A text introduction tells us how director Antonella Giallo fled to South America following the trials of his earlier film PLEASURES OF THE DAMNED. While there, he made this film in the jungle. However, when the authorities got hold of the film they asked Giallo to produce the cast members to prove they hadn't been killed for real. Giallo went into exile once more ...
Then we're into the film, a lost classic fully restored for the first time in three decades ...
Well, that's the general conceit. ISLE OF THE DAMNED is of course a 2008 cheapie shot and doctored to look like a battered, grainy film from the halcyon days of the late 1970s.
It begins proper with a warning advising of the film's shocking content, and then introduces us to private investigator Jack (Larry Gamber). He calls his girl Evelyn from outside his Argentinean hotel, advising that he's been hired by the aggressive Thompson (Patrician Rosa) to sail to a nearby island in search of Marco Polo's lost treasure. Jack doesn't necessarily want the job, but needs the money to help pay for his troubled foster child Billy (Peter Crates).
The following morning, Jack and Billy board a boat with Thompson and set sail for the feared Cannibal Island. Accompanied by pirate skipper Squirty Dan and his two henchmen, the expedition land on the island and are instantly alarmed to discover fresh footprints on the shore.
While the pirates prepare for lunch, Jack leads Billy and Thompson through the jungle in search of treasure. Before long they attract the attention of the natives, and a prolonged attack ensues.
After a protracted montage of buggery and gore which sees the pirates bite the dust, a penis severed, a pregnant woman disembowelled then sodomised and some primitive flesh-eating, Jack and Billy become detached from Thompson.
Rescuing a girl (Megan Mundane) after her parents are slain by the cannibals, Jack and Billy attempt to find their way back to the boat. They become surrounded by savages, but fortunately the mysterious Alexis (Keith Tveit Langsdorf) and his mute manservant Cain (Dustin Edwards) turn up to save their bacon.
Alexis leads the group through the jungle and to his mansion, where he treats them to a local delicacy - monkey meat drenched in Iguana semen. Meanwhile, Thompson begins to go stir crazy in the jungle, eventually being captured and caged by the cannibals, where he's forced to eat their faeces to survive.
The next day, Jack and Billy resolve to leave the island with the girl - but first they must rescue Thompson from the cannibals ...
ISLE OF THE DAMNED sounds daft and, if anything, is far sillier in execution. All the male characters have patently fake moustaches and huge 70's-style wigs, while Jack's attire is pure 70's cop garb - brown leather jacket and mirrored sunglasses. Visually, this echoes the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" video to a great extent.
The script is surprisingly astute at times. Taken on it's own merit, it does stick alarmingly close to the conventions and clichés of the third world cannibal horror sub-genre. By doing so, it does a good job of highlighting just how preposterous those films were. Characters muse over who the real savages are, while racism and sexual violence becomes laws of the jungle where "only the strongest survive".
Deliberately crap dubbing helps Mark Leake's dialogue to come over as even sillier, with voice-overs being so OTT that they're positively cartoonish (indeed, Crates sounds like Shaggy from "Scooby Doo").
The film nods obviously towards genre highpoints such as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and CANNIBAL FEROX (check out the punishment for adultery, and the later "savage on a skewer" gag), while looking and sounding more akin to the low-rent EATEN ALIVE. The cannibals all look like Goths, while the 'jungle' is clearly a stretch of nameless American woods, interspersed occasionally with stock footage of hippos, alligators, etc.
In terms of violent content, the film does push the boat out. Flesh-eating and gut-tearing are frequent, while anal rape seems to be a particular obsession with the filmmakers. The bad-taste pinnacle of the film is perhaps when one character is gang-sodomised, and then takes a dump in a toilet - leaving a basin filled with blood and a floating turd. Moments later, the same character has his face shoved into the gory basin ...
Puerile and fixated with attempting to derive humour from anal sex, ISLE may be too silly for some. But it transcends it's miniscule budget by making good use of locations and extras, and is ever watchable thanks to the well-paced direction of Mark Colegrove.
The film's biggest flaw is that it's a simple gag - 70s Italian films were crappily dubbed and cheaply produced schlock fests - that soon wears thin.
The film is presented uncut in a 16x9 enhanced 1.66:1 transfer. Colours are strong yet accurate, while detail exhibits a natural softness in line with the film's claims to be a lost 16mm relic from 1980. Vertical lines are evident throughout as is a healthy dose of natural grain, all added in post-production to lend the film an authentic grindhouse feel.
Audio is proffered in English 2.0. As mentioned above, the dialogue has been post-dubbed and as a result is loud and clear throughout.
A static main menu page leads into a garish scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 16 chapters.
Extras begin with a commentary track from Gamber (A.k.a. The Insultor), who records a hungover track with his gravelly-voiced cousin Clarence. A tongue-in-cheek affair, they discuss how they know nothing about the film and express reservations each time homosexual activity threatens to rear it's head. It's an extension of the main joke, obviously, and therefore is devoid of information relating to the actual shoot. An occasional disclaimer from "Joe Timbleton" breaks the monotony of Clarence telling Gamber to "shut the fuck up". The commentary grinds to a halt after 46 minutes.
Paul Joyce's excellent score can be accessed as MP3 files by inserting the disc into a PC. It's a great nod to 70s grindhouse scores, offering a mix of savvy disco beats and atmospheric electronic synths.
Next up is a 5-minute interview with Luigi Giallo, son of "director Antonella Giallo". A female interviewer turns up at his apartment with an interpreter and they proceed to listen to his badly dubbed stories of how his father was influenced by Fulci, how the ISLE script was turned down by Deodato and so on. In-between, Luigi dances naked and feeds them with Maltesers. Badly acted and very silly. Of course.
"The Shameless Art of Self Promotion" is a 6-minute featurette wherein Joyce records the Dire Wit Films team at a New Jersey horror film convention. They're there to promote the film PLEASURES OF THE DAMNED and drum up interest for ISLE. Featuring interviews with industry types and fans alike, this is a pretty interesting insight.
Then we get trailers for POST MODEM and PLEASURES OF THE DAMNED, along with a 2-minute teaser for ISLE and the finalised trailer for ISLE, both of which come with tagged-on warnings for the more sensitive viewer.
"A Message From Prof Livingstone" is a 20-second audio warning from an "intellectual" with fake moustache, warning that all acts of cannibalism in the main feature are genuine. "Please enjoy the film," he asks, "even though it's full of real cannibalism".
It would be curmudgeonly of me to suggest this film is crap. Of course it is - but that's the point. It's fun performed with a high level of energy and no short supply of imagination. The rules of the genre have been stuck to closely enough to pay respect to the films ISLE is lampooning, and the gore quotient will satisfy those looking for grue. But the joke is a juvenile one that doesn't merit an 84-minute running time.
For more information, visit www.direwitfilms.com.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Dire Wit Films|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|