Thursday, January 15, 2009

Isle of the Damned (2008)

Isle of the Damned is a joyously gory, fantastically funny spoof of the Italian cannibal movies of the 70′s and early 80′s. The film is a spot-on spoof, complete with atrociously dubbed dialogue, over-acting, 70′s ‘staches, bad retro outfits, a Eurosleaze soundtrack and an intro done completely in Italian subtitles. The film pretends to be a “long-lost” film from “legendary” director Antonello Giallo and “banned in over 492 countries.” All this and much, much more had me rolling on the floor laughing one minute and shaking my head in disbelief another! It is one of the best, most accurate spoofs I’ve ever seen!

Jack Steele (Larry Gamber) is a private investigator who is down in Argentina assisting treasure-hunting sleazeball Harold Thompson (Patrician Rosa) in finding Marco Polo’s long-lost treasure. Thompson believes the treasure is on an isolated tropical island and so they, along with Steele’s slightly effeminate adopted son Billy (Peter Crates) and a trio of pirates as their crew, go there to seek it out. One problem – the island is home to an indigenous tribe of cannibals hungry for human flesh! After being attacked, the remaining survivors are rescued by an eccentric anthropologist, Alexis Kindcaid (Keith Langsdorf), and his ex-assassin man-servant Cain (Dustin Edwards), who live in a mansion on the island. Thompson is still determined to find the treasure, but as the cannibals track their every move will the group survive the Isle of the Damned?

Isle of the Damned is a riot from start to finish. As soon as I heard that “bow-chika-bow-bow”  70′s music and saw the opening credits, I was hooked. The zany dialogue, over-zealous acting, bad hair/moustaches/clothes added to the charm and the accurate feel of the film. It also does a good job of rising above being “just a spoof” and doesn’t just rely on gags to move the story along. It has sympathetic characters (no matter how goofy they were) that we actually care about and a fast-paced storyline.

The actors themselves do a fantastic job, especially since they must rely on body language to get the characters’ emotions across because their voices have been dubbed. The hilarious over-acting that occurs is intentional and perfectly mimics the acting in a low-budget, 70′s cannibal flick. I really have to give props to all the actors for flawlessly playing their characters. Even the people who played the cannibals were excellent!

The execution of the film was also amazing. Writer Mark Leake crafted a very memorable spoof to cannibal films and director Mark Colegrove brought that vision to life. This film could have easily slipped into over-the-top, eye-rolling cheesiness, but both Leake and Colegrove succeeded in crafting not only a memorable film but also a believable one! And on a low budget, no less! For example, the film is supposed to be set in a lush, tropical jungle…but it’s obviously not. Instead, there are intercut scenes of jungle animals (a technique which many 70′s cannibal movies also used). The film is so good, though, that this and the forest it is actually filmed in work!! You do believe that they are in an Argentinean jungle! This just proves the skill and care that this film was made with. Director of photography David J. Kratz also sets up some very interesting shots that give the film a professional feel.

As for the gore, there are several great scenes and overall the gore is done extremely well. In the first 20 minutes or so we get an effective and very bloody penis-chomping scene (one of the many homages to famous cannibal films)! Other gems include a fetus feast in which an unborn baby is ripped from the womb, a head cracked open and brains gobbled up, torsos being ripped apart and eaten, and even a cool face-ripping scene! The film even features a pole-impaling scene as a loving homage to the infamous cannibal-movie-to-end-all-cannibal-movies – Cannibal Holocaust.

Of course, Isle of the Damned’s tone is quite different from Holocaust’s grim one. There are plenty of hilarious/raunchy gags, including the hilariously dubbed voices, Thomspon’s being sodomized by the cannibals, everyone’s amazingly ridiculous mustaches and many, many others.

If I had seen Isle of the Damned in 2008 it would have surely made my “best of” list. I can’t tell you enough how this is one of the best genre spoofs I have ever seen! Everything from the titles, the dubbing, the costumes and the look of the film recall sleazy 70′s cannibal/exploitation flicks. You would be a fool to not track this down!

Available from Amazon!

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