Friday, January 10, 2014

Vamp or Not? Island of the Living Dead

A film from 2008 (according to IMDb even though the poster they show says 2006) and directed by Italian horror and exploitation director Bruno Mattei and you might be forgiven for wondering why the ‘Vamp or Not?’ given the title (and the German DVD cover) quite frankly look like this is a pure zombie flick.

Well, in the first instance I had seen the IMDb cast list and it had a character called Lady Vampire (Hervana Hernandez). Given that, you may be thinking that there is little point to a ‘Vamp or Not?’ but the reason I am looking at the film under this auspice is because of the general living dead shown in the film as much as anything.

coming to get you...
Now I have to say at the outset that this film is pretty much a big pile of cinematic waste-product. It really has no clear rhyme or reason and, more than this, it has some of the worst dubbing I have heard on a modern film. I am guessing that the acting was pretty poor anyway (the dubbing makes it difficult to tell but hilarious at the same time) because some of the physical acting is up there with some of the worst I have seen.

We begin with conquistadores escorting a cart of corpses, whilst voodoo rituals are heard through the night. Now, before you go to thinking that these living dead are voodoo produced… I just don’t know. Later we get a story of a Spanish treasure ship and a curse too. Further, we get a certain undead leader who seems to be a source of the outbreak and who we’ll mention very soon.

look fangs
Anyway the corpses all begin to sit up. They are shot in the head to put them back down (this does not appear to be a permanent solution) but there are too many and the monks are overwhelmed as the conquistadors retreat and start fighting with a group of armed men who look like pirates but are actually undead. They attack and the leader reveals fangs.

landing on the island
Modern day and a group of treasure hunters are looking to find sunken treasure. The divers Sharon (Yvette Yzon) and Fred (Alvin Anson) have found a treasure chest but as it is lifted out of the sea the bottom rots away, dropping all its coins back into the sea. That night the ship is in fog and seems to hit a reef. In the morning they see that they are near an uncharted island and – having left Max (Thomas Wallwort) on board to fix the ship – they go to the island to explore.

Max attacked
The crew splits into two groups. Tao (Miguel Franco), Mark (Gary King Roberts) – I think – and Sharon go to get water (they have one handgun between them). Captain Kirk (Gaetano Russo), and I am not kidding about the name, Fred, Snoopy (Jim Gaines) and Victoria (Ydalia Suarez) go exploring and are armed to the teeth. Before long they encounter zombies but Max – on the ship – is also attacked by a horde of zombies. Now you might wonder how they got to the ship – especially as they are dry – but it appears they took the motor launch (so, intelligent 16th to 17th century walking corpses then). Max manages to blow the ship up.

scream Sharon
As the night descends the crew look for shelter and find themselves in running battles. We see one zombie gets its hand blown off and look at the wound with shock (not normal zombie behaviour) and another one loose an arm and start regenerating it (again not a trait often associated with zombies). Some seem like the mindless dead but others can hold conversations. We see things move as though affected by invisible spirits, the crew hallucinate at times (Kirk thinks Sharon is a zombie come to kill him) and we get moments that seem like pure witchcraft – like an old woman corpse (Lilia Cuntapay) spontaneously combusting for telling too much.

vampire lady
So there are moments that are definitely not zombie – nor vampire for that matter. Then there is actually a scene that apes Zombie Flesheaters deliberately as well as reference to Night of the Living Dead. However we do have the vampire lady, who is in a portrait that becomes empty when she appears and who seduces Snoopy with dance (and not looking dead) before showing her true face and biting him - that said her attack leaves him as a zombie. Further we have the main living dead dude who claims to be a "collector of lives", offers immortality and does actually bite a victim on the neck, leaving two punctures, before passing her to his minions to feast on. A skeleton in a dungeon appeared to have a stake in its chest (it is picked out but not commented on).

Sharon turned
Spoilers-a-plenty when I say that only Sharon gets off the island but, after being picked up by the coastguard (from a raft) she is pronounced dead and then sits up with fangs and eyes red – looking pretty darn vampire. So, what are they… there is no clear answer as the filmmakers do not seem to know themselves. The vampire lady would seem to be a vampire and the general living dead would seem to be zompires with a leaning towards the vampire side of things – they have fangs, they regenerate limbs and we see neck bites.

This, I would say, will have to be included on vampire filmographies. It’s a pity that, as a film, it is so bad; then again it is very funny at the same time.

The imdb page is here.


Alex. G said...

I think it gets even more weirder in the sequel where they look like aliens of some sort.
Zombie-vampires from outer space! Now there's something no one else than Bruno Mattei could come up with. The man was creative if anything. He will be missed.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Is that Zombies: The Beginning? I thoyught that was separate (and earlier) by IMDb but I'll have to track it down :)

Alex. G said...

Have yet to see it myself, but the Zombie movie database claims it's a sequel:

Though the continuity was never very good in these kind of films so I wouldn't be surprised if it feels like a separate film.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

by the comments on imdb it is a sequel as the Sharon character is in it :) - eyes peeled (the german dvd is quiet cheap on Amazon, matbe next month :) )