Friday, 11 March 2011


Film: Island Of Death *
Release date: 21st March 2011
Certificate: 18
Running time: 108 mins
Director: Nico Mastorakis
Starring: Robert Behling, Jane Lyle, Jessica Dublin
Genre: Horror
Studio: Arrow
Format: DVD
Country: Greece

Director Nico Mastorakis, having just seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), wrote it purely for the money and never wants his family to see it; actor Robert Behling was just as mixed up as his character Christopher, resulting in his bizarre suicide years later, and his co-star Jane Lyle was the sweet and innocent daughter of one of the big men at Black & Decker, the world’s largest producer of power tools. She would only appear in one more film. No wonder Island of Death became a cult classic, but is the film half as interesting as what happened after?

Christopher, an avid photographer, and partner Celia arrive from London to spend some time in Mykanos, an island off the coast of Greece. Exploring the quaint village, pushed by his sexual frustrations, Christopher encourages Celia to play a perverted sex game with him. Meeting a villager the next day at the church where the man works, Celia seduces him while Christopher photographs from afar. He then puts his camera down and crucifies the poor man.

This starts a perverted murder spree, echoing their similar atrocities in Britain. A detective from England tracks them down in Greece but they surprise him in the private plane he has hired. The brutal murders continue until a novelist interested in the deaths on the island links Christopher to a lesbian's demise.

With the police now giving chase, Christopher and Celia (regretting her actions) hide on a sheep herder's ranch, unaware that the simpleton is even crazier than they are…

Nico Mastorakis openly admits that Island of Death was only unleashed on the unsuspecting cinema goer because The Texas Chainsaw Massacre made so much money thanks to its explicit cannibalism and bodily mutilation, scaring the life out of most of those that went to see it. And then went back to see it again. He wanted a piece of the pie, quickly deciding his new screenplay, which took him a week to write, would mix in every trashy element you can imagine.

Gratuitous splatter, rape, sex and nudity carry most of the film before the tables turn in the jaw-dropping third act; obviously that all depends on whether you make it that far, as the entertainment value sustained by this film will vary from one viewer to the next, and if you are able to take it on its own ludicrous terms, you’ll still find little here in the way of entertainment. It’s basically an exercise in trying to outdo itself – every scene more ridiculous, and more disgusting than the previous.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with having sex with a goat, not if your partner is refusing to ease your sexual frustrations. And there’s definitely nothing unnatural about chasing a homosexual through the narrow streets of Mykanos with a sword, because forgiving the short memory Christopher clearly has, his intended victim is obviously a “pervert” and must be punished. As must the mother that frustrates him so, even if we’re not sure why, yet enough to warrant a call from a phone box while in the throes of passion, telling her precisely what they’re up to (if she can’t already tell).

Mastorakis continues in this vein for a staggering 101 minutes, daring to up the ante in the final act with a finale so ridiculous you’ll wish you were stuck on an island with Leatherface’s family of inbred cannibals rather than sit through any more of this mindless dross. If you want to imitate a successful horror movie, you sure don’t ditch the realism in favour of cartoonish violence and a soundtrack so out of tune a blind cat with two legs thrown onto a piano would be easier on the ears. According to the director, other than the two leads and a Greek National treasure playing the goat herder, every other actor was either a holidaymaker or a local. More worryingly, especially for Behling and Lyle, it’s impossible to tell – they’re all so equally awful.

Mastorakis introduces a detective hot on the heels of our villainous couple to add a touch of backstory, but it’s brief to say the least, and doesn’t justify his existence, other than to be the next character to die brutally, or to participate in such laughable dialogue exchanges such as, “Excuse me, miss, is my friend here? He’s a young fellow, with a girl.” “Yes, they’re not here – they went for a ride.” Considering he had just arrived on the island, that’s either one hell of a trick question or Mykanos isn’t renowned for couples.

Yet, as the final insult proves, this isn’t necessarily true either. Saving the best for last, Mastorakis has one more twist for the audience to endure, timed to perfection straight after a double rape that echoes Straw Dogs (1971) in its controversy, yet goes one step further with a moment even Jane Lyle (looks gorgeous, can’t act, makes the most of her screen time as a woman of dubious motives who likes to get naked) can’t rescue. Unless she borrows one of her father’s power tools and dismantles this offensive and utterly pointless exercise in terror.

Intended to test the tolerance of many viewers from the very beginning, Island of Death is shrouded by a relentlessly cruel aura of sick imagery, and it’s little wonder the film was banned in virtually every country worldwide. Even by today’s standards it manages to shock, but only fleetingly, rapidly descending into farce, and quickly becoming one of the worst movies ever made.

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