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Image Entertainment presents
There's Nothing Out There (1990)

"You don't understand. We just went through a warning. Don't forget I have rented out every single horror film on videotape, and what we just went through is called a warning stage."
- Mike (Craig Peck)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: September 27, 2001

Stars: Craig Peck, Wendy Bednarz, Mark Collver, Bonnie Bowers
Other Stars: John Carhart III, Claudia Flores, Jeff Dachis, Lisa Grant
Director: Rolfe Kanefsky

Manufacturer: unrated
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality and violence)
Run Time: 01h:30m:26s
Release Date: September 18, 2001
UPC: 014381078824
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-BB B+

DVD Review

If I were Rolfe Kanefsky, which I'm not, I imagine I would be more than a little irritated these days. For those of you that don't know, and that is probably the majority, Kanefsky is a low-budget director/writer best known for the 1990 classic There's Nothing Out There, one of the true campy horror films of all time. Many people credit Kevin Williamson, who wrote the screenplay for Wes Craven's 1996 smash Scream, with the creation of the sub-genre of horror film savvy teens being murdered by some unknown, mysterious evil. Well, I hate to shatter any preconceived notions that you may have had about Williamson's creative-writing abilities, but Kanefsky beat him to the punch by almost 7 years, and in my opinion, did it 100 times better. Sure, Williamson got the recognition and the fame, but he wasn't the first to come up with the idea. And Scary Movie? Don't get me started on that one, either.

There's Nothing Out There, shot on an extremely tight budget, on 16mm stock, was the directorial debut of then 20-year-old Kanefsky. His script is exceedingly clever and funny, and while much of the production values are on the minimal end, it is really the writing that makes this all come together as well as it does. Kanefsky has loaded his debut film with far too numerous to mention inside joke references to the horror genre, and while he apparently didn't have even a fraction of Scream's catering budget to work with, he was still able to assemble what I would consider a very entertaining cult horror/comedy, much like the Chiodo Brothers Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

TNOT, as it is affectionately called by the small, but loyal fan base of this film, is the story of seven teens that head off to a secluded cabin in the woods over spring break. True to good old genre standards, the seven are a mixed bag of stereotypical characters. Jim (Mark Collver) and Doreen (Wendy Bednarz) have the horny hunk and blonde bimbo roles, David (Jeff Dachis) and Janet (Claudia Flores) do the nerd and foreign student bit, while Nick (John Carhart III) and Stacy (Bonnie Bowers) are the closest thing to a "normal" couple in the film. The seventh character is Mike (Craig Peck), the oddball guy without a date who just happens to be the horror film buff of the bunch. Mike quickly offers his concern about the vacation after the group passes by the accident site of an overturned car in the woods on their way to the cabin. They overhear some paramedics wondering what happened to the apparently missing body of the driver, and Mike considers this a "warning stage," which according to him, happens in every horror film. Mike's concerns are ignored by the rest of the group, and the requisite eventual carnage ensues.

The plot is very basic. The seven teens (and I use that term VERY loosely) continue on their way to the remote cabin, and not long after their arrival they are hunted down by a bizarre alien monster that resembles a mutant green taco with sharp teeth and tentacles. Even before the killings start, Mike is quick to constantly interject comments about the various situations and how it relates to a horror film, such as the dangers of a couple taking a late night stroll in the woods alone, or someone going to get firewood after dark, or leaving the doors unlocked, or...you get the idea.

The humor quotient is very high in TNOT, though Kanefsky has given the character of Mike the bulk of the funny dialogue, as he is constantly expounding on how the danger of their situation is comparable to that of a horror film. I enjoyed Peck's frantic and sarcastic portrayal of Mike as the guy who just won't quit trying to warn others of what is obviously a deadly situation. In one of the more memorable sequences Mike uses a can of shaving cream as a weapon against the alien monster, which prompts one of my favorite lines of dialogue: "All we know about it is, like anybody, it doesn't like a mouth full of shaving cream."

Every horror film has it's share of those false jump scares, which are usually attributed to the sudden appearance of a cat leaping into frame. Kanefsky lampoons that type of scene perfectly in TNOT after an unexplained cat jumps from the basement rafters during a search for the as yet unknown monster:

Stacy: "Well, that's it then. You must have tripped over the cat. "
Mike: "Where did it come from? There's nothing up there but ceiling. I love how these animals just fall straight into your hands. I mean, what do they do? Hang up-side-down by their claws and wait for people to pass by? "

Kanefsky, who will probably never win an award from The National Organization For Women, serves up plenty of gratuitous, almost leering, female nudity here, and even resorts to having Stacy, the female lead, spend the last act of the film running around in a skimpy bikini. Not exactly subtle, but it is certainly almost a genre requirement.

Not surprisingly, the only glaring downfall in TNOT is the monster itself. The obvious budget constraints could not provide for particularly formidable beast effects, though that doesn't hamper Kanefsky from orchestrating some bizarre attack sequences. Some of his shots linger on the creature for a few seconds too long, which only adds to the tackiness, but at it's core, however, this film relies more on humor than horror. A film like TNOT isn't really designed to scare anyone, despite the blood and decapitations, and Kanefsky has managed to put together a film that is unconcerned with the general silliness of it's star monster.

TNOT is one of those relatively obscure cult titles that sadly very few people have seen. It is certainly worth a look, especially if you appreciated the hip tone of the aforementioned Scream series. Much like Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Kanefsky's film is not as polished as a big-budget Hollywood production, but it does have something that many of those big $$ films do not: a clever script and a lot of attitude.

I also highly recommend that you visit the TNOT website, which includes an insightful "Making-Of" on-line book, which recounts "the making of the film, the anguish of post-production, the torture of promotion, and the horrors of distribution", written by Rolfe Kanefsky.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Image presents TNOT in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Originally shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm, it should not surprise anyone that the print quality here is a bit less than pristine. The inevitable graininess that comes about as a result of that process is present here to some degree, with a few moments significantly more grainy than others. Sporadic nicks and scratches appear throughout, though not to the point of distraction. The overall color field is generally pale and a bit faded, especially during the exterior shots. Flesh tones remain consistent, thought a little on the flat side.

Even with it's easily overlooked minor visual flaws, the charm of TNOT is not lost. Image has done a very respectable job on this transfer, considering it's history and origins.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: TNOT is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo for this Special Edition DVD release. The limitations of 2.0 stereo do not affect the viewing experience at all. I didn't find the absence of any surround effects a drastic loss, nor did I lament the lack of any strong directional sound field. Dialogue is always clean, and the horribly dated songs sound decent enough. I found the opening title sequence to be the most significantly impressive audio portion of the disc, with Christopher Thomas's synth score sounding particularly rich and full. The only recurring annoyance is that there is some very minor hiss present occasionally.

Overall, few complaints.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Rolfe Kanefsky, Victor Kanefsky, Craig Peck, Mark Collver, John Kim, Gene Masse
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Screen Tests
  2. Pre-Production Footage and Video Storyboarding
  3. Behind The Scenes Rehearsals and Bloopers
  4. Animation Test Footage and Work Print Outtakes
  5. Production Still Gallery
Extras Review: Image has provided a nice depth of bonus materials on this special edition release. Kanefsky's commentary track is reason enough to give the extras high marks, and is recommended highly. The visual quality of some of the supplemental features is less than perfect, but as a big fan of this film, I appreciate it. Included as special features are:

Commentary
A full-length scene-specific commentary from Rolfe Kanefsky, Victor Kanefsky, Craig Peck, Mark Collver, John Kim, Gene Masse is easily the best of the supplementals. Dominated primarily by the energetic Rolfe Kanefsky, this track provides not only some fascinating insight into the creation of a low-budget exploitation horror film, but also contains some truly funny production stories. Note to Bonnie Bowers: you may want to steer clear of the commentary, as it contains a number of not so fond remembrances of your participation in the film.

Screen Tests (11m:58s)
Relatively uneventful screen tests for most of the cast, including bikini test footage of Bonnie Bowers, Wendy Bednarz and Claudia Flores. Includes brief nudity. Especially humorous if you realize how sour the relationship between Bowers and Kanefsky will become during production, as explained in the commentary.

Pre-Production Footage and Video Storyboarding (7m:11s)
Frustratingly poor quality (but still interesting) footage highlights some random pre-production test shots, as well as Rolfe Kanefsky's video storyboarding. This segment includes a small inset image of the actual finished sequence, while Kanefsky's video storyboard plays full screen.

Behind The Scenes Rehearsals and Bloopers (10m:36s)
More poor quality video featuring behind-the-scenes shots and a bloopers reel. I would have preferred more behind-the-scenes footage instead of bloopers, but that's just me being picky.

Animation Test Footage and Outtakes (3m:30s)
Test footage of the animated title sequence is featured here, in addition to a handful of random outtakes, which are still in work print format.

Production Still Gallery (4m:15s)
This segment is an automated stills gallery, set to the music featured in the film. A nice blend of promotional images and behind-the-scenes shots, as well as plenty of Bonnie Bowers(!).

Excerpts from the July/August 2001 issue of Femme Fatale Magazine
This text-based segment is brief excerpt discussing There's Nothing Out There. Those familiar with Femme Fatale magazine may not have made it past the pretty pictures yet, so this will reiterate that there are actually some good articles in that publication from time to time.

A 1.78:1 widescreen theatrical trailer, filmographies for director/writer Rolfe Kanefsky, Craig Peck, Jim Collver and producer/editor Victor Kanefsky, and a slim 14 chapter stops complete the supplementals.

There are no subtitles of any kind.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Rolfe Kanefsky's There's Nothing Out There is a true cult classic horror/comedy, and if you haven't seen it, then I strongly suggest that you seek it out. Image has really come through with this first rate Special Edition, highlighted by a terrific commentary track from Kanefsky, Craig Peck and Mark Collver. This is a funny and entertaining film from start to finish, and I hope that Kanefsky's debut achieves a more pronounced level of success as a result of this excellent special edition DVD release.

Highly recommended.

 


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