Director: Rolfe Kanefsky
Troma Films

Spring break is here and seven 20-something high school students are headed out to a remote cabin in the middle of the woods for some sex and slaughter in Rolfe Kanefsky’s THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE, now available in a two-disc special edition from Troma Films.

Things get off to a familiar ominous start when the kids ignore the ominous foreshadowing of an overturned car with no victim in site (we have an idea what happened thanks to the pre-credits sequence); obsessive horror movie geek Mike (Craig Peck) even calls them on this and strongly suggests they turn around. Naturally, Mike is ignored and the horny teens split up for some nude showers and false scares. Blonde, big-haired Doreen (Wendy Bednarz) is concerned about marauding bears, (although not enough to pass down going skinny-dipping in the nearby fetid pond with boyfriend Jim [Mark Collver]) but wet blanket Mike (Craig Peck) is more concerned about axe-murderers or alien invaders (especially when the dinner leftovers disappear and a trail of green slime is left in their place). Doreen and Jim go out for the aforementioned skinny dip, David (Jeff Dachis) and Janet (Claudia Flores) go out for a moonlight stroll, Nick (John Carhart III) and Stacey (Bonnie Bowers) settle in for the night, and Mike nails the windows and barricades the doors of his bedroom. Soon enough, the “force” – actually, a multi-tentacled and toothsome alien being – is on the attack. Fortunately for us, the monster’s mission is to kill the guys and reproduce with the women (all of whom, the director assures us on the commentary, were models at the time). Will Mike be able to save the day with his horror movie knowledge?

Shot in Super 16mm, THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE is slick (plenty of crane and Steadicam shots as well as some well-lit night scenes) and delivers its fair share of gore and nudity (at a time when those exploitable elements were disappearing from R-rated horror movies). Of course, it’s reminiscent of THE EVIL DEAD (and every other “teens in the woods” slasher film) and that’s part of the fun. The monster is entertainingly cheesy and its movements hilariously stilted. Clothing is ripped off, cat’s jump out of nowhere, one character makes advantageous use of a dipping microphone boom (which is not cropped by the widescreen framing), eyes glow, faces melt, and there’s a nifty bit involving plate glass. A lot of post-SCREAM horror movies with recursive elements have claimed to be “in the tradition of” the Wes Craven pic, while some before have claimed to have been ripped off by Craven and Kevin Williamson (the SCREAM claim is a blurb on the back of the cover rather than the front). Kanefsky and company, however, may indeed actually have a point as their Mike is a similar but much less annoying movie geek than SCREAM’s Jamie Kennedy. The pre-credits sequence doesn’t have anyone asking what your favorite scary movie is, but it brings scary movies into play in a much more creative and nostalgic manner for those of us who were around when VHS tapes lined the walls of video stores. Director Rolfe Kanefsky (son of Victor Kanefsky, who edited the original cut of GANJA AND HESS) followed up this film with several entries in just about every single one of EMANUELLE/LE CLICK franchise owner Alain Siritzky’s various Showtime softcore filler series (EMANUELLE 2000, EMANUELLE THE PRIVATE COLLECTION, BUTTERSCOTCH, PASSION & ROMANCE, CLICK and SEX FILES among others). His recent horror entry was NIGHTMARE MAN, an entry in one of the cycles of LionsGate’s “8 Films to Die For.” The latter film’s initial concept was interesting, but it soon devolved into stalk-and-slash territory with a bunch of unlikable victims.

Released direct to video by the Prism Entertainment (who also brought us OPEN HOUSE, Cinerama Releasing horrors, and the tiresome NIGHT EYES series and others of its ilk), THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE made its first DVD bow on a single-disc edition by Image Entertainment. I haven’t seen that disc but the 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer looks very clean (some speckling in some of the shots may either have to do with the age of the materials or the original processing). The disc was also anamorphic and featured a commentary with both Kanfeskys, actors Craig Peck and Mark Collver and prop men John Kim and Gene Masse. The disc also featured audition footage (including footage of the actress stripping down to their bikinis), bloopers, video storyboarding, test animation, the theatrical trailer (with optional director commentary), and a still gallery. Those extras have been ported over (although the director/cast/crew commentary is not mentioned on the box) and Troma have added some more extras on their two-disc edition. Kanefsky has recorded a new commentary (the film can be watched with an introduction by Kanefsky or an introduction by Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, as well as either of the two commentary tracks) as well as a “film deconstruction” featurette with the director and the film's puppet monster (35:53).

The original cast/crew/director commentary is unfocused, sometimes rowdy and sometimes muttered (Kanefsky at times has to prod the others for comments, and Collver mumbles), but it does feature plenty of production anecdotes. Kanefsky mentions that viewers at the time had a hard time understanding that it was a horror-comedy. He half-jokingly mentions that any continuity errors or “anything that looks stupid” is intentional. When the producers were concerned that there wasn’t enough nudity, Kanefsky brought in some horror movie teens from another movie (not really): a handful of pot-smoking punks (including DEMON KNIGHT screenwriter Cy Voris) paid a hundred bucks to strip off and swim in the pond. Kanefsky extensively blocked out several of the more complicated (in terms of camera movement) scenes with the actors on video in preparation for the filmed takes. The new commentary with Kanefsky going solo is more informative, with Kanefsky talking a mile-a-minute and covering a lot of the same ground without interruption, but ten years have passed between this and the previous special edition and he talks about some of the work he has done since then as well.

Most of the ported extras have been moved over to the second disc (aside from the intros and commentaries, the only other extras on Disc One are the usual Troma promo stuff), which also features a short film by Kanefsky called MOOD BOOBS (19:35 with introduction) with Tiffany Sheppis (also in NIGHTMARE MAN); a 16:06 featurette on the short is also included. The other short film JUST LISTEN (14:35 with introduction) is Kanefsky’s college project, which is also shown on the TV screens during the video store opening sequence. There is an ancient music video (5:14 with introduction) for the feature’s theme song (cut together on two VCRs). The screen tests (11:57), pre-production footage with picture-in-picture footage from the finished film (7:10), rehearsal footage/bloopers (10:36), and animation test footage and deleted shots (3:25), and still gallery (4:16) all feature optional commentary by Kanfesky. Fans who were probably wowed by everything included on the previous Image DVD will likely want to double dip on this edition, while indie horror hopefuls might want to take a look at the extensive extras to see how much work should go into making even the cheesiest horror flick. (Eric Cotenas)