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Island Zero (Movie Review)

Island Zero (Movie Review)
8 10

PLOT: A fishing community on a remote Maine island finds itself suddenly cut off from the rest of the world after the ferry stops coming. When people start to vanish, the terrified survivors realize that someone - or something - is hunting them.

REVIEW: I remember seeing the trailer for Josh Gerritsen's ISLAND ZERO months ago now and the film stuck out to me big time. I loved the central premise, the island location, and the cold-grey look of the film. All of this reminded me of a good Stephen King tale told from a new perspective (ie. NOT Stephen King himself) and with all of this in mind, I've been keeping an eye out for the chance to catch a screening of the film. Then (hooray!) this past week I was finally offered the chance to view the spooky flick. So after all that personal hype, did the movie live up to my expectations? Let's find out!

As I mentioned above, the film's trailer gave me a big Stephen King vibe, and the finished film follows right along those lines. The film gives us such King staples as a truly spooky central premise, a gorgeous secluded location, and a cast of instantly lovable characters (complete with Maine accents). Personally, I always think islands are prime locations for horror and this film goes on to prove the theory. Isolation is a killer on its own and when you add in creepy-crawlers and shifting shadows in the surf, it only becomes a more horrific situation. Another aspect I really enjoyed about the film was that it all takes place over the Christmas holidays. This means we get tons of Christmas iconography (a favorite of mine in all movies, let along horror films) and killer covers of Christmas songs. All which make for eeire good times!

To go a bit more into the film's plot, there is this island off the coast of Maine and one day during the Christmas holiday, the ferry to the mainland doesn't show up. Oh, snap. Creepy but nothing to freak out about, right? Doubtful. Needless to say, the ferry doesn't show up the next day, or the one after that, and this ladies and gentlemen is when the horror begins creeping in. The main islanders that are put out by their local ferryman abandoning them are a Biologist (who reminded me of Matt Hooper from JAWS) and his wife who are on the rocks, to say the least. A novelist heading back to civilization after finishing up his new book. And a local doctor played by Laila Robins (TRAINS, PLANES, AND AUTOMOBILES). The main cast is likable and kept this guy engaged at all times.

While the film's real draw is its mystery and its creeping-dread horror, what happens when the film eventually reveals its horror-hand and chugs full steam ahead into terror territory? Well, the flick delivers on that end too. We get a graphic autopsy on a pile of guts, a body skinned to the bone, another body pulled in half while still alive, and more. And all of this King-style carnage is set to an appropriately haunting synth score via Clayton Worbeck. On top of that, once the "evil" behind the monstrous mystery presents itself, the creatures' backstory and mythology are complex, interesting as hell, and fresh. 

All of that love spat, the film is pretty low-budget but that never really becomes an issue, other than some sound problems here and there. But even those are mostly easy to overlook. Another issue that the movie suffers from is the acting. The actors are mostly amateurs and their delivery can be wooden as the ships surrounding the titular island. But the film's casting director choose the local actors well so all is (mostly) forgiven as they have so much personality all was good on my end. I'll take a great face and personality over a pretty-boy actor with "chops" any day. And right off the bat, the character-actors establish themselves as a hoot with an old woman giving our lead doctor an earful as she works on her poor husband. Classic stuff there. 

Overall, the film is low-budget, yes, but all the same, the restrictions are more than easy to overlook. The whole is a truly freaky mystery and a spooky good time, populated with fun and charming characters and an overall vibe that screams Stephen King. So if you're a fan of the modern master of horror, and have seen any and every King adaptation out there, make sure to give ISLAND ZERO a day in court. It will satisfy your craving for fresh King content. In the end, it comes down to this simple sentence: If you love made-for-TV Stephen King flicks such as THE TOMMYKNOCKERS, THE LANGOLIERS, and STORM OF THE CENTURY, you'll love ISLAND ZERO.

Extra Tidbit: ISLAND ZERO hits VOD nationwide by Freestyle Releasing on May 15th.

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