‘Have a fun-filled vacation!’
Zombie Island Massacre is a 1984 American horror feature film about a group of tourists being killed off on a Caribbean vacation tour.
Directed and edited by John N. Carter (his only credit) from a screenplay written by Logan O’Neill and William Stoddard based on a story by David Broadnax and Logan O’Neill. The Picnic Productions movie also stars David Broadnax (Mister Deathman), plus Rita Jenrette, Tom Cantrell and Diane Clayre Holub.
Harry Manfredini’s soundtrack score is mainly just a rehash of his Friday the 13th (1980) cues.
When Zombie Island Massacre was briefly released theatrically its primary appeal was – and for the most part, still remains – nude scenes by a certain Rita Jenrette, who was the glamorous blonde ex-wife of a US congressman John Jenrette, a Democrat from South Carolina; in 1980 she started giving interviews (culminating in a book) about drug use, her husband’s infidelity and sexual vice rife in Washington DC had just been caught taking bribes in a wide-ranging corruption probe. Ultimately, Ms Jenrette parlayed her notoriety and information into a semi-nude photo shoot for Playboy magazine.
The last big public reveal of Rita Jenrette was her prominently billed role in the film Zombie Island Massacre. One must admire how filmmaker John M. Carter gets to the main attraction(s) without delay, a nude shower scene with Ms Jenrette practically concurrent with the opening credits. Subsequently one or both of her breasts attempt to pop out of her wardrobe in just about every scene in the first quarter-hour until the plot begins in earnest. Some viewers may lose interest thereafter.
The setting is a metaphor for Haiti (name changed to `Santa Maria,’ presumably in case the real Haiti asked for money or something). A busload of US tourists, including Sandy (Jenrette), embark for a day trip that is to include a torchlit Voodoo ceremony, and in its stagecraft, a goat is slaughtered and a chalky corpse allegedly revived (the only zombie in view).
Thoroughly put off by that spectacle, the group is none too happy to find their bus stranded and their guide missing, as night falls. Moreover, an unseen killer – whose heavy breathing, unfortunately, sounds much more like snoring – is stalking the visitors.
The survivors find shelter in a mansion that was seemingly abandoned during a bout of political upheaval. That its bookshelves contain a small how-to library on cannibalism raises the few authentic goosebumps in the entire script.
More people are slain wandering in the darkness, and the explanation involves several of the day-trippers using sham identities on various sides of a drugs deal gone bad. At least the faction who actually take the cash, in the end, is, one could argue, the most honourable and deserving.
Rita Jenrette, whose acting talents here are not shown to good advantage (stripping talents somewhat better), gets to shriek a lot at a tiny lizard in a kitchen sink, and one can report that the lizard is at least not an on-camera victim of animal cruelty (then again, it probably did have to hear the banter on the set).
While it is not as tongue-lollingly, deliberately, garishly campy as Troma’s more infamous titles such as The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High, one must give Zombie Island Massacre a certain credit for its sheer brazen gall to try and pass itself off as a zombie movie, which it’s not, then a horror picture, which it’s really not, resolving as a crime-thriller. Americans would do well to meditate on that con game whenever they are faced with voting for politicians.
It is perhaps to be hoped that the plot dynamic of affluent Americans being discomfited, then killed, in a non-white culture in the tropics somehow compensates for those many dead natives and enslaved black people (hang on a minute, it really doesn’t).
Charles Cassady Jr., MOVIES and MANIA
[May contain spoilers] Other reviews:
“Some of the dialogue is unintentionally funny, there’s a weird, out-of-place flashback narrated by Rita […] and unfortunately not much in the way of gore (though there’s a decapitation that’s fairly well done). The body count is pretty high and it does capture a sense of survivalist movie fun if you don’t take it too seriously.” The Bloody Pit of Horror
” …with the exception of cheap production value, it doesn’t feel like a conventional Troma movie. Although occasionally charming, the picture lacks camp; in fact, it’s painfully devoid of much-needed levity. It also isn’t particularly gory. It’s not even so bad that it’s entertaining, which is preferable to tedium.” Broke Horror Fan
” …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.” Pop Horror
“So the title is a cheat and the production qualities are lousy, but this cheapo flick was still shot on location and, at the end, presents us with a plot twist not commonly seen, involving drug money and undercover investigations – though it has little to do with the murder spree, which are largely off-screen or tame, save for an impressively executed decapitation.” Vegan Voorhees
” …it’s a watchable time and the kills when they do begin are crammed so close together you won’t have time to be disappointed in the fact they mostly occur off-screen (in fact the only real “gore” kill is a so-so decapitation). Zombie Island Massacre is actually pretty tame stuff with editing that seems a bit off at times and the aforementioned script problems.” The Video Graveyard
“The film starts off rather promising as a lot of people bite the dust before the halfway mark. Unfortunately, things slow down considerably once the tourists find their way to the abandoned mansion in the jungle where the killer lives. Sure, the film is more or less shitty and boring, but the kills and titties are there…” The Video Vacuum
” …a fun movie with some twists and turns along the way as far as the plot goes […] Voodoo in horror during the era that this movie was made is always fun and it’s a good time here. I’m a fan of the overall tone and of the gore but I can also see where the slower pace at times could be a turn-off for some people who are just wanting them to get along with it.” Zombies Don’t Run
Vinegar Syndrome released Zombie Island Massacre as a Blu-ray + DVD combo on February 25th 2020. The film was restored in 2K from its 35mm camera negative with 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound and the following special features:
• 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
Cast and characters:
David Broadnax … Paul
Rita Jenrette … Sandy
Tom Cantrell … Steve
Diane Clayre Holub … Connie
George Peters … Whitney
Ian McMillan … Joe (as Ian McMillian)
Dennis Stephenson … Tour Guide
Debbie Ewing … Helen
Kristina Marie Wetzel … Barbie (as Kristina Wetzel)
Harriet Rawlings … Ethel
Christopher Ferris … Matt
Ralph Monaco … Jerry
Deborah Jason … Donna
Tom Fitzsimmons … Ed
Bruce Sterman … Hogan
Aspect Ratio: 1.85: 1
The Last Picnic
MOVIES and MANIA rating: