Seven teens decide to spend their spring break at an isolated cabin in the woods. One of them, Mike, is an expert on horror films & starts noticing that certain “rules” that regard horror films are being broken. Of course, all of the others mock him but something is out there in the forest & it is watching them…with mayhem on it’s mind.
The Black Saint is a big fan of Wes Craven’s “Scream”. Upon it’s initial release a lot of critics & fans alike were big fans of Kevin Williamson’s screenplay, citing it’s originality. And I suppose for those who had never heard of “There’s Nothing Out There” they would be justified in claiming this. But in actuality, Rolfe Kanefsky’s film was first out of the gate with this story. And it was made four years earlier! Some (like me) might say it’s the better film. And as I said I’m a big fan of “Scream”. Let me explain…
“There’s Nothing Out There” tells us the tale of some teens spending their spring break in a cabin in the woods. One of them, Mike, is something of a horror movie geek. I don’t use the word “geek” disrespectfully either. I’m a horror film geek as well as those of you who frequent this site I would imagine. Mike knows EVERYTHING about horror films & he knows when the situation gets hairy for them as the film progresses that they’re finding themselves in situations he’s familiar with because he’s seen horror movies that detailed the same situations they’re in. And their situation isn’t too good either. All seems well initially & most of the teens are ready for sex & liquor which of course are prerequisites for them to be murdered later in the film as Mike points out, Sex + Liquor = Death. Of course he is initially mocked for his beliefs but eventually they find out that he may not be so far off of the mark.
I own a VHS copy of “There’s Nothing Out There” & let me point out that the DVD transfer is so much better looking than my VHS copy. The colors are brighter & much sharper. The film looks wondrously alive on the DVD remastered edition. And since the film is a decidedly no budget affair this is a good thing. It opens with a video store dream sequence & it was cool to see a video rental joint the way they used to look like in the 80’s. All racks & racks of VHS boxes lined up next to each other in alphabetical order. If you look closely you can even see some great titles from the past that brought a smile to my face. Titles like “Evil Dead” & “The Mutilator” among others. This whole sequence made me reminisce on days when I could spend hours poring over these boxes as I was trying to find something I never saw before. It made me feel all warm inside. Now we just stream these movies direct to our TV’s, which is cool mind you but there it’s nothing like actually going through a real mom & pop video shop (when there was one seemingly on every other block) & just rummaging through their inventory. Good, no..great times. The girl who’s having this dream suddenly wakes up from it & unfortunately she’s driving a car when she wakes up & subsequently crashes in the woods. She is then attacked by our “something”. After this intro, we’re introduced to the rest of the cast.
Mike, as played by Craig Peck is the straw that stirs the drink so to speak but initially he just comes off a a semi nerdy guy who just can’t stop talking about horror films & how everything relates to them in one sense or another. This of course makes all of the others very annoyed & he’s basically demonized for the first section of the film. He is annoying but he knows of what he speaks & he’s pretty f*cking funny as well. It’s a winning performance. The rest of the cast isn’t quite as good as Peck is but they do try to hang in there. It doesn’t help that although they’re supposed to be high schoolers they all seem to be in their mid twenties. But I think this might be part of the joke. If you’re familiar with just about any horror film featuring high school kids from the 80’s you know that the actors portraying them were way older than their characters were. Kanefsky might have just been tweaking some of the films of that era just a bit. If so, he does it well & the actors do their best to act “Younger”.
Of course, once they arrive at the cabin all the “Teens” want to do is f*ck & get drunk. Just as all teens did in horror movies of the era. But Mike perceives a “Warning” & tells them that maybe they should get the f*ck out of Dodge. But they pooh pooh him & decide that he’s just a nerd who needs a life outside of his horror movies & decide to ignore his warnings. Mike is a pain in the ass & seemingly always has something to say to irritate someone but in the end they all find out he is right & they’re being stalked by “Something” in the woods. This “thing” looks sort of like a mutated sting ray. It’s green, has sharp f*cking teeth & leaves a slimy green residue behind it. Where it came from, the film doesn’t speculate on and I thought that was cool. Not all monsters need to be explained or identified, sometimes not knowing what something is & where it came from works just fine. It adds to the mystery & horribleness of whatever it is (Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” is a good example of too much explanation of a good villain, Michael Myers was terrifying because no one knew what he was or how he did what he did while being seemingly unstoppable. Zombie killed all of that in trying to delve into his childhood & his family life). The creature reminded me a lot of the creature in 1982’s “Parasite 3D”, which happened to be Demi Moore’s first feature film, remember that one? If you don’t remember it, don’t worry. It sucked really bad & it hurt my head to watch it in 3D. I don’t think Demi lists it on her bio anymore. The creature isn’t really an especially agile beast, it basically just sort of slithers about in a very stiff manner. But it looks pretty f*cking scary for sure. As a matter of fact sometimes I would swear it looks like it’s smiling as it’s doing what it does so well, which is kill teens. It seems to be enjoying itself & it’s very entertaining to see it when it appears. We don’t see too much of it though partly because it is a low budget feature & on occasion the beastie looks a bit silly. But these are some of the constraints of low budget film making & I think we see enough of it to make it effective anyway.
Did I mention that the creature is telepathic as well? Well it is & apparently all it wants is to kill the males & f*ck the females. So we know he’s not a gay green, slimy thing. All he really wants is sex! If the girls on his planet look like him then I wouldn’t blame him for looking around for something a little more attractive. Luckily for him there is no shortage of nudity in “There’s Something Out There”. There’s always some bombshell in some state of nudity throughout the film, nothing wrong with that either. All of the actors perform admirably throughout but I have to raise a red flag on one actress: Claudia Flores as Janet. Her accent is so heavy that a lot of the time it’s hard to make out what she’s saying & it gets annoying as the film progresses, but it’s not a deal breaker..just annoying at times. The film isn’t as gory as a fan would hope for it to be but what grue there is is well done & effective. There is a pretty cool “Face melting” scene & a fair decapitation scene as well.
The film is very campy & very funny as well. Kanefsky & his cast are obviously very gung ho & go for it in a big way, or at least as big a way that they could in a film with this small of a budget. The script is fairly literate, exciting, sexy & funny. The acting is pretty good & all technical aspects are pretty well handled. There’s also a pretty kick ass title sequence that’s very similar to the “Dr Who” television series from the 70’s (I know it’s still on but I haven’t seen it since Tom Baker was Dr. Who & that was in the late 70’s early 80’s. I don’t know if they still use the same title sequence now that they used then). It’s a very self referential horror film just as “Scream” was 4 years later. I’m not accusing Kevin Williamson & Wes Craven of pilfering this script for some ideas, as a matter of fact I’m pretty sure that they’re still probably aware this film even exists. But it does & it existed a while before Craven’s film did. Makes you wonder don’t it?
“There’s Nothing Out There” gets a solid 3 out of 5 shrouds from The Black Saint. It’s an enjoyable way to spend 85 minutes of time if you’ve got some to waste. It does a lot with very little money and has a satisfying conclusion as well. Remember I said I was a fan of “Scream” & I still am but I honestly like this film a lot more than I did Craven’s opus. Maybe because there’s a creature involved. I like creature features a lot more than I do “Serial Killer” type of movies. I think an interesting monster is cooler to look at than a human one.
And a lot of the time the otherworldly creatures are just doing what they do naturally. Human monsters kill out of hatred and spite most of the time. Monsters just do what they do even though this one is basically a horndog. I think I remember reading somewhere that Kanefsky was 20 years old when he directed this film. I might be wrong but if this is so then he was a fairly prodigious talent back then. I know he has written/directed a few more films since then (most recently “Nightmare Man” to my knowledge anyway). I’m glad to see that he’s still in the trenches pumping out films that I hope are as good as this, his first one is. You will be entertained by the film & the way the “rules” of a horror film are constantly being referenced to. If you’re looking for a good film that a lot of people haven’t heard of, believe me you could do a lot worse than “There’s Something Out There”. The Black Saint has now left the building. Don’t forget to say your prayers…..
There’s Nothing Out There (1990)