October Horrorshow: Zombie Island Massacre

Zombie Island Massacre plants its flag very early on. The funky James Bond-type intro, instead of going with the silhouettes of scantily-clad women, just shows us a transparent breast, instead. The message is clear. This flick is going to be trashy, and you will like it. Then, the very first scene features a nude Rita Jenrette showering and lathering up her buxom body. What a start to a Troma-distributed film. Knowing their tastes, and then seeing the title of this film, this is just the start of a raucous ride. Only, it isn’t. This scene is the high point of the movie. Afterwards, this flick is all promise, and little reward.

Logan O’Neill and William Stoddard wrote the screenplay, John Carter (who had a notable career as an editor) directed, and David Broadnax produced and starred. Zombie Island Massacre follows a tour group in the Caribbean (filming took place in Jamaica) that is preyed upon in the jungle by voodoo-style zombies (or are they?), who have slathered themselves in jungle muck, leaves, and blue feathers. There was a lot of potential with this idea. In a scene near the final act, the characters find a bunch of books on cannibalism on a shelf. That’s yet more potential. The willingness to employ gratuitous nudity early begs for either its further use, or for the film to embrace exploitation. Potential, potential, Zombie Island Massacre movie posterpotential. What Carter and company gave audiences, however, was an unlikable ensemble of characters, death scenes that were over too quickly or happened offscreen, a second act slow walk through the jungle, and a final act twist that ruined what fun was left to the story.

The cast was large for this type of movie. A slasher, and that’s what this is, despite the title, tends to be more effective when potential victims in the main group don’t reach double figures. A good case in point is Friday the 13th Part 2, when director Steve Miner had half the characters literally go into town for beer before Jason Voorhees gets down to the proper dirty work. That allowed Miner to take his time with the deaths and prevent his film from feeling like it was just ticking boxes.

Carter gives us twelve tourist deaths. For the most part, they die in pairs, too. To make it even more efficient, a few die offscreen, only revealed to the viewer when another character discovers a blood-soaked corpse. In a bizarre choice, the vast majority of deaths Carter did choose to show are gotten over with quickly, as if there was important plot stuff to get to. Then, he would spend long minutes showing his cast trudging through the jungle, or wandering around a deserted house. So many of the parts where he could have shot many feet of film with things happening were sublimated to scenes of thin action. The upside-down pace of the film is surprising, considering how successful he already was as an editor.

The more of these reviews I write, the less I like shitting on a movie too much. Movies are hard to make, and they’re even harder to make well. I didn’t like this movie. As a shitty movie watch, I found it somewhat difficult. But, it wasn’t a total disaster. For one, that opening scene is a total howler. Then there is the music. Horror fans will find it familiar, as it was composed and conducted by Harry Manfredini, who shamelessly cribs his own music from the Friday the 13th franchise. And, the film does provide a fair amount of the schadenfreude that is the guilty pleasure of the shitty movie fan.

That’s about it, though. This is one of those films that within a year I’ll completely forget I ever saw. Zombie Island Massacre settles into the lower half of the Watchability Index, displacing Black Ops at #330.

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