Also known as Nightmare Beach, Welcome to Spring Break may have been directed by Umberto Lenzi under the pseudonym Harry Kirkpatrick, or Harry Kirkpatrick may be a real person who Lenzi merely supervised, but one thing is for sure: this is a Florida-lensed 80s slasher that looks American, but is all Italian horror in structure. You can tell from the extreme, unnecessary closeups and the bad acting skills of everyone but the American “name” actors. Don’t get me wrong, I love Umberto Lenzi’s work, including this film, but in many ways this is nothing but a slasher on the wrong end of the slasher cycle. Do I care? Do I bollocks. It’s the fact that it’s Italian, and therefore a weird, slightly off facsimile of an American slasher, that makes it interesting.
The film begins with the execution of a biker named Diablo who swears that he was framed for the murder of a teenage girl. Now, many synopses will tell you that the spring break in question starts a year after Diablo’s death, but that is wrong; it is just a few days later that the “breakers” arrive to Manatee Beach, Diablo’s body disappears, a serial slasher on a bike begins killing sinful young people by the unusual method of electrocution, and an evil triumvirate, made up of the mayor, the police chief, and a doctor with a blackmailable secret, starts trying to cover up the deaths in order to keep from losing tourist business.
As with many 80s horror movies, the fun stuff comes in between the kills, although the kills are not bad. For example, there is a recurring character who is a Gator fan, and being a Bulldog fan and a Gator hater myself I can’t express to you how happy this man’s performance made me. First he jumps in the convertible driven by the two leads and screams “Go Gators!!!!” Then a few scenes later, he is seen being arrested, still screaming. In his final scene, the head of Diablo’s biker gang is in jail for the new murders (red herring) while the Gator fan screams “Go Gators!” in his face in the lockup. All while shirtless and painted with orange and blue stripes. Oh, so happy. There’s also a character who goes around playing unfunny pranks, a crazy guy who steals everyone’s wallets all over town, and a teenage hooker staying at the main character’s hotel who keeps convincing old men that she needs money for college.
As for the main characters, a tourist whose friend is murdered by the killer, and the sister of the girl Diablo was executed for murdering, they are awful, especially lead actress Sarah Buxton. The lights are on but nobody’s home, and she makes Lara Wendel in Ghosthouse look like Meryl Streep by comparison. (I suspect it’s Lenzi’s method of directing females, honestly, that is the main problem with Buxton, because although I haven’t seen her in anything else, I’ve seen Wendel in particular do fine under other directors.) Everyone in the movie is awful except for John Saxon’s police chief and Michael Parks’s doctor, and you can’t enjoy Saxon in the cop uniform very much because he’s evil. I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for John Saxon to get killed in a movie before watching this. But hell, the movie is too much fun with its big hair, horrible fashion, and cheesy music, including an ultra 80s score by Claudio Simonetti, to quibble over some bad acting. At least the actors don’t seem to be dubbed. 80s fans and spaghetti horror fans will find this slasher to be a welcome trip to the beach where you can watch without fear of arrest or sand in your crack.
It is important to note that there were at least two other films (Shocker and The Horror Show) from the late 80s that had a plot device of a killer who died in the electric chair only to return and resume killing people. This one, however, has a twist when it comes to the killer.