Could the virginal Florence Forrest (Lauren Ambrose) be the "Butcher of
Malibu Beach?" With her innocent smile, milky white skin and tomato-colored
hair, she certainly doesn't look like a likely candidate. But with her
split personality, her alter ego, a foul-mouthed, sexual predator named Ann
Bowman, might be the guilty party.
If there ever was a film genre ripe for parody, it is those goofy 1960s
beach movies. Robert Lee King's PSYCHO BEACH PARTY, written by Charles
Busch and based on his play, satirizes these old movies. Laughing along
with PSYCHO BEACH PARTY is silly fun. With not a pretentious bone in its
body, the movie pokes fun at the kids' raging hormones and at the homosexual
subtext of that genre. In PSYCHO BEACH PARTY, however, the gay humor angle
goes way above subtext.
With a hall of mirrors effect, the story features many movies within movies,
all of which are watched -- where else? -- at the drive-in theater. Opening
with an Ed Wood-film wannabe, a horror movie about a blonde waitress with 3
heads, starring Bettina (Kimberley Davies) as the middle head, the camera
cuts back to reveal kids too busy making out in the cars to watch the movie.
After the first of a series of murders, we switch to a sleazy go-go dancer
as the opening credits roll. Then it's off to day at the beach where the
buff boys surf and the bikinied girls ogle them, and vice versa.
Florence, deemed less than a chick, earns the nickname of "Chicklet." She
wants to be a surfer like "The Great Kanaka" (Thomas Gibson) but is informed
that "surfing is a man's domain. No minnows in the shark tank."
Movie star Bettina, who rents a house near the surfers' beach, immediately
catches the boys' eyes. "There's some prize tomatoes in that tin can," one
of them remarks when they first lay eyes on her, wearing a revealing top.
The movie is full of such deliciously dopey dialog. Another over-the-top
interchange occurs between Florence and Starcat (Nicholas Brendon), a
college student who, with his three psych courses, is already referred to as
"doctor." "If we were at war with the Soviet Union, I wouldn't even let you
into my bomb shelter," she tells him in her version of the ultimate
The picture is wonderfully campy entertainment that doesn't ask anything of
its viewers. Just kick back and let the laughs begin.
PSYCHO BEACH PARTY runs 1:35. It is not rated but would be an R for
language, sexual situations and comic violence. It would be acceptable for
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes