Psycho Beach Party (2000)

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Released 13-Mar-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Biographies-Cast
Theatrical Trailer
Production Notes
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 84:38 (Case: 90)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Lee King
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Lauren Ambrose
Thomas Gibson
Nichola Brendon
Charles Busch
Matt Keeslar
Andrew Levitas
Nick Cornish
Kathleen Robertson
Danni Wheeler
Amy Adams
Beth Broderick
Kimberley Davies
Case Click
RPI ? Music Ben Vaughn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Well, where do you begin with a film that has the name Psycho Beach Party, where the cover artwork bears the visage of a young woman who looks as if she has a bad case of the runs? One that has Thomas Gibson, Lauren Ambrose, Kimberley Davies, Nicholas Brendon, Beth Broderick, and Matt Kesslar, all left-over soapie stars or extras who appeared for maybe thirty seconds in classier films, as its main "talent"? Well, as is normally the case with films with such titles, the fun isn't in enjoying the acting or filmmaking skills on display, but rather in laughing one's proverbial off at the lack thereof.

    Psycho Beach Party is based upon a play by Charles Busch that satirises the surf shows of the 1960s, as well as Gidget, and from what I can gather, it is very faithful to the source material. The film begins with a group of air-head teens at a drive-in, watching the latest B-grade horror flick, when several, including one by the name of Florence Forrest (Lauren Ambrose), go to get things from the hot-dog stand. Unfortunately, this is the point where one of the patrons gets killed, and the police come to question everyone who was present, including Florence, but her mother (Beth Broderick) gets in their way. Of course, this does more to raise their eyebrows in suspicion than protect Florence, but intelligent behaviour is not something you're likely to find in this film.

    It is during one day at the beach after a typical display of a boy's club attitude about surfing that Florence pays Kanaka (Thomas Gibson) a visit, asking him to teach her to surf. This, of course, is where the beach party element comes in, and the resultant surfing dominates the film for most of the rest of the film, very often to its detriment. His initial refusal is met with the emergence of an alternate personality who calls herself Ann Bowman, who soon scares the surfing guru into teaching her the secrets of riding waves. The basic premise of the film is to send up every beach movie cliché that was prevalent through most of the 1960s and 70s, and in this sense it is remarkably successful, with hilarious usage of the old projection style of surfing scene.

    The problem is that the clichés become more prevalent in the film than any of the humour or story that is on offer, and the previous experience of the principal cast on soapies and such sitcoms as Dharma And Greg buries any suspension of disbelief rather quickly. Almost from the outset, we become acutely aware that we are not viewing a thirty year old film that is long on silliness and very short on intelligent jokes. The concept of satire has really outgrown entrants like Psycho Beach Party.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Considering the independent nature of this film, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this video transfer, although it is not what I would call perfect.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    The sharpness of this transfer borders on excellent, being the best disc in this regard that I have seen to date from Magna Pacific. The shadow detail is good, with plenty of discernable detail in the darker areas of the picture, although this is not used to the sort of artistic effect I am so fond of seeing, and there is no low-level noise.

    The colours are very strangely arranged in this film, with reds being quite heavily saturated to give the sets a cartoonish, larger-than-life look, while skin tones, especially those of such actors as Lauren Ambrose, look decidedly pallid by comparison. This strongly suggests that this rather strange display of colours was a deliberate effect, and there is absolutely nothing else in the colours of the transfer that can be considered remarkable.

    A rather strange artefact was noticed during the course of this transfer, one that may or may not affect other viewers depending on the setup they use to view the feature. In essence, a flickering white line was noticed below the bottom of the frame from 0:00 to 6:10, and again from 9:10 to 14:36. It occurs several more times in the total running length of the film, but these were the first and most irritating instances. I found this artefact to be somewhat distracting, largely because, as the above time figures indicate, it was rather persistent and hard to miss. MPEG artefacts were not found in this transfer, but film to video artefacts were often spotted in the form of aliasing, such as around the edges of surfboards at numerous points. Film artefacts were also on display a lot during this transfer, often coming in a thick burst that was mildly distracting, but they were within acceptable limits overall.

    There are no subtitles on this disc, so viewers with hearing impairments or problems understanding English are out of luck.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    I had to check the slick repeatedly to confirm that this is indeed an independent film transferred by an independent distributor when I caught a load of the audio transfer, for it is one of the most active I have heard without resorting to booms and crashes for quite some time. It proves that an active surround field is not the exclusive domain of the action film.

    There is one soundtrack on this disc: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a 384 kilobits per second bitrate.

    The dialogue is mostly clear and easy to understand, with one notable exception: Matt Keeslar's put-on Swedish accent is difficult to decipher, and it doesn't really improve much through the course of the film. Apart from this singular problem, however, the dialogue is rendered with clarity and focus throughout the film's running length. There are no discernable problems with audio sync.

    The music in this film is credited to Ben Vaughn, and an uncannily accurate reflection of the music that permeated the exploitation films that this film is trying to send up it is at that. You'll be hard-pressed to notice the difference, as a matter of fact, so I can heartily recommend it.

    The surround channels are actively used throughout the film to support such sound effects as leaves blowing in the wind and waves crashing on the shore, a nice change from the usual standby of passing cars and flying bullets. There were moments when the surround field became biased towards the front, but these were the exception rather than the norm, as even the most quiet and uneventful sequences give the surrounds at least something to do. If anyone ever tells you that a film has to have a less active surround field simply because it is driven more by dialogue than action, then by all means get them to listen to this disc.

    The subwoofer is also consistently used to support such things as the music and crashing waves, but it is more frequently silent than the rear channels, with entire scenes going by without using it. This is more the fault of the film and its sound effects than the transfer, so that is acceptable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu features some suitably tacky and limited animation and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Cast Biographies

    Biographies for Lauren Ambrose, Thomas Gibson, Nicholas Brendan, Kimberley Davies, Matt Kesslar, and writer Charles Busch are provided under this submenu. They are poorly laid out, with all the text clumped together on the left of the page, but there is one thing that sets these biographies apart from the efforts I usually see: an indicator letting one know which page they are looking at and how many there are in total.

Theatrical Trailer

    This two-minute theatrical trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and 16x9 Enhancement.

Production Notes

    "Psycho Beach Party is a hilarious blend of several movie genres..." Ah, don't you just love it when the people producing these notes get such an inflated idea of the product's quality? If you really find this film to be worth the time, then the seventeen pages of these production notes will keep you amused.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I have recently been emailed by a reader who owns the R1 version of this disc. The Region 4 version apparently is missing an audio commentary by the director and writer, and a music video by Los Straightjackets. This makes the R1 version marginally preferable.

Summary

    Psycho Beach Party is an utterly terrible, irredeemable attempt at satire, comedy, or horror (it's got to be one of those three). Stereotyping, bad humour, and one-dimensional characters are not funny, especially when one has seen far better comedies that are more engaging simply because they do not resort to these fallbacks. When the ending started, I thought maybe the film had picked up a tad, but these hopes were quickly dashed just before the credits began to roll. The only thing that saves this plot from a one-star rating is some credible acting from the lead, whose struggle against an utterly appalling script has to be appreciated.

    The video transfer is very good.

    The audio transfer is very good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, September 28, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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