Robert Elkins, a director and writer, noted for his first horror film Backwoods 2: The Revenge of Caleb (2007) and most recently Scary Story Slumber Party (2012) with director Jonathan Moody who also stars in this classic throwback 1970s horror film, which truly embraces the SOV (Shot on Video) style from the era. The entire production contains real graining footage, with mirroring images, occasional doubling onto each other making blurring layered reel to appear, including the actual words “REEL” to impose on the screen.
The entire plot of the film borrows tidbits from director Victor Halperin’s White Zombie (1932) where the usage of Voodoo chants, spells and words control the zombies and while then using a major portion of Shock Waves (1977) from Ken Wiederhorn concerning visitors to a remote island discovering a forgotten Nazi commandant breeding zombie soldiers. Here the story involves a group of college students and their professor traveled to a supposedly uninhabited island to conduct a nature study, though professor has his own nature study to conduct, and a Nazi loyalist doctor conducts experiments for the Fuehrer in hopes of finding the next German army. The similarities blend multiple films together, yet Zombie Isle still has a life force of its own, that it exploits very well for horror fans to enjoy. Professor Grant Foster (Tony Jones), acts a goofy, absent minded man, and who steals most of the film scenes, with a pipe and steel briefcase and inappropriate desires for his student Amie (Kyle Billeter), as a MacGyver wiz for working through major incidents. Amie and Grant use weapons such pencils and smoking pipe to defeat some of the zombies, making for gruesome shots and yet a level of comical behaviors. Soon enough the students find their environmental study becomes a biological nightmare, with themselves stranded on the island crawling with hunger-depraved zombies, craving warm soft flesh of the living. David S. Witt portrays Dr. Claude Von Wolff convincing well for such a dialog empty film, a man loyal to Third Reich, and has deeper insight to the meaning of his experiments.
Tony and David, worked on Robert’s other horror production Flesh of the Living (2012) as well as much of the cast had worked with Elkins and Moody on several films prior and other in pre-production mode, therefore with a limited budget the actors understood the directions instill in them to bring forth a solid film. In fact Jonathan Moody a up and coming filmmakers, stars as Gabe, lent support in the making of this film, if just the technical aspects, as he credits include, Nightmare at Bunnyman Bridge (2010) and Bite School (2015) with Butch Patrick, Jasmin St. Claire – a film that has much of festival buzzing over already. Jerry E. Long, as a very fine job as a County Sheriff, mixing several backwoods police officers’ characters into his own version, yet at times feels a tad like the sheriff in The Last House on the Left (1972) and Ray Stuckey from Mississippi Burning (1988) although his county slang may not rescue him from this dominating horde of flesh-eaters.
Aside from heavily borrowed plots, the washed out look, mixed with splices tends to land itself on a repetitive and unwarranted nuisance for the audience, once the established the feel, initialized and creative design of SOV, no further suggestion need descend onto the viewers. The style will find the grindhouse cinema lovers with vast and deep desire to view the film again and again, however, cursory horror fans, will turn themselves away from the product, although the box art will persuade some to join in on this experiment, sadly though the art has nothing to do this production. Elkins blends simple zombies, into gory creatures especially with malformed three-headed blood-splattering intestines swinging abomination storming out and chasing away the rest of the zombies, as the alpha-dog of the pack of zombies. This adds a new wrinkle into the zombie evolving species, only recently eluded by Land of the Dead.
Zombie Isle, brings a retro experience with becoming previous methods, but giving the new audiences a chance to experience SOV, other filmmakers attempt the process but return to fallback position of safe and slick production values, not so with Elkins film. If one seeks gruesome low-budget nightmare zombies with cheesy lines deliver by Laurie (Apryl Crowell) and Heather (Crystal Howell) then this film is definitely for you.