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Island Of The Living Dead
Bruno Mattei was no one's idea of a top flight horror director, but he did contribute some film entries that were at least entertaining in their ineptitude. He made a few zombie movies, such as Hell of the Living Dead, which I enjoyed, and also movies like Women's Prison Massacre and Violence in a Women's Prison. He's certainly earned his place in the schlock horror canon, so his next to last film, Island of the Living Dead is worth a look, though it's definitely not good, even by Mattei's standards.
The film starts off in the past. We see Conquistadors mistreating their underlings, and what appear to be Voodoo rituals, though most of the natives we see seem to be Filipinos. This kind of plot detail fudging is emblematic of the entire film. Zombies soon show up, and the multitudes are massacred. Cut to present day, and a group of treasure hunters are blown off course after losing a sweet find. They find themselves on the very same island and go ashore to find supplies, investigate, etc. One can guess how this turns out.
The away team quickly splits up (the better to get attacked and eaten) and both groups soon fall into trouble. Fred (Alvin Anson) literally falls into a hole near some ruins, which is no fun but does lead to some interesting inner chambers, full of ancient books and statues, and perhaps treasure. Sharon and Tao (Yvette Yzon and Franco Miguel) go searching for water, but find a cemetery and a lot of zombies instead. Soon, both groups are overrun and fleeing for their lives. The rest of the film is spent with the characters confronting their own demons, and a ghostly presence or two.
It's difficult to find a place to start describing all that's wrong with Island of the Living Dead. The plot is muddled and confusing, never really making any sense. Genres are mashed together, with vampire like zombies that have fangs and can seemingly think in rudimentary ways, plan and work together. There are also ghosts and spirits and an undead woman who plays classical guitar. The dialogue is atrocious, and the performances are overwrought and broad. At one point, a character literally rubs his hands in glee. I don't think I can overstate the number of ways in which these actors miss the mark. Almost every performance decision is the wrong one. If they weren't so in earnest, I'd guess that this was parody. But it's not.
The effects are decent, though, if you like the viscous splatter type of thing that the Italians perfected in the eighties. Mattei definitely always makes the choice to go cheesier and more over the top. This is not a movie (or director) that is interested in subtlety. There are a number of exploding heads, and they are shown head on and gooey. The zombie makeup is better than average too, though there are some problems with the oral prosthetics being loose and moving a lot when the actors talk (or growl).
If you have a soft spot in your heart for the bad Italian zombie movies of the eighties, then you may derive some pleasure from Island of the Living Dead as it hearkens back to a lot of those films. But, to be honest, it doesn't have the level of craftsmanship that the best of them were able to achieve. There was clearly some budget for this movie, but very little care given to the details at any level. It may pass for a "so bad it's good" experience if you really commit, but is so incompetent at so many levels that it's difficult to even enjoy it in that way. Skip it.
The video is 1.78:1 widescreen, and isn't great. The picture is grainy and murky, and varies in quality throughout the picture. The image isn't very crisp, and the colors are muted. It's not awful, but clearly a low budget production.
Audio is Dolby 2 channel, and is in the same sort of situation. The sound is very flat, and the dubbed dialogue is poorly done. The background noises, such as the sound of surf or insects or whatever, often seem louder than they ought to. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are included.
There is a trailer included, as well as an "international sales promo", which is basically just a five minute trailer. But the meatiest item is Bungle in the Jungle, which features interviews with producer Giavanni Paolucci and writer Antonio Tentori. Paolucci worked with Mattei for years, and is able to give a good insight into the man and what he was like to work with. It's an interesting nineteen minutes.
Island of the Living Dead might hold some interest for either Mattei completists or zombie obsessives. But for most other folks, it's not worth the time. The incompetence is simply too overwhelming and pervasive for the few bright spots to matter.