Chen-Chen (Billie Tan) is en route to a fun weekend at Coral Cove with playboy boyfriend Alex (Alex Fong). Yet she is instantly upstaged by the arrival (by helicopter no less!) of her sexy sister San-San (Elsie Chan) along with their mutual friend, the beautiful Irene (Leung Yuen-Ching). Alex, who can't believe his luck now accompanying three bikini babes, brings them aboard his swanky yacht: the Pink Panther. Where they are joined by geeky Dak (Louis Kong), who pines away for angelic Irene, and his similarly bespectacled kid brother Gus (Leung Jun-Git) for a whole lot of sun-drenched frolicking and flirting. Even Gus peeks in on San-San changing into her swimsuit; the little creep. Alas spoiling their '80s synth-scored antics, a seaweed-swamped muck monster (Roy Cheung) rises out of the murky depths and starts murdering them.
Escape from Coral Cove remains to date the sole film directed by Terence Chang who is otherwise a major figure within the Hong Kong movie industry serving as long-time producer for John Woo. Interestingly the film’s plot and staging draw more upon American slasher film motifs rather than the idiosyncratic genre trappings proliferating HK cinema at the time in films like Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980), The Boxer's Omen (1983) and Mr. Vampire (1985). Indeed one semi-comedic sequence has a Taoist master (Wu Fung) repeatedly fails to subdue the monster using traditional paper spells then a crucifix and finally a wooden stake. Combined with the climax that pits scientific ingenuity against supernatural force it is tempting to theorize Chang is attempting a statement about the value of reason above superstition in modern Chinese life. But that would be overreaching.
It is a rambling, unfocused, second-rate horror movie. Enlivened only by Tony Fan Chuen-Lam's slick cinematography (Wong Sum shot the swimming sequences imbued with an otherworldly eroticism akin to Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)), a charming synth pop score that pastiches several Eighties chart-toppers and, yes admittedly, an attractive cast in their swimwear. Chang has his roving camera adopt the killer's P.O.V. and layers the soundtrack with raspy vocal effects to the point one half expects Jason Voorhees to show up. However the plot meanders interminably. Chang devotes excessive screen-time to inane seaside frolics and, despite crafting the odd arresting image, fumbles suspense sequences with clumsy jump-scares. As is a reoccurring problem with slasher films, domestic and foreign, none of the protagonists are especially personable. Alex is a macho asshole who does not let a steady relationship hinder him from hitting on all three girls, Chen-Chen is relentlessly catty and jealous while predictable "final girl" Irene, with her ever-present smile, is a one-note angel in a Donald Duck print bikini. No, really. Worse yet, the monster is deeply unimpressive: transitioning from shabby creature makeup to, well, just perennial Hong Kong movie villain Roy Cheung in short sleeved shirt and tie. That's it.