Whodunit? 1982 Review
aka Scared Alive aka Island of Blood
Directed by: Bill Naud
Starring: Marie-Alise Recasner, Rick Dean, Bari Suber
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This peak period slasher was one of the first that I got my grubby little hands on when I was a nipper and the store keeper at my local video rental shop was more than happy to part ways with it in exchange for a shiny £1 coin. Even back in those days it didn’t make much of an impression on me, but I was keen to give it another look with an adult mind as I notice that my opinions have changed a lot over the years.
Interestingly enough, it managed to escape the wrath of the BBFC and doesn’t look to have been castrated at all in the UK. There’s one quick cut when someone’s about to be murdered, but unless this was snipped by the MPAA before it was submitted here, then it seems to be the full print. It’s also very hard to tell by the jumps in the runtime if they’re deliberate or not, because like most of the film’s technical aspects, the editing in the movie is quite poor.
The story’s basically an update of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. In the opening, a girl is seen relaxing by a pool. There’s a noise in the bushes and all of a sudden, she is shot in the face and her lifeless body sinks to the bottom. Next up, we meet a group of young actors who have headed off to a secluded island to shoot a comedy. Almost immediately, they realise that they are stranded and an unseen someone begins killing them off one by one.
Whodunit has its own Facebook page, where one person wrote that it’s an underrated gem. Now me, I’m all for uncovering diamonds in the rough and posting them here so that you guys can have the joys of hunting them out. Unfortunately in the case of Bill Naud’s dreary slasher, I would suggest that it’s best left where it currently lies.
On paper the idea is very good. The killer is murdering people as per the words of a peculiar song and he leaves a calling card of a portable cassette player that loops the lyrics that associate with the method of slaughter that he has used. The song in question is a punk rock oddity, which repeats, ‘Burn me, Burn me face to face’ to the point of insanity. The burn part is substituted dependent on how the victim is despatched; for example, ‘Stab me’ or ‘Boil me’. The only problem is that once we have heard it for the fiftieth time, it does begin to tear at the strings of your patience. By the roll of the closing credits (accompanied of course by the track in full), it was a case of ‘please, no more!’
The soundtrack however is only the beginning of the issues that make the film difficult to watch. There’s a humongous body count and some imaginative kill scenes, but the lighting is so bad that we never really enjoy any of them. The score is certainly not the worst and the mystery is pretty good, but any attempts at suspense are wasted by a lack of a clear sight on what the hell is going on. This makes the feature feel more tedious than it really is; and the pace never raises high enough to keep a roving eye transfixed.
As was the case with Freeway Maniac, the movie includes an average actress satirically playing the part of an actress that’s even worse. Yes it is a tad ironic, but purely self-recognition from a screenwriter who was aware that this was a lunch-money budgeted production and poked a bit of fun at it. Whodunit is authentic in the fact that that same girl, who plays the heroine, is not the shy sensitive type like Laurie Strode and I think that the only reason that she survives so long is because she was the prettiest cast member that they had. Aside from the fact that that she looks good in a bikini, I just can’t think of any other reason that she made it through to the conclusion. We get a smart twist that is really quite impressive, but it’s poorly executed and turns out to be a bit of a mess.
Aside from the Facebook page that I mentioned earlier, I have never seen a good word written about Whodunit. Of course, there’s nothing I like better than defending a heavily criticised slasher flick, especially when it is a rare one from the key period. But in the case of this feature, I have to say that I agree with the masses. It’s far too jumbled to be any good and even the unexpected pay-off is flawed because of the holes in the script. Just who was that girl murdered in the opening credits? Why on earth was she never referred to again? What the hell was going on with the red herring guy’s haircut?
The plot touched on real estate agents buying up land against the wishes of locals and I thought that it was a really good idea for a motive, but it was never followed through or developed. It can’t help but feel like there actually was only a brief idea of a synopsis and the screenwriter made up the scenes as he went along, which would explain the craters that pop up time and again throughout.
Early in the feature there’s a very good scene that raised my hopes immediately. A girl heads off to explore the basement, but in the shadows lurks an assailant in one of the best killer guises that I’ve ever seen. He stalks up in steadicam, but it turns out to be a false scare. That costume is never seen again (boo) and things just continue downhill and we never come close to any shocks or tension.
Released under three separate aliases, this one is not a gem of any kind and will even disappoint genre enthusiasts. Avoid…
Final Girl √√