“What the hell is going on in this town?!”
As the sheriff (James Farentino) of a small coastal town investigates a mysterious rash of violent murders perpetrated on tourists — with many of them coming back to life — he begins to wonder about the potential involvement of the local mortician (Jack Albertson) as well as his own wife (Melody Anderson).
Co-scripted by Alien screenwriters Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, this horror-thriller is based on a provocative premise, but fails to deliver on its promise. The shockingly violent opening sequence — in which a photographer (Christopher Allport) is seduced by a beautiful woman (Lisa Blount) on the beach, then nearly burnt alive by a group of locals who photograph and film the proceedings — is truly terrifying, and becomes more so as Allport’s perpetrators suddenly show up around town in other guises. This narrative structure quickly begins to wear thin, however, as we witness one tourist (or set of tourists) after the other suffering the same fate, albeit via different sadistic methods (presumably to show off gory special effects). Clearly, this film is meant to play on the trope of small-town hospitality masking something much more sinister, but we see too much viciousness and not enough initial hospitality to engage our interests.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- An effectively unsettling opening sequence
- Atmospheric (if at times TOO dark) cinematography
No; you can skip this one unless it’s your cup of tea.