When Scream came along a few years ago, the concept seemed pretty novel. Here we had a horror movie, within which were characters who had seen horror movies and used the knowledge of those movies to survive the movie or to terrorize the other characters. It turns out that Scream wasn't the first to do this -- although it was the first to do it well.
There's Nothing Out There is something of a proto-Scream. In it, there is a character obsessed with horror films (much like Randy from the big-budget cousin). This character, Mike, recognizes the signs of an impending horror film when he and his friends drive by a police investigation on the way to their secluded cabin. "That was a warning," he intones. Mike (Craig Peck), the only guy without a girlfriend on this particular Spring Break trip to the woods, has most of the best lines in the movie, as you would expect. Unfortunately, Mike's not one of the better actors in this movie populated with below-average talent. For the most part, we were as annoyed with him as his fellow partiers were.
Nick: He likes to watch horror films.
Stacy: He is a horror film. A walking, talking horror film.
Once again, a demonstration of the fact that
horror films take place in
a dimension without towels.
The movie begins with an (almost) entirely unrelated scene during which a young woman is pursued by someone or something off camera. Driven from her job at the video store (replete with horror movie memorabilia, natch), the woman flees her attacker by car and ends up in a solo accident. Her attacker is undaunted by her mounting insurance premiums and continues the assault. This is the last we see of the scene until Mike and Company drive by whilst the police discuss the girl's disappearance.
The main characters, all seven of whom are stuffed into one car on the way to the cabin, consist of some pretty basic slasher film stereotypes. They are:
Mike, our horror-film savvy protagonist. We've discussed him already.
Jim and Doreen, the sexed-up beautiful people. Jim is our big dumb jock character, good for nothing but convincing Doreen to take off her clothes. Doreen is the ditsy blonde who will willingly do so at the drop of a hat.
Nick and Stacy, the well-rounded pair in a "serious" relationship. Nick's parents own the cabin in which these high school kids will spend their Spring Break. Stacy is his steady girlfriend who will, nevertheless, get naked later in the film. Stacy later becomes the leading lady, prancing about in a bikini for the latter half of the movie.
David and Janet, the vaguely ethnic couple (she's from Brazil or something) whose only contribution to the proceedings is to take a walk after dark so that somebody will be the first to die in our little story.
"Can you believe they found someone less attractive than me to play
my part in Scream?"
Though Mike tries to warn the others that they have all stumbled into a horror film, they ignore him. When something or someone steals the remainders of their chicken dinner from the kitchen and leaves a puddle of green slime behind, they still refuse to believe that they might be in danger. And when members of the party fail to return from their post-sunset sojourn, the remaining teenagers still manage to find fault with Mike's theories that doom is upon them. C'mon, people! Shouldn't you at least take steps to prevent your own murders once it becomes clear that all is not well?
The good news is that there is something out there, waiting in the dark to kill the partying teenagers. The bad news is that it's not a very interesting killer. As scary murderers go, the culprit in There's Nothing Out There ranks somewhere between a C.H.U.D. and a Critter. You see, the creators of TNOT turn their movie from a slasher spoof into a typical example of the genre with surprisingly little effort -- mostly by revealing that the killer is, in fact, an alien creature. The characters then wallow in the same old stupid behavior that all slasher-flick characters evince, and the director seems to think that endless, dimly-lit scenes from the creature's point of view are something we all haven't seen before. Once the carnage begins, the only sign of the film's earlier satirical qualities is a scene in which Nick escapes death by swinging from a boom mike.
"You think you can show up in a bikini
and steal my film away from me? Take this!"
Funny, sure. Enough to drag the movie back out of the doldrums? Not hardly.
The real problem here is that, rather than analyzing the psychological aspects of a horror movie and how they might or might not work in the real world, this movie concentrates only on the surface mechanics of horror films. Sure, it's fine to wink knowingly when someone says "I'll be right back" (because you know he won't), but shouldn't a movie like this probe a little deeper into the reasons we like to watch flicks like this? Why exactly do we enjoy viewing scary movies? Alas, this picture doesn't even try to ask that question, much less answer it.
In short, There's Nothing Out There starts off with quite a bit of potential, but quickly settles down into the same-old same-old. Mike has some good dialogue early on (we especially like his diagnosis of the creature's response to a mouthful of shaving cream), but let's face it, he ain't no Jamie Kennedy. And this movie ain't no Scream.