Vinegar Syndrome’s ‘Zombie Island Massacre’ (1983) 2k Restoration DVD/Blu-ray Review

It’s time once again for another DVD/Blu-ray restoration from Vinegar Syndrome. Pack your bags, because this time, we’re taking a trip to the Caribbean in Zombie Island Massacre (1983)!

Also known as The Last Picnic, Zombie Island Massacre is the first and only movie by Writer/Director John N. Carter and script co-writers Logan O’Neill and William Stoddard. Producer David Broadnax (Mister Deathman 1977) helped them with the original story and took on the main role as photographer Paul as well. Clairol model/Playboy cover girl Rita Jenrette starred in the film alongside Broadnax, although she is more famous for being married to both a convicted U.S. Congressman and an Italian prince than for being an actress.

Other actors include Tom Cantrell (Ghosts Of Mars 2001), Diane Clayre Holub, George Peters (The Mondo Beyondo Show 1988) and Tom Fitzsimmons (The Paper Chase TV series). Harry Manfredini composed the soundtrack (what ’80s slasher movie didn’t he score?) while Primetime Emmy Award winner Steven Kirshoff (Boardwalk Empire TV series) and Emmy nominee David Eger (George Washington II: The Forging Of A Nation 1987) created the special FX. Vinegar Syndrome notes that the film was released in 1983, but everywhere else I looked, the year was 1984. But I digress.

Zombie Island Massacre synopsis:

Americans on vacation in the Caribbean take a tour of a nearby island at night and watch a local voodoo ritual. Soon after, they find themselves stranded on the island and under attack by unseen foes. One by one they meet violent ends.

Check out the special limited edition embossed slipcover, which was designed by Artist Earl Kessler Jr.:

Released by Troma in a triple horror movie pack in January 2004 and again in a 15 pack in October 2006, Zombie Island Massacre is pretty typical ’80s slasher movie fare. You’ve got your cast of stereotypical wandering victims being chased by an unknown creature, one that shows only a waving hand or a stomping foot before yanking itself back into the darkness. Just about everyone showers in the beginning of the film, so the immediate T&A hooks you right away. People are constantly getting killed, mostly offscreen, leaving only one to stand off in the final battle. Zombie Island Massacre got the formula right.

Of course, there are also some creative aspects in this film. Rather than a horde of moaning, brain-chomping Romero zombies, this singular abomination was created during a voodoo ritual in the middle of the jungle. It spends most of its time hiding in the shadows, of which there were plenty, since some scenes seemed to be lit by weak flashlights at best. I’m not sure if the zombie kept itself hidden out of embarrassment since it’s covered in colorful feathers like a parrot wearing sneakers and a sombrero, or if was actually trying to be stealthy. It could go either way. The thing can hold its breath for a long time, so at least it has that going for it.

Zombie Island Massacre
Raising the dead voodoo ritual, complete with baby goat to sacrifice

The FX are disappointing, with almost everything happening offscreen. The acting is pretty cringeworthy, running the gamut between wooden flat affect and wide-eyed, scenery-chewing outlandishness. After discovering two bodies, one of which was raped bloody, one character sighs heavily and walks back to the others, never even mentioning what he found. You’d think he just discovered that the copier was out of toner. And, like many other ’80s horror films, the characters stay clean and well-coiffed no matter what they go through. One of them even pulls out a comb and drags it though his hair in one scene. It’s so ’80s, I’m surprised its not wearing a Members Only jacket.

Zombie Island Massacre
“There’s two impaled people in that hole! At least my shorts are still white…”

Let me just say that if you’re going to make a horror flick and you don’t have the budget or acting talent to pull off something decent, at least add a hefty helping of cheese to make it entertaining. Riding the fence only gets you a boring, unsatisfying, forgettable movie. It’s not overly bad like you would expect from something called Zombie Island Massacre, especially with the Troma connection. It’s barely lukewarm at best. Of course, it played at the eighth B Movie Celebration, which was hosted by Joe Bob Briggs, so maybe I missed something.

That’s not to say that the 2k restoration is bad. Vinegar Syndrome has released a gorgeous copy of Zombie Island Massacre. The details are crisp and clear. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much they could do to fix the lackadaisical special FX and back-of-the-closet, 45 watt bulb lighting. You couldn’t ask for a better transfer. If bad movies with a curveball of a twist ending are your bag, you’d best be picking up this film.

Head on over to Vinegar Syndrome for your very own copy of their 2k restoration Blu-ray/DVD of Zombie Island Massacre right here. Or pre-order a copy before the February 25, 2020 release date at the link below.

This Zombie Island Massacre release is limited to 2,000 units. Pick up your copy before they’re all gone!

From Vinegar Syndrome’s Zombie Island Massacre DVD/Blu-ray case:

A group of Americans, on what they assumed would be a relaxing and fun-filled vacation in the Caribbean, soon find themselves trapped in the island wilderness after their tour bus breaks down. Alone and stranded, the group begin to fall prey to an unknown, voodoo mask wearing assailant who bumps them off in various nasty ways, ranging from decapitation and evisceration, to impalement. As the surviving members of the group frantically search for help, they begin to suspect that not all of them might be who they claim they are, and that one of them might be a cold-blooded killer…

John N. Carter’s ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE, the production of which is still somewhat shrouded in mystery, was produced at the height of the 80s slasher craze and features all of the genre hallmarks including gruesome death, gratuitous nudity, and an entirely original looking ‘killer guise,’ along with a score by genre favorite Harry Manfredini (Friday the 13th). Previously viewable only in dark and drab video sourced editions which mask its impressive special effects and surprisingly colorful cinematography by Robert Baldwin (The Exterminator), Vinegar Syndrome brings ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE to Blu-ray, newly restored from its 35mm original negative.

The extras from the Vinegar Syndrome release:

• Region Free Blu-ray/DVD combo
• Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm camera negative
• Original theatrical trailer
• Multiple TV spots
• Promotional ‘sizzle’ reel
• Reversible cover artwork
• English SDH subtitles

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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