The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell
Directed by Jonny Gillette and Kevin Wheatley
National Lampoon, opens October 19
A cautionary tale of what happens when you try to make a cult classic before the cult has even seen the film, co-directors Jonny Gillette and Kevin Wheatley's "futuristic historical documentary" (presented under the long creatively diminished National Lampoon banner) worships at the punk-rock shrine of Alex Cox comedies like Repo Man and Straight to Hell (with apologies to Mr. Cox, since the similarities end there). Two decades after the nuclear apocalypse, in A.D. 2097, a wisecracking heir to the Kennedy clan (Wheatley, sort of like Ryan Reynolds crossed with Jeremy Piven) emerges from underground and proclaims himself Vice King of New America. Along with two humanoid exSecret Service robots and a cannibal vixen, the gang road-trips across the country to battle it out with a spawn of Satan, a descendant of Fidel Castro (get it?), and other suit-wearing rogues. As they chase and kill each other in the desert, the cheapest of splatter effects and hand-drawn animation ensues. Funnier on paper than in reality, this self-impressed film has the stop-and-go pace of a student driver, taking time out to title-card every character and cutting to folklore historians who serve as clunky narrators to scenes that are written in expository dialogue anyway. A couple of chuckles actually stick, but for post-apocalyptic anarchy and thrills, you're better off renting Six String Samurai or a Mad Max flick.