When it cut to Robert Behling’s contorted face as he sodomized the baby goat, I grinned. Few films would dare hurtle so far over the top, and if they dared, they’d build-up to it. Island of Death proffers that scene in the first 15 minutes.
Is unintentional parody possible? Director Nico Mastorakis offers no indication he sought to satirize the exploitation horror genre, but his film proves so ridiculous, modern horror audiences are bound to regard it as comedy.
The plot concerns a young couple played by Behling and Jane Lyle who arrive on the Greek island of Mykonos and embark on a thrill-kill spree. That’s it. No pretense of a deeper purpose or meaning. Just shock for shock’s sake.
And yet, it’s well done. Mastorakis leverages the photogenic locales and enlivens the over-the-top violence with inventive camerawork. Consider the nocturnal chase through the city’s labyrinthine alleys. Mastorakis heightens the sense of panic with a fish-eye lens and several low-angles shots from the victim’s point-of-view.
The assured photography contrasts the uneven performances. The supporting players are either wooden or over-the-top, but Behling and Lyle play their parts so straight they verge on camp. As a parody, the performances are inspired. Behling’s delivery alone is priceless.
By his own account, Mastorakis made Island of Death after seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That film’s box-office success convinced him an even more extreme picture would make even more money. This naked ambition manifests in an everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach that pushes the film past any genuine scares or mean-spirited umbrage, and firmly into parody. Were I to enumerate the film’s assorted affronts to good taste it would appear brutal, yet I came away entertained. Island of Death isn’t for everyone, but exploitation fans will love it.