Thursday, February 6, 2014

There's Nothing Out There! (Rolfe Kanefsky, 1991)

Okay, let's say there is something out there. What would be one of the first questions you'd ask relating to what's out there? And remember, "there" is not a real place, it's a realm that exists purely within the rarely stimulated confines of your probably deluded mind. (Well, first off, I'd want to know what's out there. Secondly, I'd want to know where it came from. And thirdly, I'd want to know what it wants.) While those are important questions to be sure, don't you think avoiding what's out there should be your number one priority? (You mean don't antagonize what's out there?) Exactly. (But how can spending the summer at a four bedroom house adjacent to a pond be classified as "antagonizing"? I mean, using your logic, anything we do, whether it involves camping in the woods or skinny dipping in a pond adjacent to a four bedroom house, is going to antagonize whatever is out there.) Believe me, just your presence alone is enough to antagonize what's out there. However, according to the characters that populate Rolfe Kanefsky's brilliant horror spoof There's Nothing Out There! there's nothing out there. (Nothing?) That's right, absolutely nothing. Actually, that's not entirely true. Not the part about this film being a brilliant horror spoof, that part is very true, but the part where I implied that all the characters think there's nothing out there.

His name is Mike (Craig Peck), and not only does he know for a fact that there's something out there, he's the only one who knows how to avoid what's out there. I know, he just agreed to spend the summer at a secluded house in the woods with a group of friends, but he knows their summer is going to be fraught with danger. Why is that, you ask? It's simply, really. He has a video store membership and he knows how to use it. Or, more specifically, he's watched a lot of horror movies. In other words, the scenario he and his friends have just set motion is very familiar to him.

(I'm confused, haven't Mike's friends seen all the same horror movies he has?) That's true, they most likely have. However, whereas his friends saw the films as merely frivolous entertainment, Mike sees them quite differently. Using them as a sort of survival guide, Mike manages to anticipate the gruesome, "out there" events that inevitably befall his circle of friends.

(It's a good thing he's there to warn his friends about the plethora of dangers that are no doubt lurking out there.) Nah, you see, that's where you're wrong. They dismiss Mike's warnings as paranoid nonsense. And it's no wonder, as Mike is predicting doom and gloom before they even reach the house in the woods. In fact, I think he might have envisioned trouble before they even left. I guess he figured seven teens spending the summer at an isolated house in the woods was a surefire recipe for disaster.

Can you blame him, though? More than half the horror movies sitting on the shelf at his local video store revolve around teens in peril making bad decisions.

Armed only with his encyclopedic knowledge of horror movies and about a half dozen cans of shaving cream, Mike in There's Nothing Out There! is hands down one of the coolest, most self-aware horror movie characters in film history. (Wow, that's high praise.) Yeah, and get this, I found him to be kind of annoying in the early going. Yet, slowly but surely, he started to win me over. I think he began to do so when he notices something rustling in the bushes when he and his friends arrive at the final destination. The way he stops himself from investigating the strange noises was oddly endearing. He's knows there's something out there, he just doesn't want to be the first to find out what's out there, and therefore, be the first to die a horrible death.

(Wow, to see you go so long without mentioning the fantastic Bonnie Bowers or her striped bikini was impressive, indeed.) Oh, I was going to mention the gorgeous Bonnie Bowers and her first-rate bikini work in this movie. (Yeah, I know you were. But watching you refrain from going on a bikini-fueled tangent for such an extended period of time nearly brought a tear to my eye.)

Anyway, the film actually begins in a video store. A cute blonde clerk in a pink top and matching pink shorts named Sally (Lisa Grant) is behind the counter reading the latest issue of some horror magazine, when all of a sudden, a man in black grabs her arm. As she struggles to get away, we're shown quick flashes of iconic VHS covers of some classic and not-so classic horror movies.

Waking up in her car, Sally seems relieved that it was only a dream ("I'm awake, I'm alive"). Unfortunately, she was driving when she woke up and  crashes her car into the woods. (According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, 250,000 Americans fall asleep at the wheel everyday.) Of course, being stalked by a faceless killer in your dreams (in the horror aisle of a video store, no less) and crashing into the woods is the least of her problems, when a strange creature with tentacles attacks her. Even though we don't exactly see what happens to her, it couldn't have been good.

I guess now is as good a time as any to mention how much I liked the music heard throughout There's Nothing Out There! A catchy mix of techno rock (the music heard over the trippy opening credits sequence actually reminded me of Front Line Assembly), new wave and power pop, the quality of the soundtrack kinda took me by surprise. What I mean is, it was the complete opposite of what I expected. In other words, it wasn't lame. I'm not familiar with any the artists on the soundtrack, but the name "Fabulous Mascarenes" comes up three times, so I'll give them a quick shout out.

The last day of school is punctuated by frisbees flying through the air and excited talk coming from seven seniors about the prospect of spending the summer at the house in the woods that belongs to one of the student's parents. Judging by the way he combs his hair, it's no surprise when we learn that Nick (John Carhart III) is the one whose parents own a four bedroom house in the woods located next to a pond.

(Hey, don't you be dissing Nick's hair, as it was my fourth favourite thing about this movie.) I wasn't dissing his hair. (Yes you were. You were implying that Nick's hair had an air of snobbery about it. When, in fact, it oozed a steady stream of new wave cool.) Okay, fine. Oh, by the way, what were the things that beat out Nick's hair? (I'll get to them in a minute. I just want to reiterate that Nick's new wave hairstyle–actually, I'd go as far as calling his hairstyle "new romantic," as I'm having no trouble whatsoever picturing the members of Spandau Ballet, circa, of course, "To Cut A Long Story Short," fuck that "True" shit, wearing their hair in the Nick from There's Nothing Out There! style–was freakin' awesome.)

As Nick, the new wave style icon, the aforementioned Mike, the group's resident smart ass, David (Jeff Dachis), the nerd ("nerd" he may be, but he has a Brazilian girlfriend), Janet (Claudia Flores), the foreign exchange student (from Brazil), Jim (Mark Collver), the obnoxious jock, and Doreen (Wendy Bedarz), the blonde bimbo, make their way to the house by the pond, they notice a car has crashed into the woods (don't worry, police and E.M.S. are on the scene).

(Um, hello? You forgot Stacey? You know, the leggy brunette played by the lovely Bonnie Bowers?) Actually, I left her out on purpose, as she deserves to be mentioned in her own separate paragraph. And, it looks like I did just that.

According to Mike, the accident scene is a warning that danger lies ahead. Of course, do the others listen to Mike? Nope. And they continue on their way.

While they're getting settled in, a bunch of punks show up in a van and immediately jump in the pond. Perplexed by the sight of nine or ten punks frolicking half naked in his parent's pond (some still wearing their torn black nylons), Nick politely asks them what they're doing here. Mistaking Nick's parents' house by the pond for the camp by the lake, the lead punk (Cyrus Voris) apologizes, and corrals his fellow punks out of the pond and back into the van. The fact that Nick, while slightly annoyed, didn't lash out at the skinny dipping punks like some asshole yuppie made me like him even more.

Of course, Mike views the punks appearance as foreshadowing, and begins to grow increasingly paranoid as the evening progresses. Getting in a heated argument with the others during dinner, Mike is clearly alone when it comes to worrying about what's out there. Though, he does manage to scare Doreen, who thinks the forest is crawling with bears (he fear of bears is played up nicely over the course of the following scenes). Despite Mike's concerns, Jim and Doreen go for a late night dip in the pond, David and Janet go for a late night stroll in the woods, and Nick and Stacey go for a late night roll in the hay.

Barricading himself in his room, Mike grimly waits for the horror movie trope that's been selected for his movie to strike. Now, I wouldn't have guessed that it was going to be a mutant frog/alligator/crab hybrid that shoots green laser beams from its eyes. But I wasn't surprised, and neither was Mike, when it starts picking off the old-looking teens one by one.

It's almost the 52 minute mark, and you know what that means? Oh, right. You probably don't know what that means. Anyway, it's time for Bonnie Bowers to don her bikini.

Now, I've heard rumblings here and there that Bonnie Bowers is not pleased with being forever known as "That Chick in the Bikini from There's Nothing Out There!" And while I understand how they might not be thrilled by this distinction, I'm not going to let that dampen my enthusiasm when it comes to praising Bonnie's bikini-centic performance.

If you think about it, what's more impressive than shielding your eyes from green laser beams (the mutant frog/alligator/crab hybrid controls its female victims by shooting green lasers into their eyes), dodging baseball bat-wielding friends who are not so good at shielding their eyes from green laser beams, and standing on a table throwing light bulbs while wearing a bikini? In fact, I can't think of anything more impressive than that, can you? I didn't think so.

There's a moment when Mike does the gentlemen thing and gives Stacey his red jacket (it's chilly in the basement) that concerned me deeply. However, Mike asks for jacket back when they make their final stand against the mutant frog/alligator/crab hybrid (who seems to hate shaving cream), and just like that, all was right with the universe once again.

You see, Bonnie Bowers without her trademark bikini is not a world I want to live in. So, yeah.

If you were having any doubts whether this was a horror comedy up until this point, they're pretty much smashed when Nick manages to avoid the slimy clutches of the mutant frog/alligator/crab hybrid by using the boom microphone to help facilitate his escape.

Making fun of horror films while embracing them at the same time is a tricky balance to strike. Yet, I thought There's Nothing Out There! did an excellent job mixing horror and comedy. (Oh, and the order of my favourite things in this movie goes something like this: #1 - Bonnie Bowers in a bikini - duh; #2 - Craig Peck as Mike; #3 - The film's atypical soundtrack; and, of course, #4 - Nick's new romantic hairstyle.)


  1. The boom mic bit is one of my fave meta gags in movie history.

    1. I'm not sure if this movie played in theatres... but if it did, the audience better have cheered when the boom mic gag is implemented.

  2. I LOVE this movie, thanks for giving it the attention it deserves.
    -Eric (

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