There’s Nothing Out There Two Disc 20th Anniversary Edition DVD Review
Written and Directed by Rolfe Kanefsky
1990, NTSC, 91 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on January 11th, 2011
Craig Peck as Mike
Bonnie Bowers as Stacy
John Carhart as Nick
Wendy Bednarz as Doreen
Mark Collver as Jim
Claudia Flores as Janet
Seven high school friends are celebrating spring break by going to a lake house to party and have lots of sex. The group consists of a nerd, a jock and an effeminate leader with their attractive female counterparts. Flying solo on this vacation is Mike, the cinephile obsessed with horror films who recognizes that his friends are behaving like a group of stereotypes in a bad movie.
When they pass an accident scene, Mike points to the emergency workers and advises his friends that this should be viewed as “a warning”. He also notices the potential for slasher mayhem in the isolated location of the house, the poor wisdom behind investigating a strange noise and the desire to split up and have pre-marital sex. While his friends regret the decision to bring him along for the weekend, it turns out that Mike is actually correct and that his knowledge of the genre will help their odds of survival when the house comes under attack.
Originally set out to riff on slasher movies, There’s Nothing Out There quickly reveals itself as a ‘50s monster movie when the fiend is displayed surprisingly early in the film. The beasty is an alien the size of a small dog that can shoot lasers from its eyes and also has mind controlling abilities. The creature is on a mission of salacious intent, as all of the guys are potential victims and the women are to be used for reproductive purposes.
Writer / director Rolfe Kanefsky (The Hazing) pokes fun at the clichés that plagued the majority of modern horror films, while respecting the genre that has returned from the dead more times than the average film geek can count. Kanefsky’s beef is not with horror, but with the lazy trappings that burden the genre. Speaking through the character of Mike, the director is able to point out the tired traditions of splitting up during a crisis and unmotivated skinny-dipping. The pathetic attempts by many filmmakers to create a jump scare by resorting to off-camera cat tossing receives the best riffing, as this gimmick has plagued horror movies for several decades.
One convention the director does embrace is the notion that the female characters should be naked as frequently as possible. There is a surprising amount of nudity in this film and although every female character appears naked at least once, the producers felt there wasn’t enough flesh, so an additional group of anonymous characters were written in long enough to go skinny dipping before driving away unharmed.
The micro-budget film was shot on super 16mm film and blown up to 35mm for its limited theatrical run. Director Rolfe Kanefsky pulls out all of the stops with some truly inspired camera work (including a generous amount of steadicam and crane shots) and clever transitions. The film still carries a low-budget vibe that it can’t quite shake, but it reaches for several high-dollar set pieces to belie the financial limitations.
Not every performance is a home run, but the cast is generally strong. Craig Peck is given the difficult task of playing Mike, a likeable know-it-all, and manages to succeed more often than not at carrying the bulk of the comedy. Mark Collver and Wendy Bednarz are great as the insatiable couple, Jim and Doreen, and meet the physical demands of their characters with enthusiastic sincerity. Bonnie Bowers (Stacy) is a strong female lead, but despite being a real-life bikini model, she comes off stiff and uncomfortable when running around in a swimsuit during the finale.
The film garnered a cult following on home video when many reviewers cited the similarities of Randy, the character who shares the rules of surviving a horror movie in Wes Craven’s Scream with There’s Nothing Out There’ s Mike. Kanefsky takes the high road when discussing this issue and appears grateful for the attention.
The next two decades have found the director bouncing between horror and comedy, constantly cranking out quality product in both genres. This was his first effort and is a time capsule for the slasher films of the 1980s, and although it’s uneven, it’s still a lot of fun and should be watched with a group of friends. Check it out.
Video and Audio:
Troma has given a slight tweak to the already generous picture quality of the original Image DVD release, yet there are still minor issues within the source material that speckle across the frame from time to time. This edition is probably the best the film will look in standard definition and the 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is solid for both colors and flesh tones. A technical glitch appears briefly around the 20-minute mark, but the rest of the disc is respectable.
The audio offered up is a 2-channel stereo mix that will neither impress nor disappoint audiences, as dialogue remains clear despite some hang-ups from the original material.
There are no subtitle options available on this DVD.
Troma continues to impress with the care they extend to the titles in their library, and this is no exception, as all of the supplements from the previous 10th anniversary Image DVD edition are ported over and clearly marked (all potentially contain hidden commentary tracks) while new material has been included for this 20th anniversary disc.
Released as a two-disc set, disc one contains the main feature with a pair of video introductions, one from director Rolfe Kanefsky and the other from the King of Troma, Lloyd Kaufman, and also includes two commentary tracks.
The first commentary features the director with members of the cast and crew (taken from the Image DVD release) discussing the history of the production and where everybody is ten years later.
The second track is a new offering from a solo Kanefsky, filling in the gaps from the previous session and revealing the outline for a long awaited sequel to the film. There is a bit of repetition on this track, mostly in the acknowledgement of this being the 20th anniversary of the picture.
The first disc is rounded out with Troma related materials including a variety of trailers, a PSA, and the ever-present Troma staple “Radiation March”.
Disc two is where the bulk of the extras can be found, including:
• Interview With the Director
• Screen Tests and Audition Footage
• Pre-Production footage and Video Storyboards
• Rehearsals and Bloopers
• Animation Test Footage and Deleted Scenes
• Music Video
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Production Stills Gallery
• Just Listen Short Film
• Mood Boobs Short Film
The interview with Kanefsky runs about 30 minutes and is informative and entertaining as he is able to convey a lot of information in a relatively short time.
12 minutes of assorted shot-on-video material follows in the "Screen Test and Audition Footage" featurette. It is surprisingly humorous and a fun time-capsule piece.
"Pre-Production footage and Video Storyboards" reveals the amount of prep that went into the making of the film, running about 7 minutes.
"Rehearsals and Bloopers" is a 10 minute piece that shows the levity on set.
"Animation Test Footage and Deleted Scenes" runs about three minutes and gives a look at the opening titles design and scenes that didn’t make the final cut.
The original trailer is joined by a four minute gallery of production stills and each includes a commentary.
Rounding out the supplements are two short films. First is the early student project Just Listen (14 minutes) that runs in the background of the opening sequence of There’s Nothing Out There and is included here in its entirety (minus the copyrighted music from Foul Play that originally played throughout the piece).
Finally, we get the bizarre comedy Mood Boobs (20 minutes) about a girl who finds that her breast size changes according to her emotional state. The piece was an internet success and features genre fave Tiffany Shepis (Thirsty). This short film receives its own featurette in a 16-minute behind the scenes compilation.