REVIEW: Welcome to Spring Break (1988)

welcometospringbreak

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1988, Laguna Enertainment/Elpico S.A.

Director:
Harry Kirkpatrick
Producer:
William J. Immerman
Writers:
Vittorio Rambaldi
Harry Kirkpatrick
Cinematography:
Antonio Climati
Editing:
John Rawson

Cast:
Nicolas De Toth (Skip)
Sarah Buxton (Gail)
Rawley Valverde (Ronnie)
Lance LeGault (Reverend Bates)
Michael Parks (Doctor Willet)
John Saxon (Strycher)
Ben Stotes (Al)
Kristy Lachance (Lori)
Gregg Todd Davis (Ralph)
Yamilet Hidalgo (Trina)
John Baldwin (Mad John)
Luis Valderrama (Dawg)
Tony Bolano (Diablo)

In 1988, two major sub-genres were having quite the following: the teen beach comedy and the slasher film. So what happens when the two genres merged originally under the direction of a legendary Italian gore director who then served as an assistant for a newbie director? An actually laughable yet watchable film that this reviewer will admit, is quite a guilty pleasure.

A year ago, Demons gang leader Edward “Diablo” Santor, was given the electric chair for the murder of the sister of a young woman named Gail. Before his death, Diablo maintained his innocence and vowed that someday, he would return.

It is time for Spring Break. The parties are sure to get wild and joining in the chaos are Ohio football players and best friends Skip and Ronnie. Skip is well known due to a botched play that cost him the championship and Ronnie has brought him to Florida to take his mind off the game. Skip, who meets Gail while she works as a bartender, and Ronnie are having a fun time. Meanwhile, a mysterious biker has arrived. Picking up a hitchhiker, he starts to drive really fast and when the hitchhiker begs him to stop, he stops near a closed road, where he pushes a button that electrocutes the young woman, killing her.

This biker eventually gets to Ronnie, who makes a mistake by hitting on Trina, the ex-girlfriend of Diablo, which results in the Demons beating Ronnie to the ground. When Ronnie sees the biker, he confronts him only to meet the fate of being electrocuted as well. When Skip discovers Ronnie is missing, he asks Gail for help. They soon learn that Strycher, a no-nonsense cop and the local doctor have covered up Ronnie’s death in an attempt to calm down the party goers. However, the mysterious biker continues to find victims and the body count rises. Did Diablo make good on his promise and has returned from the grave?

This is quite an interesting film. From what has been understood, famed Italian giallo director Umberto Lenzi was originally slated to direct the film. However, he felt the story was too much like a previous film of his, the 1972 film Seven Blood-Stained Orchids and had a falling out with the producers. Enter James Justice, a novice writer who was soon chosen to direct, but had asked Lenzi to stay to help him because who better to get than a master of the horror genre. Lenzi agreed, and according to a 2006 interview, said that Justice, who used the name “Harry Kirkpatrick”, deserves the full credit for the film.

So let’s say that this is “Harry Kirkpatrick”’s first film, how does it fare? For a 1980’s slasher film, it’s definitely a cult classic of sorts. The use of electrocution via the backseat of a motorcycle may seem farfetched, but it is how it is executed (no pun intended) that makes it interesting. A lever is attached, which the passenger pulls down and when a button is pushed, high voltage ensues. However, the killer only uses this contraption twice in the film. And while a majority of the deaths are in fact, electrocution, we do have one off-screen death and a death by boiler fire as another method the killer inflicts. The special effects were done by Alex Rambaldi, whose father, Carlo Rambaldi, was the designer of one of Hollywood’s most famous aliens: E.T.

While veterans Lance LeGault, Michael Parks, and John Saxon hav pivotal roles in the film, the focus is more on the young cast. Nicolas De Toth (who later became a film editor, working on Terminator 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine) at times seems wooden as our hero Skip while future soap opera star Sarah Buxton is more tough as Gail. Rawley Valverde’s Ronnie is the more likable guy but unfortunately, he meets his untimely fate not even a half hour in the film. There are also the usual assortment of victims expected in this genre and one just can’t wait for the “prankster” who always fakes his death to finally really die because let’s face it, he was very annoying.

Welcome to Spring Break is a guilty pleasure mix of the teen beach movie and the slasher film. The film is a definitive 80’s cheese-fest and for that, this is actually one to watch while drinking some beers with the guys on a Saturday night. And the ending is a definitive “WTF” moment…that’s all this reviewer has to say.

WFG RATING: B-

DVD

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