• Zombie Island Massacre (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: January 21st, 2020.
    Director: John N. Carter
    Cast: David Broadnax, Rita Jenrette, Tom Cantrell, Diane Clayre Holub, Ian McMillan
    Year: 1983
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    Zombie Island Massacre– Movie Review:

    Directed by John N. Carter and distributed by Troma in 1983, Zombie Island Massacre finds a group of American tourists - Joe (Ian McMillan) and his lovely wife Sandy (Rita Jenrette), Steve (Tom Cantrell), Paul (David Broadnax) and Connie (Diane Clayre Holub), along with a few others who only exist to get killed of - vacationing on a distant Caribbean island. When they head off on a bus trip with a tour guide named Reginald (Dennis Stephenson) to a more remote part of the area one night, they lay witness to an ancient voodoo ritual wherein the participants attempt to raise a corpse from the dead. Thinking it's all in good fun and just part of the show, they remain in good spirits about it all, but some of the spirits may not be so good after all as they slowly but surely find themselves under attack from something that they very obviously don't understand.

    All hope seems to be lost when their bus breaks down and find that they're stranded shortly after things start to go bad, and when things go bad in a horror movie, you know it's only a matter of time before they get worse. And get worse they do, as various players are killed off as the group tries to take solace in a nearby house and the film attempts to live up to its name.

    The makeup is goofy, the effects are sparse and when present, not very well done. The acting is terrible and the direction is nothing if not pedestrian. By traditional standards, it’s a poor film. It does have a sense of ridiculous charm to it though, and I found that I enjoyed this one a lot more than I figured I would. Maybe it helps to be a sucker for eighties horror movies. Having an affection for low budget filmmaking doesn’t hurt either. But Zombie Island Massacre definitely does have a primitive, low budget charm to it that makes this scuzzy little likeable enough. Just keep your expectations in check when you fire this one up in your Blu-ray player. Those hoping for something along the lines of the Romero classics or the atmospheric Fulci gorefests that so often rank at the top of the ‘best zombie movies ever made’ lists won’t get what they’re after – this barely qualifies as a zombie movie, it’s more of a survival horror/slasher hybrid - but there’s some neat stuff in here.

    First of all, the Caribbean setting works quite well. It gives the movie some exotic flavor that helps it stand out from the horde just enough. The voodoo ritual scene is fairly well done and if you dig seeing ritualistic ‘stuff’ in your horror movies, this provides that. There’s a little bit of nudity in here to spice things up, and some of the murder set pieces are notably creative. On top of that, we get a score from none other than Harry Manfredini, immortalized in genre circles for his work on Friday The 13th. The cinematography from Robert Baldwin is also pretty solid, particularly in this widescreen presentation (having seen it before on a fullframe tape sourced edition on DVD from Troma, it didn’t quite make the same impression on an initial viewing).

    Lead actress Rita Jenrette has an interesting story. She was married to South Carolina congressman John Jenrette and made waves in the Republican Party in the seventies before he was convicted for his part in the Abscam scandal. When this happened, she did the talk show circuit and then a pair of Playboy spreads. She’s not a very good actress but she does look good with her clothes off. She also sings the movie’s theme song!

    Zombie Island Massacre– Blu-ray Review:

    Zombie Island Massacre looks impressive on this Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome, presented in its original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio in 1080p high definition and taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. If you’ve seen past home video release of this film in the past, then you’ll likely remember that it has generally looked like crap. Thankfully, this transfer does not look like crap, it looks like the opposite of crap! Some flaws in the original cinematography are obviously still inherent here, some dark scenes look a bit underlit, but overall this is a massive improvement over past editions. Detail is quite nice, colors look good, black levels are just fine and the presentation is very film-like from start to finish.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The audio is properly balanced, the dialogue easy to follow. The score sounds pretty nice here too, no problems.

    Extras are slim, limited to a trailer for the feature, a few TV spots, a promotional sizzle reel, menus and chapter selection. We do get some nice reversible cover sleeve art, however, and the first 2,000 units purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome get a very nice limited edition, embossed slip cover designed by Earl Kessler Jr.. As this is a combo pack release, a DVD version of the two movies taken from the same restorations is also included.

    Zombie Island Massacre– The Final Word:

    Zombie Island Massacre is clunky and goofy but so too is it entertaining and, well, actually kind of charming in its own dumb way. Vinegar Syndrome has done a great job bringing this one to Blu-ray in a presentation that mops the floor with how the film has looked in the past. Extras are a bit light, but fans of the film will absolutely appreciate the upgrade.

    Click on the images below for full-sized Zombie Island Massacre Blu-ray screen caps!