Friday, February 14, 2020


In what is easily one of the most misleadingly-marketed films in exploitation movie history, John N. Carter’s ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE (1983) conjures up all sorts of potentially exhilarating horror highlights in one’s mind, but for all of Troma’s colourful, tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, which promises such delights (!) as “Toe-Tapping Machete Head-Dances!” and “Glamourous Zombie-Style Cosmetic Surgery!” this rather insignificant and decidedly threadbare contribution to the ’Eighties horror craze never even comes close to living-up to its great title and equally-memorable poster art. In their attempt to bring a modicum of respect to the film’s lowly stature, Vinegar Syndrome have honoured it with a brand-new 2K transfer, which, at the very least, looks absolutely terrific on their new Blu-ray/DVD combo.  

Sandy (Rita Jenrette) and Joe (Ian McMillian), a young couple vacationing in the Caribbean, gather together with a number of other sightseers, including (quote) “ace photographer” Paul Morrison (David Broadnax, who was also one of the films’ co-writers), for a tour of the (quote) “fascinating island of San Marie.” Right upon their arrival, they witness a voodoo ritual where a moldy old corpse is revived with the help of an animal sacrifice (which, by the way, is the only time the film ever comes close to living up to its title). Although they quickly dismiss what they have seen as just an act, panic begins to set in among the group when a young newlywed couple and the tour’s bus driver go missing. In hopes of reaching a nearby house, the remaining tourists flee into the surrounding jungle, where they are picked-off one-by-one... 

Mildly diverting entertainment at best, ZIM is, if anything else, more akin to a modest, derivative slasher film, which even includes a gory beheading, an all-too-familiar Harry Manfredini score and a completely facile, head-scratching twist ending that makes you forget you’re even watching something titled ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE. Providing the film with the requisite amount of topless nudity, Jenrette, already familiar to most audience members at the time as the former wife of scandalized U.S. Congressman John Jenrette (he was indicted on a number of bribery charges in the highly-publicized Abscam sting) and as a two-time Playboy model, Jenrette’s big-screen debut barely registers among all the disappearing bodies and assumed identities. Generally uneventful, ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE is nothing more than a messily-scripted minor diversion which offers a few quick bursts of mindless violence, some nice location cinematography, but not much else. 

Continuing their ongoing exploration of the Troma vaults, VS’s Blu-ray/DVD combo features yet another first-class transfer, which not only restores ZIM’s proper 1.85:1 framing, but much of the film’s pictorial detail (including the colourful jungle foliage) that was previously obscured on Media Home Entertainment’s 1988 Beta / VHS videocassettes, and even on Troma’s own abysmal-quality DVD edition. While it’s far from an earth-shattering sound mix, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is also clean and crisp and perfectly accentuates the surrounding jungle locale. Unlike most of VS’s catalogue, extras this time around are limited to the film’s spirited theatrical trailer (2m40s, “Welcome to beautiful zombie island!”), a pair of TV spots (58s) and an enjoyable “Sizzle Reel” (13m51s) that was used to pitch the film to prospective buyers, and whose audio temp track includes most of Manfredini’s famous FRIDAY THE 13th cues. In what has now become customary, VS also offers reversible cover art, and for those that order directly from them, it also includes a spiffy Limited Edition slipcover designed by Earl Kessler, Jr. Order it from Vinegar Syndrome here.

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