1971-1980Paul WendkosThrillerTVUSA

Paul Wendkos – Terror on the Beach (1973)

“Terror on the Beach” is a tense and relatively gripping ABC Movie of the week, starring yet again Dennis Weaver in the role of anxious father and husband of a continuously bickering household. All he ever wanted was to take his family on a camping trip to a secluded beach, but the trip inevitably turns into a nightmarish ordeal. Apart from the typical complications that probably all American model families have to struggle through (like the kid rebelling against their parents and such) there’s the slightly more disturbing situation of a gang of youthful hoodlums with beach buggies terrorizing the living daylights out of them. Inventively cashing in on the contemporary Charles Manson hype, the thugs are hippies that petrify the Glynn family for no reason than to get kicks. There isn’t any real violence in “Terror on the Beach”, obviously, as this was a made-for-TV production, but there’s nevertheless an admirable atmosphere of suspense and dread. However, you can’t really sympathize with the lead characters in peril, especially not father Neil, as they shallowly ignored multiple clear signals of dangers and didn’t alter their holiday destination when they still could. Tension highlights include the women’s confrontation with two male thugs at the camper whilst the men are gone fishing or when daddy rescues a drowning mannequin doll from the ocean. There’s also a very nifty sequence where the hoodlums are terrorizing the family with recordings of their very own nightly conversations. Nowadays, movies with a simple but creepily effective concept like this are called “Eden Lake” or “The Strangers” and they all feature extreme bits of violence, torture and cruelty. Here in this case, there’s only the suggestion of cruelty and a lot of tension building, but it works equally effective – if not more effective. The hippies don’t even attempt to rape the attractive teenage daughter in spite of her parading around on the beach in a tiny bikini. Instead they prefer circling around the camp site in their buggies and trip over the caravan. That’s really bad-ass, guys. The climax sequences are disappointing, with a few moralizing twists and a lame and pathetically blood-free fight in the thugs’ camp. TV- production restrictions, I suppose… thanks to IMDB commenter, Coventry

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