zombies here. Zombie
Massacre isn't even a horror film, not really. It's structured
as a horror film in the first hour, then reveals itself to be a crime thriller
in a "surprise twist" that comes out of nowhere.
As horror, Zombie
Island Massacre belongs to the "wandering victims" subgenre. You've seen it often. A group of nondescript people enter a closed
or deserted locale, usually at night. The woods, the beach, a desert,
ghetto, ghost town, department store, mall, school, mansion, shack, mine... Anyway, they wander around this locale while some unseen killer picks them
off. Occasionally a couple sneaks off for sex ... and are picked
off. So the survivors resolve to do some really determined wandering,
to find the missing couple ... and are picked off.
is usually limited to debating, and re-debating, two options: stay put
or move on.
gotta get to that [house, phone, highway, gas station]!"
not moving! Let's just wait until [morning, somebody finds us, they
open the store, Joe returns]!"
not staying here, waiting for him to get us!"
leave me here alone!"
in round robin fashion.
Island Massacre begins in a Caribbean luxury hotel. From
there, a boat transports some Western tourists to Zombie Island, to view
an authentic voodoo dance ritual. During the show, two lovers wander
into the woods ... and the body count mounts!
the show, the remaining tourists return to the bus, and discover the driver
is missing. Odd. Then the tour guide can't start the bus, so
he leaves to find the driver. But the tour guide doesn't return. Strange. Then one tourist, Paul (David Broadnax), goes in search
of the missing tour guide...
returns without news, everyone debates whether to stay on the bus, or walk
to a house they'd passed "a few miles back." Might have a phone. They could call the hotel for help. They resolve to head for the
house. Everyone. (Minus the two lovers, who are mysteriously
missing.) So the tourists enter the dark island woods -- and are
picked off by unseen killer(s). The tourists cross a river, and more
must die. Still more die in a jungle trap. A few reach the
house, but still, the body count mounts.
similar horror films, the big question is: Who will survive and what will
be left of them?
Massacre was photographed night-for-night, which is aesthetically
appropriate, but annoyingly murky. The pitch-black night conceals
the menace; the lighting exposes the victims. However, the nighttime
darkness also conceals the gore. We don't always discern what horrors
befall the victims; we only know that they're injured by hearing their
the shabby "special" effects, perhaps it's best we don't see it. Much of the gore occurs offscreen, and the onscreen gore is of hobbyist
quality. One decapitation looks like a plaster head knocked off a
dummy. Yet director John T. Carter seems proud of this marvel. The plaster head reappears in a later scene, stuck on a pike. It's
supposed to be shocking but, apart from looking like a plaster head, it
doesn't even resemble the victim it's supposed to be. Not even a
plaster head of the victim.
are sketchy and stereotypical. There's the retired couple still in
love, the wife doting on her husband because he has a "bad ticker." There's the hippie pothead, looking wasted, eyes sleepy, giggling and simpering
that everyone should mellow out and not worry. Other characters are
less well defined.
both a hero (David Broadnax; Cotton
Comes to Harlem) and villain (Trevor Reid) are black, the film
avoids some traditional stereotyping without falling into political correctness. Broadnax does a decent job looking resolute and brave, but Reid breaks
new ground in bad acting. His voodoo priest is hammy, bug-eyed,
and stiff -- all reminiscent of Mal Arnold in Blood
Rita Jenrette is the film's most notable element, the big selling point
for whatever scant attention it drew when first released. She was
wife to Democratic South Carolina Congressman John Jenrette, whose infamy
from the Abscam scandal launched Rita on her
fifteen minutes. They divorced, she posed nude in the April 1981
Playboy, then attempted an acting career. After some B projects and
a second Playboy spread, she returned to near obscurity.
Island Massacre, Rita goes topless in two brief scenes. And once we see her ass through a shower glass door. That's all she
bares. Not much, but as it's doubtless why she was cast (still coasting
on her Playboy publicity) we should keep score. Yes, her breasts
are very firm. But her acting only looks good compared to Reid's. (Is that why he was cast?)
Island Massacre flopped upon release, perhaps because mainstream
audiences avoided what they thought were flesh-eating zombies -- and zombie
fans felt cheated upon discovering there were no flesh-eating zombies.
critics have not been kind to Zombie
Massacre. In Deep
Red, Chas Balum writes: "There are no zombies in this picture. The real walking dead are behind the cameras this time. Ugly, cowlike
Rita Jenrette, who's claim to fame is having a disgraced politico ex-husband
and posing for a Playboy spread, is simply ... uh ... ugly, cowlike and
bereft of any shred of acting talent whatsoever. Sure, her breasts
gravity and the filmmakers get her naked as often as reason allows; but
Talking Mule could've done a better job and, perhaps, even brought
more sensuality to the role. ... alas, no zombies, just Z-Z-Z-Z-Z's."
In his Creature
Features guide, John Stanley writes: "A Caribbean island is the setting for this
tale of vacationers being slaughtered by what appears
to be a killer zombie
I said the photography was murky, and some events difficult to discern. But overall, I'm inclined to forgive. The film is pleasantly diverting,
and mildly entertaining. A critic at Amazon described Zombie
Island Massacre as "cheesy fun" -- and it is that. A generous
body count, hammy acting by a pothead and a voodoo priest, and Rita's breasts. It may not be art, but it's enough for a movie.
Review copyright by Thomas
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