FilmFest Review: Savage Island

By Peter Hemminger

Savage Island has won best horror film in at least two film festivals. It has also been rejected by the Vancouver and Toronto film fests, making Calgary its Canadian premiere. Looks like Vancouver and Toronto did the right thing in passing on this one.

Shot on low-grade digital video, Savage Island doesn’t wear its limited budget well. Some films manage to overcome those limitations with interesting stories, above-average acting, novel concepts or even just some deliciously gory executions. Savage Island goes another route altogether, emulating American-style horror movies with unlikable characters performing unbelievable actions, before a nonsensical twist ending leaves viewers wondering what happened.

It’s a movie full of inconsistencies. One character gripes about how he doesn’t understand why people would want city life, then the very next sentence talks about his plans to convert his island paradise into a resort complete with golf course, condos, and “a brothel, if they’ll let me”. The heroes and villains are equally amoral, so there’s never anyone to cheer for or root against. Instead, the movie wanders from one killing to another, without any emotional resonance.

Even the soundtrack seems hindered by the low budget. Many scenes feature obvious overdubs not syncing up with the action on the screen. It may have just been the theatre, but the score is often far too loud, and seem to be covering for the movie’s faults rather than enhancing its strengths. By the end, it becomes a shriekfest even earplugs couldn’t cover up.

The director, screenwriter, and lead actress in the film were all present at the screening, and all seemed quite proud of the movie they produced. Undoubtedly legitimate fans of the genre, they wanted to make their own contribution. It just goes to show, sometimes even the best intentions and genuine enthusiasm for a project aren’t quite enough.

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