I just finished watching the premiere of the latest Asylum-produced SyFy film, Isle of the Dead!
Oddly, this film premiered on a Thursday night at 10:00 pm and, especially when compared to Sharknado 4 or 2 Lava 2 Lantula, it did so with relatively little fanfare. Fortunately, I just happened to see the premiere mentioned on Facebook. Otherwise, I probably would have missed it all together.
And that would have been a shame because, for a low-budget zombie film that was reportedly filmed in just 12 days, Isle of the Dead was actually a pretty effective little film.
The film’s plot will probably sound familiar but there’s a reason for that. The action starts at a secret Army research post that is located on an isolated tropic island. While Dr. Wexler (D.C. Douglas) watches, a virus spreads through the lab, turning doctors and soldiers into ravenous zombies and leaving death and terror in its wake. Jump forward ten years later. A team of Navy Seals has disappeared on the island and a strike force has been sent to find out what happened to them. Leading the strike force is the tough Lt. Gibson (Joey Lawrence). Accompanying them is a CIA agent named Mikaela Usylvich (Maryse Mizanin). Early on, Mikaela establishes a simple run: If you’re bitten by a zombie, you’re as good as dead. A zombie bite means a bullet to the brain.
Eventually, the strike force makes their way to the old research post, where they discover a lot of zombies and one rather crazed Dr. Wexler. Wexler, who turns out to have a personal connection to Mikaela, has spent the last ten years experimenting on zombies. As a result, we now have zombies who can shoot guns as well as zombies who can talk and who can plot and plan…
If all of this is sounding familiar, it’s because Isle of the Dead is an homage to the Resident Evil games. (Douglas may play Dr. Wexler here but he’s best known for voicing Albert Wesker in the games.) As such, the film follows a pretty standard formula: we watch as the members of the strike force try to move from one area to another without getting ripped to pieces by zombies. Admittedly, I’m not a huge expert on the Resident Evil games but I’ve been told by people who are that Isle of the Dead was full of references that were both subtle and occasionally obvious.
What I can tell you is that, taken on its own terms, Isle of the Dead was an effective, no-nonsense zombie film. The zombies were relentless (and I personally like the idea of talking zombies), the gore was both credible and copious, and the entire film maintained a proper atmosphere of impending doom. Douglas did a good job as crazy Dr. Wexler and Maryse Mizanin got to kick a lot of ass as Mikaela Usylvich. If you’re into zombie films or you just enjoy the unique Asylum aesthetic, I suggest keeping an eye out for Isle of the Dead.