbeat ending. 🩸


is a writer, editor, and horror programmer based in New York. She is the editor of Bloodvine and her writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Film Comment, and Rolling Stone.

X: @killerkern

How to see Nightmare Beach

Kino Lorber Studio Classics (!) released a Special Edition DVD/Blu-ray in 2019 (a digital copy is also available for purchase on KINO Now). Additionally, the film can be streamed on Kanopy, wherever accessible.
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