Zombie Island Massacre 1982 Review
Zombie Island Massacre 1984
Directed by: John N. Carter
Starring: David Broadnax, Rita Jenrette, Tom Cantrell
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
You know, choosing a title for a motion picture is not always such a tough task. Peter North has starred in a plethora of films with names like, ‘Anal Addicts’ or ‘Perverted Passions’ and from those combinations of words, you don’t need much of an imagination to predict the, ahem, ‘plot’. Keeping that in mind, when you pick up Troma’s ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE, it could be easy for you to follow that same logical thought process. I mean, It certainly sounds like there’s going to be a massacre; its obviously going to take place on an island – and it looks to me like a gang of Romero-like zombies are sure to be the culprits. Why else would you choose a title like that?
Well only director John Carter knows the answer to that conundrum, because he alone turns out to be the only zombie that was present on the set of this eighties miss match. Yes folks for some unknown reason what we have hear is the trappings of an eighties slasher with a misleading tag slapped on top to excite fans of the living dead. But even stalk and slash addicts will feel cheated because we swap genres once again towards the climax. More on that later…
Things launch with the oldest and most common of slasher movie chestnuts. The camera pans in on the exceptionally well-endowed Sandy (Rita Jenrette) as she washes off the suds in a shower. She must’ve just finished mud wrestling in a sewer judging by the way she’s scrubbing those bazookas. Before you have the chance to say ‘hackneyed’, a masked intruder is on the scene creeping up on the unsuspecting female. Fortunately for Sandy, it’s only her husband Joe (Ian McMillan) playing a prank. As a consolation the two head off to the bedroom so Jenrette can give us one last flash of her jublies. Next up we learn that the couple are currently in the Caribbean enjoying a pleasure trip with a group of surprisingly non-teenage tourists. Along with Sandy and Joe we have an elderly couple, a pair of newly weds, two stoners, a mysterious photographer and a single guy and gal who look certain to join the couple’s list any time soon.
Part of their holiday package includes a trip to the remote isle of San Marie and they will be transported to the location aboard a coach that looks fit only for the scrap yard. Upon arrival they witness a voodoo mass, which sees a priest bring a corpse back to life using only goats blood and a few bizarre chants. The gruesome sacrificial sights are too much for one young madam to handle, so she and her hubby head off to the deep forest for a kiss and cuddle under the moonlight. That cues the arrival of an unseen menace with a spiked club, a murderous intent and heavy breath that sounds like a pig grunting over its chow. The maniac slaughters the two lovers before disappearing into the depths of the forest. Meanwhile, the rest of the holiday makers head back to their coach only to find that their driver is missing and so is the distributor cap, making the vehicle about as much use as a glass hammer. Luckily one of the travelers knows of a house that is situated nearby and the troupe decides to head over and bed down until morning. Little do they know that a psychopath is stalking them and it doesn’t take long for him to start slashing the tourists…
Zombie Island Massacre is a bit of a let down in every respect really. As a Living Dead flick the lack of any actual zombies is a bit of a poo-poo, don’t you think? As a slasher it starts promisingly with a few tense shocks and creative use of the clichés, but soon withers in to an unnecessary climax that involves everything from Colombian drugs cartel to spear chucking Zulu assassins. No really. Finally as a gore film it looks about as gruesome as an episode of Sesame Street, which also sums up the level of the crew’s mentality. The early woodland stalking scenes are fairly atmospheric mainly due to the decent musical accompaniment from Harry Manfredini. But he proves once again that he can only modify and pretty much reuse the same old melodies that we’ve heard before (Friday the 13th/Slaughter High etc).
To be fair the acting is passable and you’ll never ever guess who it is that’s behind the maniacal murders. Shooting things in a Caribbean setting gives the film an added vibe of seclusion for the victims and the sub-reggae soundtrack is somewhat refreshing for a flick of this genre. The maniac’s disguise is also worth a look; imagine a ninja that’s been covered in feathers and dragged backwards through forty yards of forest and you’ll almost have a mental picture. I couldn’t get a clear snap of him for you unfortunately, despite the fact that I did try numerous times.
Interesting killer guises and a fabulous setup don’t cover up the fact that it feels like John Carter set out to make three different movies and ended up chucking elements from all of them into one confused runtime. The net result is a frizzy mop of ineptitude with too many rough edges that cannot be smoothed out by the bizarre plot sprouts and Rita Jenrette’s amazing cleavage. The drugs cartel idea had – and still has – great potential and could be used to excellent effect in a larger budgeted thriller. The reason that I can’t give credit for that idea here is because Zombie Island Massacre plays mostly like a stalk and slash flick. Well, actually, it’s a semi-stalk and slash flick that’s been marketed as a zombie gore extravaganza and that my friends is a bit of an issue. Earlier on, I mentioned Peter North and his specific kind of ‘entertainment’. If you’re a fan of this work and you download one of his features only to be treated with Mike Tyson’s greatest hits when you hit the play button, you are going to be pretty disappointed. It’s not that you don’t like Tyson of course, but it takes something absolutely earth shattering to change human expectations. I wanted to give credit for a couple of ambitious story branches and an attempt to break the mould. The bewildering zombie marketing however left a rotten taste in my mouth and ruined anything that was good about it.
So I can’t really find much to recommend about this one then, which is best described as the living dead flick where the only zombie was the guy in the director’s chair. It’s never a good idea to leave the audience feeling ripped off and that’s why Carter’s movie fails dramatically. Even Jenrette’s twin-peaks couldn’t save it. What a waste. Perhaps she would have been more exciting in one of the Peter North titles I mentioned above? Hmmm…
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√