TROUBLE CITY

31 Days of Horror: Scream & Shout! Day 29

ReviewsRyan CoveyComment
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The Island (1980)

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What's It About?

Blair Maynard (Michael Caine) is an investigative reporter who takes his young son with him to the shittiest island in the Caribbean to look into a rash of boat disappearances.  He unwittingly stumbles onto a cargo cult of old-timey pirates, the descendants of the pirates of old, who live anonymously in the region robbing ships, killing their crews, and stealing children to replenish their numbers.

Is It Any Good?

Among the weird ripple effect of the success of Steven Spielberg's Jaws is the effect it had on the career of Peter Benchley.  The 70s and 80s were ripe with decent to horribly-written schlock horror novels and Benchley, though not without talent, was just part of that wave of writers.  But people who saw Jaws didn't realize about the mob subplot or the salacious bit about Hooper sleeping with Brody's wife from the book, or that the book was primarily about a townie sheriff clashing with the rich summer-people culture of his small island town as it's being terrorized by a large improbably intelligent shark that barely features in the book until its third act.  Some people would read Benchley's novel and discover that his literary pedigree wasn't quite up to snuff with the director of the movie based on his work but most just assumed Peter Benchley was a notable novelist and not a goofy pulp writer like all his peers.  Peter Benchley was just a nautical-themed Robert Bloch or James Herbert.

To be fair, Jaws is pretty sophisticated for the type of book it is, Spielberg didn't invent the movie's better qualities from whole cloth.  The Island is more the speed of Benchley's writing.  It's essentially The Hills Have Eyes in a Caribbean setting.  The gist is that a group of Caribbean pirates have somehow avoided the various navies of history and became a small primitive cult living like the family of Sawney Bean in one of the least habitable of the Caribbean islands, living off what they can raid from the various pleasure boats in the area.   The only major change from the book to the movie is that, like seemingly every child in a movie made between 1980 and 1999, Michael Caine's son is a complete asshole.  This completely undercuts the part of the story where the kid gets brainwashed by the pirates and becomes one of them because he already treats his dad like shit at the start of the movie.  There's also an added sequence where a dumb yuppie on a boat fights pirates by using kung fu.

The entire concept is absurd and the execution (in both book and movie) is dumb as hell, but it's an entertaining movie with a wonderfully violent ending.  The book is better than the movie but it's very entertaining.

Watch, Toss, or Buy?

This movie is too crazy and wonderful to not own.