It's just a minute left of school before a break and seven teenagers are going up to a house by a pond for a wild weekend. But what they don't know yet is that an alien is roaming the woods near the house, and they'll be getting a getting a little visitor.
Did you know about "There's Nothing Out There"? I certainly didn't. It seems like this has been a well-kept secret with a cult following for the past 20 years, and has finally been released by a company who knows how to sell these things - Troma. In an interview on the disc, the director tells us the entire story about the film and even though it had a VHS + laserdisc release and a 10th anniversary DVD release, the people who mostly know about it either saw it on TV back then or worked in a video store when it was released in 1992. Even now that Troma has released it in their luxurious 20th anniversary 2-disc edition, I have yet to hear about it! I was lucky to just stumble upon it one day and decided to check it out.
What you need to understand about this movie is that it's a self-aware movie that did it 6 years prior to "Scream". If "Scream" ripped it off, no one knows, but it did it before "Scream" and it still works today, whereas "Scream" already feels dated in its comedy. But I think that the reason "There's Nothing Out There" still works is because it doesn't make the self-awareness/parodying the main drive - it's still a simple monster movie that does what a good monster movie should.
The plot is that of teenagers going to a house during a weekend and there's a weird little frog/alligator/ray-fish-looking creature attacking them. The self-awareness mostly comes out of a character in the movie who is a big horror movie buff (sound familiar?), and he keeps telling people what they shouldn't do if they are in a horror movie scenario, which they are. Things like "Don't go into the basement" and other general and stereotypical warnings. I think the balance between horror and comedy is what makes this so great, because neither takes over at any point. It has its jokes, but under it all it's still a very serious monster movie with ambitious independent filmmaking behind it.
Because this is a monster movie I also have to address the monster. It's horrible. Honestly, it looks so stupid. And that's okay - they went all out on getting a animatronic monster into the film and it ended up looking very silly, but since the movie only has a semi-serious tone it works. They still play it off seriously, and the monster is often kept hidden (although not as much towards the end). They handled it very well considering how awful it could've turned out. Although I didn't like the eye laser beams added in post-production. Especially nowadays when we've gotten so sick and tired of CGI. Still, I'd take 90's CGI added to create something they couldn't otherwise, than a 2012 movie where everything is CGI.
"There's Nothing Out There" balances between horror and comedy, and luckily it never gets stuck in either genre. It's a movie that makes jokes about horror movie clichés and because of that it also falls into its own referenced clichés (intentionally). We've all seen it in "Scream" now and are used with the concept, but you need to remember this wasn't a common idea in the late 80's when this production started. I am also happy to say that "There's Nothing Out There" works as a teenage monster horror and reminds me of films such as "The Deadly Spawn" and a handful of slashers out there.