Thursday, July 21, 2022

Census Bloodbath: Who Do? You Do

 John Carter
 David Broadnax, Rita Jenrette, Tom Cantrell
Run Time:
 1 hour 35 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Plot: Zombie Island Massacre follows a group of American tourists in the Caribbean who take a tour to the isolated island of Saint Marie. After witnessing a voodoo zombie ceremony, they find that their tour bus has been incapacitated. While they walk to a remote villa on the island to seek shelter, a mysterious killer who they believe to be the resurrected corpse they witnessed begins to stalk and murder them.

Analysis: Zombie Island Massacre was distributed by Troma, a company that pretty much only ever puts out a good movie if somebody's playing a prank on them. So, when their logo graced the opening credits of the film, I can't say that I anticipated much, and it turns out I was correct to have that reaction. However, the film was least a notch or two above my bottom of the barrel expectations.

For one thing, the project gets sleazy slasher cred thanks to the involvement of composer Harry Manfredini, whose shameless approach to ripping off his own music from Friday the 13th (which in and of itself was busy ripping off Psycho and Jaws) always lends an air of charm to a low budget slice 'n dice picture. For another, while the film has a severe lack of kill scenes that are in any way either bloody or effective (one decapitation depicts a machete knocking against the side of someone's neck, causing their head to go flying off), it sure has a whole hell of a lot of them. This is partially due to the fact that there are so many indistinguishable, terribly acted white people crammed into that tour bus, but part of it is due to the film's most curious twist on the slasher formula.

Abandon all hope to avoid spoilers, ye who enter here:

It turns out that the killer, who many of the tourists fully embrace as potentially being a zombie without a moment's hesitation, is actually a contingent of a Colombian drug cartel trying to suss out who in the tour group is an undercover DEA agent carrying their money. This is just the beginning of the wild swerves the final fifteen minutes of the plot begins to take, and it's an exhilarating roller coaster of nonsense that somewhat offsets the generally bland first hour of the film. While it lacks the verve and commitment of the finale, that first hour is at least also spiced up by the island setting, though that taste is undercut by a heavy helping of racial insensitivity, of course.

The wild plot also benefits from being played entirely straight, a concept that would soon be abandoned by Troma altogether in the coming years. At the end of the day, Zombie Island Massacre is still a bad movie, but at least it puts in the work to make itself a somewhat interesting movie, which is half the battle.

Killer: Like, a whole Colombian cartel
Final Girl: Sandy (Rita Jenrette)
Best Kill: The kill where Connie has a knife embedded in her face actually looks passable.
Sign of the Times: One of the guys has a kerchief tied around his neck every time he appears onscreen, like he's a character in a campfire story.
Scariest Moment: The corpse's fingernails start to grow in the middle of the voodoo ceremony.
Weirdest Moment: A grizzled hunter suddenly shows up and declares that his name is Eli Whitney.
Champion Dialogue: “It looks like a bird or a bear."
Body Count: 19; but don't be fooled into thinking that makes the movie interesting.
    1. Eddie is bludgeoned in the back of the head with a stick.
    2. Roy is killed offscreen.
    3. Donna is killed offscreen.
    4. Helen is drowned.
    5. Jerry is drowned.
    6. George is garroted with a noose.
    7. Ethel is killed offscreen.
    8. Barbie and
    9. Matt are impaled in a pit of spikes.
    10. Joe is decapitated with a machete.
    11. Man #1 is beaten with a stick.
    12. Man #2 is beaten with a stick.
    13. Spear Thrower #1 is shot in the head.
    14. Paul is speared in the gut.
    15. Spear Thrower #2 is shot in the gut.
    16. Eli Whitney is shot in the gut.
    17. Knife Thrower #1 is shot.
    18. Connie has a knife embedded in her face.
    19. Knife Thrower #2 is conked on the head.
TL;DR: Zombie Island Massacre is a low-grade body count picture that is briefly jazzed up by a wild series of plot twists.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 750

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