Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Island

Leung Po Chi's 1985 film The Island stars John Shum as Cheung, a geography teacher who takes a group of his students camping on an uninhabited island. Once there, they soon discover the island does have a population, a strangely behaving family of three brothers with a mother fixation, who are desperate to find a bride to provide the child to keep their lineage alive. Rather predictably the trip turns into a nightmare....

After we see the family in action at the beginning of the film and we know we could be in for a grim ride, we are introduced to the poorly developed student characters, and the movie becomes something of a tease. It seems to take forever to get to the point, however once the situation escalates the film kicks into gear and becomes the taut, grim and pretty nasty experience the opening promises. While never quite as graphic as you expect, the last half an hour still has plenty of opportunity to make the viewer wince. Shum's teacher is quite interesting as he shows cowardice through poor decision making before things get really tough, making his transformation into action hero when it really does kick off all the more important and believable. The desperate confrontations with Peter Chan Lung (the eldest of the brothers) are excellent, the choreography is given real life or death immediacy, important given how Shum is not the most physical looking of men.

This holiday destination's entertainment options are a little limited
Not your typical Hong Kong horror fare by any means, but an above average entry into the survival horror genre, The Island boasts impeccable taste in it's influences, the obvious ones being The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance. The film could have undoubtedly been improved with a little tightening up, but if you like the genre it has plenty to recommend it, not least of which is the fantastic island location itself, which manages to look beautiful despite the horrific events of the film.

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