Island of the Dead

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Island of the Dead (2000, dir: Tim Southam; script: Tim Southam & Peter Koper; cast: Talisa Soto, Malcolm MacDowell, Bruce Ramsay)





Island of the Dead appears to be a made-for-cable or TV movie, shot in Canada. You can tell because the screen fades to black every 15 minutes or so for the commercial break.

This is a very low budget affair, making for a very low-key horror film. It's supposedly set on New York City's Hart Island (where the city owns and operates a "potter's field" for burying the impoverished or unidentified dead), but NYC cannot be seen in the background as the ferry travels the water. All you see of NYC is an insert shot of Manhattan at the film's start to establish the location.

Then there's the shot of Talisa Soto (who plays a cop) walking down "Manhattan," anonymous skyscrapers looming behind her. She looks across at a ghetto-like street with boarded-up buildings. These two shots were obviously not filmed on the same location. Editing them together was truly unconvincing.

The story concerns an evil rich man, Malcolm McDowell (playing a casino owner/developer named "The Rupert" -- as in, "The Donald" Trump), who is building a low-income community on the island. Naturally, being rich, he has sinister motives. He arrives on Hart Island with an entourage. Then these evil flies attack them.

Yes, evil flies. Or as is later implied, flies possessed by the dead victims of The Rupert's past development deals.

But being a low-budget film, these flies only attack after most of the entourage has left the island. This means there are very few actors left for the flies to attack. Just The Rupert, and a handful of cops, and prisoners burying the dead on potter's field.

Here's some sloppy story-telling: it seems the flies only want to kill The Rupert, because when he dies, they stop. Talisa Soto marvels that the flies were after him. But then ... why did the flies kill several other people earlier in the film, and ignore The Rupert?

Anyway, the flies' bite is deadly, causing you to puff up in a disgusting manner before you die.



Despite that, Island of the Dead is not a terribly gory film. Yet the atmosphere is nicely creepy. It helps that the low budget only allowed for a few actors. And the location is nice -- a deserted island with abandoned buildings and grave markers. The gray Canadian sky also helps, much as in The X-Files. We're obviously not in New York, but Island of the Dead is decent horror film. Not great, but decent.

I disagree with one Amazon reviewer who said that Talisa Soto looks old in this film. She looks quite young, still. However, she looks awfully thin. Her face is so tight and thin, it's almost skull-like. I'd heard a story from a film industry friend that, on the set of Vampirilla, Soto was so thin they had trouble keeping her costume from slipping off. Somebody get this girl a milkshake and fries, fast!

The DVD is remarkably crappy, in that there is NO MENU. No special features, not even a scene selection. You pop in the DVD and go straight to the movie. Really, how hard is it to create a menu, with maybe some cast notes and scene selection?

Without even a menu, this DVD should be selling at the bargain bin price of $1.99 -- $3.99 max.

The DVD is full screen, but as this is likely a TV movie, full screen is probably the original screen format.


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