An acquired taste for sure, but I loved this.
- Island of Death review by NP
Back in the good old days, the UK coined the term ‘video nasty’. This was used to describe banned film productions that British censors, eager to be outraged by something, would attempt to ban them and inadvertently elevate them into essential viewing for those who like that kind of thing.
Director Niko Mastoriakis seemed more determined than most to ensure his film would offend as many as possible. Bestiality, rape, murder, kinky sex, drugs, sadism, racism and homophobia – they’re all here. And all beautifully filmed on location in the island of Mykonos. The surroundings are so impressive, the low budget is a lot less obvious than it otherwise would be. The Greek location is unusual for a horror film, and works very well.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Bob Bellings (alongside Jessica Dublin, who plays the extravagant Patricia) is probably the only professional actor here. He plays Christopher with a focussed determination and is very good. His partner Celia is played by Jane Ryall (sometimes known as Jane Lyle) who, like the rest of the cast, is not an actor. Although her performance improves over the course of the film, her line delivery is stilted, but in a way that actually defines the character. It doesn’t take long to realise that the husband and wife, as they make a point of introducing themselves, are deeply disturbed: Celia’s child-like demeanour belies her perversity and therefore makes it more marked. Jane was a model before and after this film, and it is likely her cute-as-a-button looks secured this role. According to the director, she was quite shy, and this filters into her performance: the resulting contrast between bull-headed Christopher and not-as-innocent-as-she-seems minx Celia is very effective.
There’s no let-up in the action. Christopher and Celia are keen to take photographs of every nasty thing they do – indeed the credits are shown to the backdrop noise of a camera clicking – and as the blood continues to flow for one reason or another, Celia begins to sicken of it all. There is a final twist but I won’t reveal it here, because it’s a good ‘un.
Apparently inspired by ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, this certainly delivers on the visceral unpleasantness. Every deed is accompanied by a variation of the theme tune, a handful of very catchy pieces written by Nick Lavranos. A quick word for the extras on this disc: a very informative and interesting piece from exploitation maestro Stephen Thrower, and two documentaries/interviews featuring Mastorakis. Both contributors are very personable, with the director especially allowing you to fall in love with his film all over again.
I really like this film. You can either have fun watching the relentless determination to shock at every turn, or be appalled by the antics of the main characters. I love the way Christopher’s murderous tendencies mostly mark him out to be a massive hypocrite among other things, but when encountering characters even less appealing than him, he is a kind of anti-hero. This makes the ending all the more poignant. You wouldn’t expect everything to be wrapped up nicely, and you would be right. This won’t be to everyone’s taste, but my score is 9 out 10.
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