Monday, January 17, 2011

DVD REVIEW: There's Nothing Out There (1992) Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition

Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition

LABEL: Troma
RATING: Unrated

DIRECTOR: Roffe Kanefsky
CAST: Craig Peck, Wendy Bednarz, Marl Collver, Bonnie Bowers
TAGLINE: A Horror Film of Comic Proportions

PLOT: We don’t need a Maury Povich paternity test to prove what we’re talking about! THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE is the original, self-referential, horror-comedy cult classic that planted the seed in Kevin Williamson’s egg-head for SCREAM! Rockin’ social stereotypes like they’re going out of style, seven teens take off to a lake house for spring break and drive into a horror film. With fellow teen Mike, the dorky horror movie buff to guide them, they know what is coming – they just can’t avoid it! One-by-one they are hunted down by a horny taco-shaped alien determined to mate with all the girls and annihilate all the boys! (from

Rolfe Kanefsky's THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE  opens in a VHS rental shop. We get some great shots of classic VHS cover art for GRIZZLY, RATS and EVIL DEAD as the young woman is attacked by an assailant. She ends up wrapped in a mess of 3/4" VHS tape only to awaken - it's only a nightmare. The problem is she awakens to find she's fallen asleep behind the wheel of her car and careens off the roadway into a wooded area just as a green glowing orb descends from the sky and lands in a puddle of water right next to her car. Is it the Loc-Nar from HEAVY METAL (1981)? No, it's an amphibious alien creature that looks like a vicious green-skinned Angler fish with two limp tentacles. It's definitely a Troma-riffic prop, that's for sure. The chic sees that something has landed aside her car and exclaims "Oh my God, a falling cloud!". Oh yeah. she's gonna die. Cue the opening credits and a score that recalled John Carpenter performing the Dr. Who theme.

We have a group teens on their way to a cabin in the woods by the lake for spring break. The cabin belongs to the parents of the preppy Nick who's brought along his girlfriend Stacy. They are joined by his nerdy companion David and his Russian exchange student girlfriend Janet, jocko-erectus Jim and his blonde girlfriend Doreen and our main guy, the ultimate horror-geek Mike (Craig Peck). En route they pass the scene of the accident from the prologue as police and paramedics search for the body of the young woman. Right away Mike recognizes that this is what is known as the warning stage in every horror film. Upon arriving at the cabin the group are settling in when a group of heavy metal stoners show up in a minivan and take to the lake for some skinny dipping. They pull up and immediately take of their clothes and splash around the water, gratuitous nudity right from the start. The film doesn't skimp on the nudity either and there are some nice 80's ladies here. Nick confronts the group who explain that they thought this was the lake by the camp, perhaps a reference to Friday the 13th, hmmmmm. Once again Mike sees this as foreshadowing as the stoners are prime candidates for death in a slasher film. The teens proceed to do pretty much everything you're not supposed to do in a horror film; skinny dipping and going for walks in the woods and they of course end up being picked-off one by one by the alien creature as Mike dispenses useful but largely ignored warnings. As people start to disappear and it becomes quite clear that there is something out there Mike arms himself with ...shaving cream , cuz after all not even an alien wants a mouthful of shaving cream, right? The character of Mike as played by Craig Peck made the film for me, I truly enjoyed his witty dialogue, comedic delivery and riffs on the horror genre, good stuff. The goofiness works against it at certain points but overall a fun watch.

The film is definitely of modest means. It's from a then first time director (nineteen at the time of filming) and it sufferes a bit for it but it. The creature design and effects are pretty shit throughout including a green hypno-beam that emminates from it's eye which render victim subject to it's control. Thankfully, the film is less about the creature than about the character of Mike, the ultimate horror nerd who comes to actually realize he's in a horror film. At one point a character uses a visible boom mic to swing to safety. Obviously more a comedic send-up of the horror genre than an actual horror film this was a lot of fun. It's cheesey, campy and very tongue-in-cheek. It's been said that this film may have been the inspiration for Kevin Williamson's SCREAM screenplay. I can definitely see it but what Williamson improved upon was to provide a better villian. Here Kanefsky crams in a ton of slasher cliches but tosses us an alien insteads of a masked killer and storywise and given the budget I think it could've been better.

DVD: Rolfe Kanefsky's THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE (1990) gets a deluxe 2-disc edition from Troma, and it's quite a package. The film is presented in a 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio with a Dolby Digital stereo mix. The image is soft and lacks fine detail but this is probably the best the film has ever looked. There's great array of bonus features including a fun short starring scream queen Tiffany Shepis called MOOD BOOBS wherein a woman inadvertently wishes for problematic magical breasts. A lot of the features have intros by director Rolfe Kanefsky. Obviously a man in love with the genre he recounts giving a copy of the film to the son of Wes Craven whom a few years later would hit it big with a similarly self aware slasher film you may have heard of called SCREAM.

- New Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman (5:13)
- New Introduction by Rolfe Kanefsky (1:13)
- Original Director's Commentary with director Rolde Kanefsky, editor Victor Kanesfy, actors Craig Peck and Mark Colver, and crew members.
- New 20th Anniversary Director's Commentary with Rolfe Kanefsky 

- There's Nothing Out There Music Video with Intro (5:15)
- Behind-the-scenes with writer/director Rolfe Kanefsky
- Rolfe Kanefsky's short film MOOD BOOBS starring Tiffany Shepis with Intro (19:36)

- Rolfe Kanefsku short film JUST LISTEN with Intro (14;36)
- Behind-the-Scenes of Mood Boobs (16:07)
- Screen Tests Original Cast Auditions with optional commentary (11:59)
- Pre-Production Footage and Storyboards with optional subtitles (7:11)
- Rehearsal Footage and Bloopers(10:38)
- Animation Test Footage and Deleted Scenes with optional commentary (3:26)
- Production Stills Gallery with optional commentary (4:17)

VERDICT: This is a fun little horror film. Director Kanefsky's love for the genre is abundantly clear, he gets it and this send-up of horror cliches and tropes is an endearing love letter to the genre. Did SCREAM rip-off this film? Well,  it's sense of irony and self-referential humor is very similar without a doubt. I don't think it out and out ripped it off but There's Nothing Out There is most assuredly a proto-ironic slasher and many films in it's wake shared similar qualities. I give the a definite recommend and good on Troma for giving it the deluxe treatment.
**1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)