Sunday, February 15, 2015

ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD (2006) (Intervision DVD Review)


Label: Intervision Picture Corp
Duration: 97 Minutes
Video: Widescreen 1.78:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 
Director: Bruno Mattei
Cast: Yvette Yzon, Jim Gaines, Gaetano Russo

Italian master of schlock Bruno Mattei was still going strong in the 2000s before his death in 2007 at the age of seventy-six, the with a string of quickie-gore films shot in the Philippines that somehow managed to maintain that vintage '80s aesthetic we loved so much. His last few films were a pair of zombie gut munchers and Island of the Living Dead set on a mysterious Spanish island where a group of treasure hunters find themselves stranded following fog-drenched shipwreck off the coast.  

Once on the island it's not too very long before they find themselves at the mercy a a centuries old voodoo curse and an island crawling with conquistador zombies! It is said that good artists borrow and great artists steak... by that logic Bruno Mattei might just be the greatest filmmaker in all of Italy! Lifting liberally from Lucio Fulci's Zombie Flesh Eaters (1978) and George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) but shot on a fraction of the budget on digital equipment that gives it the appearance of '90s daytime soap opera. 

Mattei always did make the most of a meager budget and he does it again here with some great Filipino ruins as a stand-in for the Spanish with hordes of zombies dressed up as monks, conquistadors and... flamenco dancers! The zombie effects range is quality from poor to worse but there are a few that shine when spotlighted, a did enjoy the design of the undead on this one, maybe the make-up effects were not the greatest but I could see what they were going for here. There is an odd inconsistency to the creatures, some are your average flesh-tearing  variety and then you have one that is capable of regenerating lost limbs, it's a cheap but fun effect. Others are fanged like vampires and still others speak as if they are ghostly apparitions, not exactly sure what they were going for here but it seems Mattei was just throwing a little bit of everything at the wall on this one and seeing what would stick, and it works for the most part, doesn't make much sense but it does chug along at a good clip. 

The film begins with a great prologue set on the island centuries ago during a voodoo inspired zombie outbreak with the Conquistadors attempting to thwart the undead menace, it's a moody beginning with some great atmosphere and fog shrouded sets with the zombie hordes overcoming the Spanish, here we have a fantastic borrow from Fulci with the headshot that opens Zombie Flesh Eaters in addition to the infamous splinter to the eye scene scene from Fulci's classic but with nowhere near the suspense or eye-gore. Of course, this is a Mattei films so you can expect an abundance of stock footage including a sepia tone naval battle from the early days of cinema that draws attention to itself. 

The cast is just awful with a few exceptions, for one the dialogue has been dubbed and is over-the-top with more than a few choice groaners tossed off every few minutes, pretty silly stuff. The best of the cast is probably Gaetano Russo as the ship captain, outside of being in Mattei's final pair of films his most memorable role is that of a jailer in the film Ladyhawke (1985) and the women-in-prison film Caged Women (1991). he does bring a certain amount of weight and depth to the role but not much. Then we have the star of the film, Yvette Yzon who appeared in several of Mattei's earlier WIP and erotic films, appearing here fully clothed in in full ass kicking mode as the survivor girl, sort of. Ydalia Suarez appeared in Mattei's In the Land of the Cannibals (2003) and also appears here as the other woman among the treasure hunters who doesn't fare so well, in respect to her acting and fate in the film. The remainder of the cast are a bunch of guys who are wooden and stiff but do provide a source of meat for the zombie grinder and some occasional kick-boxing prior to being eaten, they are just bad enough to be entertaining

DVD: The disc from Intervision presents the film in anamorphic widescreen and looks about as good as you can expect from a shot-on-digital film in the early 2000s, a step up from the zero-budget cheapies we see today but nowhere near the 35mm quality of Mattei's Hell the Living Dead (1980) or Rats Night of Terror (1984). The English Dolby Digital Stereo audio does the job but cannot help the poorly dubbed dialogue or the sad synth score, both are awful but do add a certain amount of schlocky charm to the proceeding.

Unlike the recent Bruno Mattei releases from Intervision this one does actually feature more than the trailer as an extras, we have the trailer (2 Mins), a International Sales Promo (5 Mins) and a new Bungle in the Jungle (19 Minutes) featurette both producer Giovanni Paolucci and screenwriter Antonio Tentori reminiscing about their experience making the film and working with Mattei, they speak about the Filipino locations, working with Mettei and his death. 

Special Features:
- Bungle in the Jungle (19 Mins)
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- International Sales Promo (5 Mins)

As with Bruno Mattei's later era cannibal films this one manages to maintain that vintage '80s aesthetic, over-the-top and slightly nutty zombie carnage from start to finish. Probably a bit overlong at ninety plus minutes but still quite a fun slice of trashy cinema that straight-up steals from superior films but proves to be a surprisingly good bad film, loaded with corny action and plenty of cheese.