Appellate Judge Tom Becker's got plenty of nothing, and nothing's plenty for him.
A horror film of comic proportions.
"I've rented every single horror film on video tape, and what we just went through is called a warning stage."
Facts of the Case
It's "spring break in the woods" time for a bunch of high schoolers. On the way to their secluded-house getaway, they pass a traffic accident. Mike (Craig Peck), a horror movie aficionado, sees this as a bad omen and begs the group to turn back; the others laugh at him—after all, they're not in a horror movie, so why should they be concerned?
Ah, the fools! They are, in fact, in a horror movie—a cheesy little horror movie that contains so many tropes that anyone even remotely familiar with the genre could have spotted the signs. Can Mike's knowledge of all things gory save his friends? Or will the villainous killer—here, a slimy monster from outer space—conquer all?
There's Nothing Out There is a fun and goofy little film that riffs on horror movies in much the same way the more famous Scream would five years later. It's less polished than Scream and also less subtle, a reasonably funny effort that sometimes too obviously from a very young filmmaker (Rolfe Kanefsky was 20 when he made this).
Kanefsky crams as many genre conventions into the film as he can, and trying to catch all the references is a big part of what makes the film a good time. Most of them are pretty apparent, though some—like his "homage" to Psycho—make more sense when accompanied by an explanation. True to the format, Kanefsky offers gratuitous nudity, stereotypical characters doing stupid things, but much less actual gore than the typical '80's horror film served up. It works for the most part, though occasionally, the self-referencing goofiness becomes a little intrusive, as in a scene in which a boom mic is used as a means of escape.
It really doesn't carry through, though. Unlike Scream, which worked as both a parody of a horror film and an actual horror film, There's Nothing Out There pretty much fails as a fright flick. It's all played pretty strictly as a comedy, so there's little in the way of suspense, and Mike's constant iterations of horror movie conventions get old after a while—once Kanefsky set up the whole spoof thing, he should have just left it to the audience to pick out the jokes.
Additionally, his choice of killer is a little curious. Since slasher films seem to be the riffing-off point, you'd think Kanefsky might have gone that route; instead, we get a cheesy green monster from space. There's nothing wrong with the monster per se—its cheesiness fits right in—but with a few notable exceptions like Humanoids From the Deep and C.H.U.D., slimy monsters were more of a '50s horror reference than an '80s one. On top of that, Kanefsky shows us the monster before the credit sequence, draining the film of a central mystery. If the young Kanefsky had thought through his clichéd targets a bit more fully, this might have been the cult classic he seems to have envisioned.
Image put out a 10th anniversary release of There's Nothing Out There, and this 20th anniversary two-disc set comes courtesy of Troma. When I first looked at the package, I assumed this was a Troma production, but watching it, I saw that it was much less over-the-top than what usually comes out of the Troma factory. Turns out, Troma had nothing to do with making this film; they merely picked it up for the rerelease.
The picture and audio are fine, with a good-looking anamorphic transfer and a perfectly acceptable stereo track.
For this Special Edition, Troma ports over the supplements from the 2000 Image release and adds new material:
• Film Introductions: There are options to watch the film with either of two introductions (or watch no introductions at all). The first introduction is by Troma chief Lloyd Kaufman, and it's the usual goofy Troma-ish kind of thing that culminates with the announcement that a particular store in New York is selling the DVD. The other introduction is by Kanefsky. Like his other appearances on this disc, this seems to have been done in his bedroom, alone, with a camcorder.
• Commentaries: A track from an earlier release features Kanefsky along with his father, who produced and edited the film, as well as cast and crew members. This was recorded around 2000, and it's a fun listen. Kanefsky also did a new track for this release, which doesn't bring a whole lot of new to the table, though he does talk at length about a long hoped-for sequel.
• Interview with Kanefsky: Thirty minutes with the oddly engaging director. Kanefsky tends to ramble a bit, and much of his commentary has a slight therapy-session feel to it, but he's open and informative, so it's pretty entertaining. With the reams of Kanefsky material, we get the entire history of the production, the entire history of its distribution (cable and home video, plus a couple of screenings), and a pretty comprehensive history of Kanefsky himself.
• Short Films: Just Listen was a film Kanefsky made in high school (and it cameos in the film); Mood Boobs is more recent and was apparently an Internet sensation for a spell. These are pretty good, with Mood Boobs obviously being the better and more professional. These also feature bedroom-shot introductions by the writer/director.
• The Making of Mood Boobs: Yes, the featurette gets its own featurette, a little home video footage from the Mood Boobs set.
• Music Video: Clips of the film cut together using two VCRs and played over a song that was written for the film but never used, as Kanefsky tells us from his bedroom/studio.
• Audition Footage: You'd think this would speak for itself, but in case it doesn't, Kanefsky provides commentary.
• Pre-Production Footage and Storyboards: There's nothing I can say about this that Kanefsky doesn't say in his commentary.
• Rehearsal Footage and Bloopers: More outtakes, more home video, more…COMMENTARY!
• Animation Test Footage and Deleted Shots: commentary commentary commentary commentary
• Stills Gallery: Sometimes it's nice after watching a film to just settle back, look at the pictures, enjoy a little quiet, and…what's this? Oh dear lord, it's more COMMENTARY!
• Trailer: Should the nuances of this sublime piece elude you, fear not…Kanefsky's there to COMMENTARY you through it.
• Tromatic Extras: What, no Kanefsky? Nope, just the usual, ragtag collection of goof that Troma plops onto its discs. For fans only.
[Note: The commentaries, of course, are optional, so you can use your remote to determine the extent of your Kanefsky experience.]
A cool, if slightly loquacious, release from Troma, There's Nothing Out There is a fun little film that's worth checking out.
Not guilty. Now I have to run…got a date with some camp counselors…
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