Sunday 21 September 2014

IMBd Bottom 100 - Number 072 Demon Island

What happens when an ancient cursed piñata meets a group of college kids hunting for underwear on a deserted island? Fast paced action? Exciting moments of intense personal development? Characters with depth and stories you can relate to? Yes! And no! Mostly no, though. You CAN relate to some of these characters, in as much as they look just as bored as you may very well be feeling, if you happen to be watching...

Look a thing!. Let's bash it with sticks!

Demon Island (2002)

When a movie starts appearing with differing titles left and right and center, you know something is amiss. This movie is either Demon Island, Survival Island or Piñata: Survival/Demon Island, depending on where you look and/or who you might be talking to at the time. What this usually means is, it came out with one name that nobody had bothered checking if was totally close to another, probably similarly themed, film already out. So it was changed after the film came out, in a bid to totally marginalize this movie. And of course, a stunt like that almost never works. Mostly because nobody gave even the tiniest of fucks about the success and well being of this flick. But also because once a movie is out with a certain name, that name tends to stick, unless you have a massive re-marketing campaign up and running. For the purpose of this review, I'll go with the IMDb title, Demon Island. Both because it somewhat fits the content of the film, but also because I totally don't care what this immeasurable hunt of dog doo is labeled as. If it smells like shit and sticks to your fingers like shit, it's probably just good old fashioned fecal matter.

On the right; the monster. Yeah. That's it. 

In Demon Island, unsurprisingly, we are dealing with a demon on an island. Surprisingly, however, the demon is given a relatively intricate back story. The first few minutes of not at all precious screen time is spent on explaining how this ancient demon came about through witchcraft of an ancient tribal people, who channeled all the evil sinning spirits of the tribal members into this here piñata doll, which was then pushed off to sea. It was awesome for the tribe, because they totally lived a happy and prosperous life after all the dirt and filth had been shipped off. But they didn't stop to think that centuries later some poor college kids might accidentally stumble on this doll of theirs, and the proverbial shit might just begin hitting the equally proverbial fan. But I suppose they couldn't have known. If they did know, it was a massive dick move. But I digress. The story of the piñata was elaborate, if not necessarily interesting. But at least they cared enough to put it in so we weren't treated to just a monster inexplicably rampaging on a random island. Points for that.

One third of the movie looked like this. Hilarious

Cut to present day, where 8 college kids are seen racing towards a tropical island in two speed boats. They are drinking and laughing and generally having the type of fun only college kids in movies can have. The kind where nobody isn't laughing uncontrollably at everything, everybody is a douchey jock or a hot girl, and copious amounts of alcohol is ingested without anybody ever really being affected by it. They hit the beach, and are met by two people, a dude and a chick, who are judges and coordinators of a competition or game or something, set up by their college. The dude judge is non other than Garrett Wang of Star Trek: Voyager fame. I guess he just took whatever he could get, after Voyager ended. The competition involves picking up 2500 pieces of men's and women's underwear, that these two judges have scattered around the island, which is actually kind of impressive. If nothing else, let it be said, that spreading 2500 pieces of undergarments around a tropical island is no easy feat. The 8 students (it was hard to believe they actually were students, but what the hey right) are paired up, apparently across their fraternity and sorority chapters, and cuffed together. Handcuffed. The two character I'd feel most comfortable naming leads in this movie, have recently broken up, and there is tension between them from the word go. It's a he said she said scenario apparently. Of course they are paired together, and both decide to act like 5 year old mentally handicapped kids instead of understanding that basic cooperation is needed to advance in the competition. Whoop de doo.

Yay we are celebrating Mexico's national day by getting hammered and picking up underwear. How special for them. 

Everybody runs off to collect underwear, and hit piñatas that are also scattered with the underwear. The piñatas contain refreshments or alcohol (same thing), so of course everybody would want to hit every single piñata in sight. And that is, it quickly proves, their downfall, because our demon piñata is also floating around the island, and as soon as one of the pairs find it and start beating it up, the evil spirits are awoken and presently goes on a hate induced rampage. Basically everything is by the book from that point on. I can't say it was a good movie up until here, but at least it moved along somewhat coherently albeit ridiculously. The piñata (man that word is annoying to type) shifts from a relatively ugly but somewhat innocent looking midget sized doll, to full on CG animated demon and slowly, but surely kills off many of the students. Our leads end up taking a stand, and manage to overcome hardships and prevail. The movie ends very suddenly and on a pretty incomplete note, but I guess everybody had stopped caring at that point, so I'll just go with it.

Which doctor dude spreads joy through spirit exorcisms. 

I wasn't at any point impressed with or engrossed in this movie. It was pretty run of the mill like. The credits, I noticed, bore striking resemblance to the font used in the game franchise Diablo. This suspicion was further affirmed, when the piñata monster's CG counterpart bore striking resemblance to Diablo himself. Apparently the monster in this movie was originally just a little dude in a rubber suit, but it was deemed not scary enough, so he was replaced with CG in post-production. Kudos for that movie, at least, since it must've taken time and cost a pretty penny. But alas it didn't really help that much, because it wasn't in any way scary either. In fact, I'd wager, it was just as laughable after. At least it shows a little effort. Too bad that effort is blindly misguided. The acting corresponded nicely to the CG effects in as much as it was completely unbelievable. In the female lead we see Jamie Pressly, before she did My Name is Earl and I love you, man, both of which I enjoyed quite a bit. I liked her back and forth with Jon Favreau in I love you, man, and she was charming and amusing in My name is Earl. She wasn't any of those things here. Devoid of charm, even. She's playing the slightly scorned and perhaps too serious college girl, but even in their inevitable make up kissing scene, she still seems like she's profoundly bored and put off by the whole thing. It rubs off, because I found myself mirroring those sentiments. But perhaps I already felt that way, and she just shed light on it for me. The last actor mention goes to Eugene Byrd who you will most likely know from 8 Mile, a movie he did the same year as this. I might be naïve, but I always have this weird idea, that if you do a movie that becomes pretty successful, and you do that well, chances are higher that you'll be offered better roles in the future. But so many people appearing in these crappy flicks bears witness to the fact, that that isn't the case. Whether it's bad judgment on the actor's part, or my theory just doesn't hold up I don't know for sure. I'll go with both, just to be sure. Eugene also snuffed it by the demon's hands, but at least he held out long enough to disprove the theory, that the black dude always dies first.

College kids in their natural habitat

The directors of this here flick is a brother duo by the name of Hillenbrand. They appeared right at the end of the movie, and they looked just as wooden and moronic as this picture would suggest them to be. It's hard to screw up, when you have just one line in a movie, but they pulled that off with flying colors. Both of them even. They also wrote Demon Island together, and it kind of makes you think that they should've been separated at birth. They do not make a strong team. After a quick glance over their respective IMDb credits, it quickly becomes glaringly apparent, that this movie wasn't by far a singular happening. They have quite a few project credits together, most of which are lowly college type flicks or basic horror stuff. One of the brothers, however, has been music coordinator on shows like Power Rangers and X-Men animated series. I don't quite know what to make of that, except that perhaps he should stick to doing that. I don't know what a music coordinator does exactly (except coordinate music duuuuh) and in what capacity he was coordinating music for the Power Rangers. I never watched the show, so I don't have a lot to go on here.

This fucking guy. Like seriously!? Totes. 

Demon Island could possibly have been a decent flick, if a little more effort had been put into acting. We already know the concept is going to be kind of lame, because it's a fucking piñata killing people collecting underwear. But if the acting had been more convincing, my disbelief could've been suspended a little more, and we might've had a more interesting flick on our hands. The fact that 1/3 of the movie was seen through the eyes of the monster, didn't help. It was a weird look, sort of made to resemble Predator, which is fair because Predator is the fucking shit, but it was used way too much here, and quickly became annoying. Also, and this is nitpicking I know, every time we were watching the monster and cut to a new angle, which happened a lot to mask the shitty CG as much as possible, we were treated to a frame of bright white light. Like a flash. From a camera. If you're anything like me, you're super awesome, speaks 5 languages and used to have a dog named Gertrud. But more importantly, you are also usually watching movies on a projector in a dark room. When in a dark room, science tells me, my eyes adjust to said darkness. When that has happened, having bright lights thrown at me every other second, is wildly annoying. It happened enough for me to notice it and be annoyed. Points off, Mr. and Mr. Hillenbrand. For those of you keeping score at home, the points are well into the negative by now. And for those rookie readers out there, points aren't meant to be in the negative. That's bad.  

These guys are responsible. Write them strongly worded letters please. Make this shit end. 


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