Color, 1984, 88 mins. 28 secs.
Directed by John N. Carter
Starring David Broadnax, Rita Jenrette, Tom Cantrell, Diane Clayre, Holub George Peters, Dennis Stephenson
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Troma (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

More Zombie Island Massacrea voodoo-themed body Zombie Island Massacrecount film than any kind of traditional zombie outing (as well as offering a "massacre" only in the loosest sense), this strange, cheap-jack slice of tropical horror already felt way out of place when it opened in late '84 with a marginal theatrical release from Troma a few months after its biggest hit, The Toxic Avenger. An abundance of topless nudity and a few entertaining kill scenes were enough to barely satisfy the 42nd Street crowd, but the majority of the curiosity value here came from the opportunity to ogle Rita Jenrette, the onetime wife of disgraced U.S. Representative John Jenrette (of Abscam scandal infamy), two-time Playboy model, and eventual real estate guru. Her acting career proved to be brief, but her participation in this film was enough to make for colorful write-ups in horror books for several years. The film managed to stay very under the radar on home video for the most part with a terrible, hopelessly murky transfer popping up in 1987 from Fox Hills and getting recycled for a really, really lousy 2010 DVD from Troma. Fortunately(?) you can now see this film on its best behavior courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome's 2020 dual-format Blu-ray and DVD edition, sporting a new 2k transfer from the 35mm camera negative and looking way better than it ever did in theaters.

On a Caribbean island, a bus load of completely nondescript visitors from Sunholiday Tours contains such luminaries as "famous photographer" Paul (Broadnax) and the very busty Sandy (Jenrette), but pretty much everyone seems to be mostly fixated on hooking up when they aren't sitting on the bus. You also get the obligatory quirky older Zombie Island Massacrecouple (named George and Ethel, of course), but they all turn out to be potential fodder for a killer when they decide to take in a local Zombie Island Massacrevoodoo ceremony. When their tour guide, Reginald (Stephenson), gets taken out of commission, they find themselves corralled to an abandoned mansion that sets the stage for a night of unrelenting lukewarm terror at the hands of a native-clad assailant.

It's really no secret by this point that the title of this film is highly misleading and camouflages something a lot closer to a ratty slasher variation on a Scooby-Doo mystery. The fact that the score is (partially) provided by none other than Friday the 13th's Harry Manfredini only adds to that vibe, so much so that you have to wonder why they still went with the zombie marketing angle anyway. It's all amusing fun though if you're in the right frame of mind and want something in the tradition of goofy palm tree horror staples like I Eat Your Skin, with the murders offering a reasonably amusing variety including a machete head lopping that's guaranteed to elicit a viewer reaction.

Zombie Island MassacreAnyone put off by older transfers of this film will find a more pleasant experience with the Vinegar Syndrome release, with the Blu-ray in particular offering a vibrant, pin-sharp presentation that makes the film feel a bit less shoddy than it did before. The DTS-HD MA English Zombie Island Massacremono audio sounds about as good as possible given the very basic nature of the original mix, which is pretty flat and mostly just tries to get the job done; optional English SDH subtitles are also included. In a move that shouldn't come as much of a shock, the supplemental material here is limited to the theatrical trailer, a pair of really fun TV spots, and a shortened "sizzle reel" version of the film's final act (which plays a lot like those old Super 8 condensations) that packs the, er, highlights into 13m51s of sex and screaming along with some background music that will sound very, very familiar to slasher fans.

Reviewed on January 23, 2020.