When it cut to Robert Behling's contorted face as he sodomized the baby goat, I thought, “Now, this is 4-star material.”
Well, maybe not exactly, but I admired the gumption. Few films would dare hurtle so far over the top, and if they dared, they'd build up to it. Island of Death gives us that scene in the first 15 minutes.
Is it possible to make an unintentional parody? Director Nico Mastorakis offers no indication he sought to satirize the exploitation horror genre, but his film is so ridiculous, modern horror audiences are bound to take 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. It doesn't pretend to have a deeper purpose or meaning. It's all shock for shock's sake.
And yet, it's surprisingly well done. Mastorakis makes terrific use of 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 by using a fish-eye lens and several low-angles shots from the victim's point-of-view. In a lesser film, such choices would feel gimmicky, but they work here.
The assured photography contrasts with the uneven performances. Though the supporting players are either wooden or over-the-top, Behling and Lyle play their parts so straight they verge on camp. As 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 (1974). That film's box-office success lead him to believe 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.