Island of Blood
AKA: Scared Alive
A group of unknown actors are carted off to a remote island where they’re set to film an upbeat, low-budget, feel-good musical, with an old, historic school as the film’s backdrop. But the small group isn’t even there for a whole day before cast members start getting knocked off one-by-one, with each one of them being killed according the the weird lyrics of a punk song that’s heard on a tape player found at each murder site. It’s now up to the survivors to unmask the deadly killer before he does more than just cancel the film’s production.
Island of Blood is an early American slasher from 1982. The film is very loosely based off the premise of one of Agatha Christie’s most famous mystery novels, And Then There Were None, which followed a group of suspected murderers who were all lured to a remote island and systematically killed off according to the lyrics of a children’s song. But if you’re hoping for this film to be a modernized horror adaptation of one of the most famous books in the world, then you’re going to leave very disappointed. Because other than abandoning a group of characters on a remote island and killing them off in accordance to song lyrics, that’s where the similarities between Christie’s book and this little slasher end. On the bright side, that means this adaptation doesn’t force us to listen to a song whose history is rooted in racism. But on the other hand that means we have to deal with extremely low production values and are instead forced to listen to the lyrics of a crappy punk song repeated ad-nausea to the point you’ll want to jam a pencil in your ears. In other words, the film ain’t great.
I mean, the film has a pretentious Bob Dylan wannabe, so you know you’re in for a weird time.
The filmmakers may have had the writings of one of the worlds most well read mysteries to work with, but I’m convinced they didn’t bother to read anything regarding that story beyond some cliff notes, because the script for this thing is pretty abysmal. Characters utter some of the most asinine dialogue I think I’ve ever heard in a film like this that wasn’t actually actively trying to be a parody. There were honestly times it was so bad that I couldn’t tell if the film was trying to be a comedy, or if it was honestly making some sort of an attempt at tension, and just completely missing the mark. Their intention doesn’t really matter though, because in either case, they failed miserably. Some of my favorite moments include a guy who hands a girl a nail gun and tells her, “Take this. It fires nails like a gun.” Or even better, the scene where the entire group is together after they find a body. That scene’s a wealth of ridiculous riches. The director tells everyone they need to stay together until the morning when the rest of the crew will arrive. One guy’s in denial and doesn’t believe there’s a murderer. Everyone starts pointing the finger at one another. Then the power goes out and Mr. Denial suddenly has a change of heart and tells everyone that he’s not staying in a dark room all by himself…. Only for everyone to then immediately split up to spend the night in various dark rooms by themselves, including Mr. Denial. Oh, except for the two alpha males of the group. They spend the next four minutes needlessly chasing each other around in the dark. And those two scenes basically sum up the entirety of the movie: pointless strings of events filled with ridiculous and often contradictory dialogue and useless padding. Most of the film is so dull and tedious that you’ll be lucky to remember what happened two scenes ago, let alone the whole movie by the time it’s over.
Further contributing to the viewer’s lack of remembrance are the movie’s extremely poor production values. The film actually has quite a few grisly deaths to its name, including deaths by beheading, boiling, battery acid, and yes, of course the nail gun makes an appearance. But I guarantee you won’t remember much of any of them, primarily because you won’t be able to see anything that’s happening on screen. The movie insists on shooting 80% of the film in the dark, and they clearly didn’t have the proper equipment to do so, because everything is so poorly lit that it’s a struggle to figure out what’s going on. Unfortunately the editing doesn’t do the movie any favors either. When the first poor character is killed by decapitation it actually took me a few moments to realize what the hell had happened, and even then I had to rewind to make sure, which really takes all the shock out of the sudden death they had tried to construct. Unfortunately that’s the same pattern that most of the other death scenes in this film end up following. More often than not you’ll see something happening on screen, but it’ll take you a few seconds to figure out what you’re witnessing and by then the scene is over and the moment has passed. Forget slashers, as far as movies go that does not a good scene make.
The final nail in the coffin of this middling production is the acting. I get that this was a low-budget affair, but this is still a pretty low rung of the low-budget totem pole here. Everything here is pretty basic, but the clear lack of funds don’t do the actors any favors either. Not only does the script make sure to make most of the characters seem unlikable and dumber than necessary, but it’s also obvious that the production was hurried along. Lines are often rushed, unconvincing, or just outright flubbed. But again, the script itself is oftentimes so confusing that it’s hard to tell if some of these instances are intentional or not. At one point a lady tries to be all sultry and sexily blow out a candle, but she fails and has to blow on it twice, and I’m still not sure if that little flub was the fault of the script, or if the filmmakers just didn’t have enough time or inclination to re-shoot the scene. The movie is so scattershot that it’s just impossible to tell.
It did give me a chuckle though, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Island of Blood is the kind of movie you really want to like. I mean, an updated slasher take on And Then There Were None that replaces an old children’s song with something more modern sounds like it could be a lot of fun. But alas, this one misses the mark. It almost feels more like a cheap fanfiction attempt at rewriting the Agatha Christie tale done by a 10-year-old that someone then decided to put to film using an old camera they had stored in the basement. The film stock is degraded, the framing is shoddy, the acting is dull, the writing is cringe-worthy, and the lighting is so poor most of the time, that you’ll be lucky if you can figure out which characters are on screen, let alone what’s happening on it. The one upside is that the film does have a couple of inventive deaths to its name, but again, the scenes are so dark that you won’t be able to see most of them. You will, unfortunately, be able to hear them well enough, though. But that just means you’ll be forced to listen to lyrics like “Boil Me, Boil Me, Boil Me, Face to Face”, ad-nausea for each death scene, because heaven forbid you miss the oh-so-subtle death ques the film insists on forcing down your throat. It almost makes me long for the racist children’s rhyme the original book was based on. Almost.
Island of Blood is available on a variety of streaming services.
Island of Blood, under the name Whodunit, is also available on Bluray with a nice, new 4K restoration. With any luck it fixes some of the video quality issues.