Friday, February 19, 2010

Demon Island (USA, 2002)

The last scene of Demon Island (aka Piñata and Piñata: Survival Island) shows the three survivors on the beach being questioned by two similar looking police detectives—a guest cameo by the Hillenbrand Brothers (David and Scott), who wrote and directed the film—as various emergency workers clean away the remnants of the other nine non-survivors. The detectives ask the two gals and guy something to the effect of, "So, what exactly happened?" And the three over-age college students looks at each other with a facial expression that more or less says, "So, how the fuck are we going to explain this?"
That, in turn, is the question likewise faced by any would-be reviewer who, for whatever inexplicable reasons, might actually find this film half-way entertaining. For like King Cobra (trailer), the Hillenbrand Brothers' earlier, cheap, CGI-heavy, half-assed direct-to-DVD "horror" flick from 1999, Demon Island is a pretty ridiculous piece of celluloid (or whatever it was filmed on), so tacky and full of holes and stupid that it comes across less a true horror film than a seriously misguided attempt at making a horror comedy, like the two siblings did for real seven years later with Transylmania (2009 / trailer)....

But then, it is the film's overall stupidity, its total lack of redeeming values—other than some surprisingly good acting from a few of the featured players and some decent camera direction and framing—that make Piñata so much fun, that makes it such an enjoyable guilty pleasure. (Had they only bared a few of the obviously beautiful boobs beneath those T-shirts—two of which are shown above, but not in the film—Piñata would have been a stupendously enjoyable guilty pleasure.) Without a doubt, the flick is a check-your-brain-in-at-the-door experience, but without a brain and no excessive thinking, the flick is well worth watching—assuming, of course, that you are one of those types of folks that likes wasting their life.
Under whatever name you find Demon Island / Piñata, the flick is about a demon trapped within a clay piñata that not only manages to remain undamaged for decades (if not centuries) but actually floats unharmed (!) downstream and across the ocean to a wilderness island. (Clay floats? Ooops! Remember: don't think!) To this island comes a unisex group of alcoholic, overage collage students—including a Nicholas Brendon, whose career has either really stagnated since Buffy (97-03) ended or who accidentally mistook the script of this film as a hip comedy ala Psycho Beach Party (2000 / trailer); Garrett Wang, who really has disappeared into deep space since Voyager (95-01) [and his role as Harry Kim] ended; and Jaime Pressly, a hard-looking blonde model and former bulimic who has body like Madonna and is best known for her parts in such tasteful, high-class material as DOA: Dead or Alive (2006 / trailer) and Not Another Teen Movie (2001 / trailer).
After doing the normal amount of drinking and saying the normal amount of stupid double-entendres the party-hearty group gets down to their real reason for coming to the island: to collect panties. And to do so, they are sent out as competing hand-cuffed couples. The stoner couple, consisting of Lisa (Lara Wickes) and some no-name dude, promptly use a procured key to unlock their cuffs and light up a doob—and boy, what good stuff it must have been, for when stumbling upon a one-of-a-kind Piñata (half-submerged in water and the only clay one on the island) that looks well to be an archaeological find, instead of thinking about which museum they will sell it to, they decide to break it open. (That's college students for you.)
After they crack the thing, the now living monster-piñata expresses his thanks for being freed by obliterating the boy, while Lisa goes screaming back to camp. For the rest of the film the monster alternates between being a crappy CGI-monster, a crappy CGI-fireball, and a crappy rubber suit lined with crappy CGI-cracks, but what it continues to do in all its forms is obliterate the college students, which it hunts using Predator-vision ala in Arnie's early classic Predator (1987 / trailer). Some of the educationally challenged die off-screen, but the gore is not spared when the deaths are shown: a head literally smashed by a shovel, ripped-off testicles, bodily severance, and half a torso hanging in a tree are among the rather eye-catching sights of the film... But damn! With claws like that, why didn't that demon-piñata rip off at least one of those nicely stuffed T-shirts first? Are Mexican demons gay or something? (That could explain why it went for the one guy's testis, I guess…)
Once the remaining three go into "the hunted become the hunters" mode Piñata does lose some of its steam, but not enough to totally ruin the movie's enjoyable general incompetence. The concept that destroying the demon piñata will kill it when cracking only it wakes it up is a bit obtuse, but then, as previously pointed out, the film is the kind of film where nothing—the actions of the characters, the actions of the monsters, the action in general—survives a second glance or further consideration. It is actually rather a shame that the directors decided to go for CGI effects instead of the rubber suit, for the CGI (like the film) is hardly "scary" and a rubber suit might have been even more idiotically funny. But what the hell, with or without a rubber suit, Demon Island / Piñata is still fun.
Yo! Just give that brain of yours up at the door and enjoy Demon Island for what it is: some damn fine, fun and unadulterated stupidity. If nothing else, after watching it you can lay claim to having seen the best killer-piñata ever made—if not the only one.

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