Zombie Island Massacre
U.S.A. / 1984
Directed by John T. Carter
Rita Jenrette
David Broadnax
Tom Cantrell
Color / 95 Minutes / R
Format: DVD
Triple Feature Disc / R0 - NTSC
Troma Team Video
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
    3   10 = Highest Rating  
Cool title. Crappy movie.
    Why the hell would anyone make a film called
Zombie Island Massacre and not bother to put any zombies in it? (Well, perhaps I'm not being 100% accurate. There is one zombie on hand, but he's not a "real" one just a performer in a voodoo show put on for tourists. In my book that doesn't count.) Needless to say the title automatically conjures images of a Fulci-like exercise in guts and ghouls in a tropical setting, which is probably exactly why the producers called it what they did. Getting suckers to part with their money at the box-office or video rental counter was apparently the only consideration. Creating an even halfway decent horror-exploitation flick was not very high on the agenda.
    Zombie Island Massacre opens with "international superstar" Rita Jenrette* that's how she's billed in the hilarious trailer taking care of her obligatory nude scene. A man wearing a sinister-looking tribal mask surprises her in the shower, frightening her. (The director is careful not to show us Jenrette's ass for some reason.) It's really just her boyfriend, of course, so they tumble into bed for some minor groping. Later, as part of a group of American tourists vacationing in the Caribbean, they travel to the island of St. Marie to witness a nighttime reenactment of a voodoo ceremony. The group is shaken by the realism of the show when a baby goat is apparently sacrificed. Pleading discomfort, a young newlywed couple sneaks off into the jungle for a little hanky panky but are brutally killed, Jason-style, by an unseen assailant. When the performance ends and the tourists return to their bus, they discover the driver missing and splashes of what looks like blood. Making matters worse, the bus has been sabotaged by the removal of the distributor cap. So what do these folks do? They get on the bus and wait. (They're not waiting for the missing newlyweds, either. They've forgotten all about them.)
    After awhile, these idiots finally get off their butts and try hiking up the road to a nearby villa. During the trek they start being picked off one by one by an unseen killer or killers. (The stoner couple falls into a spiked tiger pit.) The survivors reach the deserted villa and wait inside, where they discover a library of books on cannibalism. (Which has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, by the way.) The phone, naturally, doesn't work. Right about now is when you'd expect some Night of the Living Dead-type zombies-attack-the-house action. But it just ain't gonna happen.
    Instead of zombies we get a needlessly convoluted plot about Colombian drug dealers, hit men and a suitcase stuffed with $5 Million in cash. One of the tourists is carrying it so they're all being bumped off until the money's found. Thus Zombie Island Massacre is actually a slasher movie, and a lousy one at that. The killings are staged like something you'd see in Friday the 13th, a comparison made sledgehammer blow-obvious by the score written by Harry Manfredini, composer for all the Jason flicks. (With its voodoo drums and Caribbean-flavored incidental music this must be the soundtrack for that "missing" F13 film, Jason Takes Antigua.) The gore is mostly lame, though, and since the characters automatically do the stupidest thing possible, nothing is the least bit suspenseful. Some dumb dialog and dreadful (even nonexistent) acting may spark a laugh or two but these yuks are woefully few and far between. The trailer is a lot better than the film could ever hope to be.
    There's just no forgiving a picture called Zombie Island Massacre that doesn't have any damn zombies in it. No sir-ee.
* Most of you are probably wondering, "Just who the heck is Rita Jenrette?" that international superstar you've never heard of. She was the wife of a congressman ensnared in the cash-for-votes "ABSCAM" scandal of 1980. She parlayed her testimony into instant celebrity in a time well before the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, Monica Lewinsky and The Drudge Report. Here's how The Washington Post looked back on it: "John and Rita Jenrette, young, social and attractive, appeared to be a model Washington couple. But John, a congressman from South Carolina, was implicated in the ABSCAM sting that nailed five representatives and one senator on corruption charges." The Jenrettes' saga is "a bizarre story from beginning to end: Highlights include John's on-air call to the Phil Donahue show when Rita was the guest, a country song commemorating Rita's testimony that she found $25,000 in one of John's shoes, and the Playboy spread on Rita that was photographed with his consent while she and John were still 'happily' married (but which didn't appear until after the separation). The two are now best remembered for having sex on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, during a break in an all-night House session." Later she tried acting, ending her brief show biz career in dreck like this and Malibu Bikini Shop (1985). Nowadays she's a wealthy Manhattan real estate broker.

Zombie Island Massacre is one of three schlocky films offered on a "Triple B-Header" disc from Troma Team Video, the others being the horror-comedies Blood Hook (1986) and Blades ('89). (Troma distributed these movies but didn't produce them.) The DVD is not a "flipper"; i.e., all three films are located on a single side of the disc. This is achieved (so the packaging touts) via the "miracle" technology of digital compression. The only real miracle here is that I actually decided to take this thing up to the check-out counter and buy it. Bad me! Bad!
    Since the disc sells for around $18, you end up paying approximately six bucks per movie. Not too bad, really, unless you consider that a number of $6 titles can be found in bargain bins that boast much better A/V quality. All three films look and sound crummy, like they were mastered from EP-speed videotape. Trailers for Zombie Island Massacre and three other Troma flicks are chucked in as an extra. There is a silver lining, though... Aside from a brief introduction by Lloyd Kaufman, there apparently wasn't enough space left on the disc to pack it with the usual Troma promotional garbage
. 3/11/04