Posts Tagged ‘Fulci worship’

Scorching the Retinas – The films of Bruno Mattei

Island of the Living Dead

eyeballs header

Island of the Living Dead (2006)
Italy
Director – Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn)
Writers/Screenplay – Antonio Tentori, Giovani Paolucci and Bruno Mattei
Runtime – 98 minutes

 

island of the living dead.jpg

For those who are new to the films of Bruno Mattei, like myself, an introduction. Island of the Living Dead was the last feature Bruno Mattei completed before his passing in 2007. His filmography is vast, diverse, and much like Joe D’Amato, he has also worked under a plethora of pseudonyms touching upon soft core, exploitation, Nunsploitation, drama, adventure, science fiction/fantasy, Caligula/Nero Emperor debauchery films and the cannibalism genres (although some twenty years after their heyday).

He’s most famous for a film entitled Virus (1980) aka Hell of the Living Dead, Night of the Zombie and Zombie: Creeping Flesh. And with as many aka’s as that you can betcha’ it placed high on Thatcher’s Banned/ ”Nasties” list back in the day.

Ironically, His output oftentimes overlaps those more renowned in the same genre, both in theme and substance. Zombie 3 (1988) is an instance where he stepped in to finish a Fulci feature when the original director was forced to depart due to suffering a stroke.

zombie 3.jpg

Alright, so this is a film shot somewhat recently hoping to capitalize on the aura and feel of an 80’s old school classic. The giveaways; well for one the copyright date, the names in the credits changed to give it more a European feel, but other than that it boasts a made for television, on the cheap, feel (much like a vintage Troma feature) down to the font, boldness and even the position of the credits themselves.

The movies opening scene introduces an island with a slight problem. Apparently, the locals have tired of the foreigner influence and rather than use the age-old trick of poisoning the visitors (or boring them to death with interpretive dance and the like) they decide instead to reanimated corpses via magick of the Dark variety. It works. Too damn well in fact, the undead overrun the Isle. One would think rifles would help, they don’t, but they do provide a decent enough head explosion to perk the interest of the Gorehounds among the audience early on. A character who could be a vampire is the last to be seen (I’m not sure where he figures into things, perhaps we’ll find out later?) before the scene comes to a close.

(trailer courtesy of SeverinFilms Official)

Cut to present times. A fishing boat, a crew (complete with a distinguished English gent) whose acting abilities are close only to the quality of the dubbing (it’s hilarious) and a treasure pulled from the sea. But the boat becomes damaged as the sea vomits its disgust at having the film produced upon it. The crew soon find themselves on an undersized dingy and soon upon an island with plenty of bushes (huh?) But that’s not all, there’s also ruins, a graveyard and a rotting looking chap in a Cavalier helmet who likes to grin at the camera (this makes me wonder what he’s been up to for the last four hundred years).

night of the living dead Theyre coming to get you Barbara gif

The crew split. A nod to “Night of the Living Dead” and “They’re coming to get you Barbara” in not so many words is blatant but it’s the wait until the corpse is upon you until you scream and move which makes me snort with laughter. It gets better; rather than run the poor lady struggles as if to fend off an unwanted snog. The chap grunts, as if to say “well, what do you expect. It’s not as if we have mouthwash or even toothpaste, it hasn’t been invented yet or transported to this island yet”.

islandofthelivingdead-gimme-a-snog.jpg

Gimme a kiss

Her companions scramble I’m sure they don’t want corpse lips on their bits either but he’s a persistent bloke who’s rather good at taking punishment from an adversary whose Kung-Fu is only slightly better than his acting.

Meanwhile the ships mechanic is encountering problems of his own. A legion of round helmeted troops has arisen from the sea, without appearing wet in the slightest, to infest the engine room. The ship, I’m guessing probably the most expensive prop in the movie, goes up with a boom, crackle and pop and the crew deliberate amongst themselves as to the reasoning why without really considering the likelihood that the mechanic is still alive.

island-of-the-living-dead  my gawd this books in latin.jpg

This is in Latin, but it’s OK. I know Latin

The remainder of the team find themselves deep underground in the company of ancient texts and wouldn’t you know it one of them reads Latin. One spells out doom whilst the others are fancifully jacketed Readers Digest special Editions most probably pilfered from the nearest Goodwill.

Soon, our heroes find themselves crowded with the likes of various types who shambles and display very little in the way of rhythm. I’m guessing within their four hundred years of solitude that they didn’t learn the Salsa, the Rumba or the Macarena. Luckily the script calls for our heroes to remain mostly unscathed. They advance accompanied by the type of soundtrack one would expect to find within a fantasy-based RPG and find themselves in a fortified building, a place of worship of sorts. The locals however remain hungry.

island-of-the-living-dead-08.jpg

C’mon just a nibble. It’s been four-hundred years fer Christs sake!

The night has magically transformed into day (kudos to the continuity department, perhaps their lunch break overran?) and our band of intrepid treasure hunters are off again. Those ominous tunnels won’t discover themselves, right? One contains a plethora of doors, one with a handle which begs to be broken whilst the other a sanctuary of sorts.

Probably the best line of the movie (“Oh shit, I think it might be too risky to go this way”) takes place at about the point when one of the crew discovers that it wasn’t altogether too wise to tap a mysterious cloaked figure on the shoulder (but it was in the script) “Father, Father” only to realize ‘he’ might have in fact, been a ‘she’ after all (wrong movie? Whoops).

Traipsing through the caverns our heroes soon happening upon plentiful homage to both Edgar Allen Poe (‘Montel Agro’ (sp) a wine from one of his tales?) and Lovecraft (one of the mirrors needs a little attention as it shows a reflection which is most definitely not a reflection).  A disgruntled head in a trunk full of gold is a surprising touch as too is the brief swashbuckling score. A spot of guitar fretboard tinkering is intriguing, do corpses still have sufficient dexterity in their extremities to pull off the flamenco?

zombie eyeball splinter.gif

However, it’s a scene sporting blatant Fulci (Zombie) worship, an eyeball and a wicked looking splinter, without a ‘money shot’ which might leave the majority puzzled.

Ghostly shenanigans and sudden Misfit (the band) in appearance acolyte silliness adds to a story with more holes in it than a string vest. Greed as it often does override survival instincts and the survivors continue about their merry way in utter disregard of their safety. The Isle opens up with its backstory using handy dandy stock footage from the 1600’s (wait what) and leaves only those with very scant attention still confused as to what’s going on. There’s an epidemic, the people are cursed with eternal undeath, blah, blah, blah.

Madness and hallucination prevail as it often does in times such as these and the crew start attacking each other. This threat is nothing however compared to the sudden appearance of a horde of vampires in corpse paint who’ve been hiding in plain sight the entire time.

island of the living dead conquistadors

They’ve been here the entire time. Did you know this?

Will Sharon, Snoopy, (Captain) Kirk (Where’s Spock?), Mark, Balboa, Max and Fred survive or at least make it off the island? How is it that their names seem pulled out of a hat dedicated to 80’s celluloid and/or cartoon worship? Why does Sharon remind me of the usually-naked-in-most-films-she stars-in; Laura Gemser? Is this in part homage to The Tombs of the Blind Dead series as well to Romero? Does anyone care, is there anyone even still watching at this point? Admittedly, this is rather silly but the ending boasts a lady with surprisingly adept scythe skills (where can I find a class?), a blazing inferno and a horde of zombies who grunt and groan like lovable (but don’t fed them after midnight, or get them wet) creatures from a Joe Dante helmed Christmas movie.

island of the living dead im not a gremlin

No one has ever called me a Gremlin, before now

Recommended only for those who have an adoration for the very worst, this is a feature overflowing with horrific one-liners, a script which a middle school-ager would be proud to take home to their parents, cardboard acting, makeup comprised of caked on foundation, obvious green screen effects aplenty and not nearly as much naked flesh on display as one might assume. But as much as I like to complain (I’m rather good at it) it has a certain something which can’t be denied. Is it the fact that it tries so hard to be what it so definitely isn’t? It deserves huge props in that regard, it fails but it’s delightful to watch it do so. Or is it that it’s just horrid and reminds me such of that which as a child I couldn’t get enough of. An element which dragged me into the realm of cult celluloid. I’m not entirely sure, but it has something which kept me watching, unable to caress the STOP button.

bad taste bear goes boom!

You were expecting a pic plucked from an early Peter Jackson film?

I can’t recall the amount of times I quoted, yelling furiously at the screen, Bad Taste, whilst witnessing the antics of those in distress. Seriously…”the head shots the only true stoppa!”.

Watch this at your peril, the cover art is better than the movie itself and the pictures displayed on the back jacket about say it all without one actually watching the film. But God help me, I want more and I have four more to sit through, so be prepared for I might scribble upon each in turn in my own good time.

Cult