PSYCHO BEACH PARTY
“Party till you drop. Dead.”
Director: Robert Lee King / Writer: Charles Busch / Cast: Lauren Ambrose, Thomas Gibson, Nicholas Brendon, Kimberley Davies, Charles Busch, Danni Wheeler, Beth Broderick, Matt Keeslar, Amy Adams, Jenica Bergere, Nick Cornish, Andrew Levitas, Buddy Quaid, Kathleen Robertson, Nathan Bexton.
Body Count: 6
Laughter Lines: “In the past I’ve had little use for you head shrinks: Ink-blot tests, ‘I hate my mother’ and all that crap.”
Possibly the only slasher film based on an off-Broadway stage show, enter this one at your own risk, for you’ll either love it or proclaim it’s the worst thing y’ever did see.
Lauren Ambrose, who would shortly after land the role of Claire in Six Feet Under, plays Florence, a plucky smalltown girl who, in the summer of 1962, just wants to learn to surf and hang out with the boys, rather than do boring girly things, like her love-rival Marvel Ann (a pre-stardom Amy Adams). She falls in with a crowd of cool kids in Malibu, led by legendary surfer Kanaka, his protege Starcat (Nick Brendon from Buffy), and their pals, who have names like Yo-Yo and Provoloney and exhibit barely repressed homosexual urges. They reluctantly allow Florence to learn with them, and dub her Chicklet.
Chicklet, however, has multiple personalities, the most powerful of which goes by the name of Ann Bowman, a fearless dominatrix, who may or may not be the mystery fiend who’s been murdering kids with physical imperfections around the area lately: A girl with a cleft lip is killed at the drive-in, one of the surf gang with a skin condition is hacked to pieces, the toxic chick in the wheelchair is beheaded…
Investigating is Captain Monica Stark (played by show’s writer Charles Busch), who notices the action is centered around the surf crowd, and B-movie actress Bettina Barnes, who is hiding out from Hollywood in a beach house, where ‘something bad’ happened, until she is awarded better film roles.
As kids turn up dead, the surf gang throw themselves a Luau, which includes a great dance-off between groups over a Los Straitjackets jam. Chicklet confides in her dorky friend Berdine that she’s concerned she has schizophrenia, which means she’s either capable of being the Butcher of Malibu Beach, or a target for them. The killer is quite obvious in retrospect, though I was having such a ball with the entire affair it caught me out.
That this was issued on an LGBT film label is relevant; it’s only a slasher flick further down the ladder of homages, waaaay below the campy love letter to goofy 60s surf movies, dripping in their homoeroticism, marrying that with B&W movie schtick, and then finally the slasher trimmings. Think Grease meets Serial Mom, which reminds me I’d love to see a 50s/60s set slasher film one day – Bobby Sox, Hotrods, and a psycho killer.
The cast look like they’re all having a whale of a time, with Ambrose’s comic timing the icing on the cake. Fabaroonie.