BEYOND FEAR is a 1993 joint from martial artist and ex-pro-wrestler turned low budget action star/writer/producer Mimi Lesseos, the one she did before Richard Elfman’s STREETS OF RAGE. This one is different because it really reminds me of some of the one-off, never-on-DVD slasher movies I watch every October. Lesseos plays Tipper Taylor, a former competitive fighter working as a wilderness guide, driving a vanload of feathered-haired tourists out to a motel somewhere and then leading them on a hike and camping trip. Her partner Sammy is played by Verrel Reed, whose only other movie role is as her mentor Vern in PUSHED TO THE LIMIT. I really like the chemistry these two have, they seem to genuinely like each other. According to my research Reed has been a meditation teacher since the ’70s, so my guess is he really is a mentor to Lesseos and that’s why she put him in her movies.
The weirdest characterization is of the unhappily married Vince (Robert Axelrod, THE BLOB; voice of Lord Zedd in MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS; Italian Restaurant Bartender, DEATH WISH 4) and Betina (Lisa Marie Hayes, PERSONAL VENDETTA). Vince is a dipshit who’s excited about using his new camcorder to tape every god damn thing that ever happens, and also an asshole who fat-shames Bettina in front of everyone. But it’s unclear how sympathetic the movie is toward her, because she cartoonishly eats junk food when she’s upset, and is a bummer because she complains about him watching violent TV and has curlers in her hair at night (that used to be the symbol for a sexless, disappointing wife).
We find out that Betina won the lottery and therefore controls the money, but surprisingly the angle is not that he married her for the money. It’s that she needs to stop being uptight and share the money to save the marriage.
The thing that most reminds me of a bad slasher movie (but also an ’80s comedy) is the inciting incident: Vince is walking around outside the hotel at night smiling and videotaping everybody, and he sees through a window that two burly guys (one with headband) are about to double team a prostitute in lingerie. Of course he walks right up to the window and excitedly tapes them. And of course they stand in plain view a few feet away from him and don’t notice him until after one of them gets mad at the prostitute for making them take turns and hits her and accidentally kills her.
The next poor decision that Vince makes is to not tell anyone he has proof of a murder and just go on the trip the next day. Of course the two guys come after them to try to get the tape back, and everyone in the group is in danger without knowing it.
The first fight of the movie is actually before all this when Tipper is driving to work. She sees two guys fighting on the side of the road and pulls over to break it up. The guy with a broken bottle will not stop beating on the other guy and she ends up having to fight him.
When she’s done she goes over to a couple who stood and watched the whole thing and says to the man, “Thanks! You were a whole heck of alot of help!” I kinda like that she singles out the man. She knows she can’t expect every woman to be The Magnificent Mimi.
I’m a fan of this type of unrelated skill-establishing preamble fight. Usually they take place in a mini-mart or liquor store that’s being robbed. I like that in this one she could’ve just kept driving, she actually had to make the choice to stop and get involved, and even then was planning to stop a fight, not finish one.
The second fight is when the headband guy ambushes them on the trail and grabs Vince’s camcorder. Thinking he’s just a thief, Tipper beats his ass and chases him off and he jumps into the window of a moving car.
That guy is going above and beyond as a friend, trying to get this tape back. He actually knows his buddy was out of line in beating up that prostitute. He calls it “meanness, man. Plain and simple meanness” and says “You got no sense of right, man. None at all.”
Acknowledging the reality that this female tour guide is too much for them to handle, they decide to sit back and wait for Vince to be separated from the others. This allows for there to be a long section of the movie just about the characters sitting around having conversations about their lives and finding themselves and shit. We learn about Sammy quitting some other life and starting over as a nature dude, because of the inspiration of Tipper’s dad. And Tipper’s guilt over what happened in her last fight. This guy Jon (Mitch Gibney) gets slapped by his new wife Lisa (Regina Hong) for confessing a bachelor party threesome, and then Sammy and Tipper give each of them separate pep talks. The movie seems to be serious about characterization.
Despite all he’s been through, Vince finds time to horrify his wife with a Little Rascals style prank of lowering a toy spider in front of her with a fishing line. Tipper catches him giggling with pride and threatens to beat his ass in, but his wife never figures it out and thinks it was a real spider.
It really seems like Tipper is mainly there as a bodyguard. She’s supposedly telling them how to climb and stuff, but I’m not convinced they really need to hold onto ropes and get instructions to climb over the small rocks and minor ledges we see them on.
Eventually the hooker murderers sneak up and hit Sammy over the head and then attack again. One of the guys does an excellent move where he grabs Lisa by the arm and starts spinning her around in circles before tossing her just barely over the edge of the cliff to hang there holding onto a root for a while before being rescued by the whole crew working together with safety ropes on. Tipper is actually very unlike herself in this scene, yelling “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!” in a panic the whole time. All of the tourists handle this part way better than she does.
The climax is a long fight that just happens in a little camping site type area next to a couple parked vehicles. It’s pretty much like a movie somebody filmed in their backyard or a neighborhood park, but the length of the fight and the combination of wrestling and martial arts moves reminded me of the legendary THEY LIVE alley fight, which is a big compliment. Mimi gets really into beating this guy down.
When it’s all over they’re all exhausted and for some reason huddling under the truck and laughing. So it seems sincere about wanting to be about these people bonding together in nature. And now that they were there when Tipper thwarted an attack by a dude with a headband maybe they will go beyond fear and be able to improve their marriages and stuff.
The director is Robert Lyons, a veteran character actor who was in DEATH WISH II and AVENGING ANGEL (plus around 100 other credits), but this is only the second of three movies he directed – the other two not on video and with no ratings on IMDb. Lyons wrote the movie with Lesseos and cinematographer Bodo Holst (who also shot Lesseo’s PUSHED TO THE LIMIT and PERSONAL VENDETTA).