If you’ve never watched a Bruno Mattei film, you are really missing out. Renowned for over-the-top gore and horrible voice dub-overs, Mattei is a staple of Italian horror. But unfortunately, many people find his films too campy to enjoy. I am on the other side of the fence; I LOVE HIS FILMS. Sure, they’re schlocky and full of cheese…but that is what makes them so much fun! Almost all of his titles are in my So-Bad-They’re-Good category, but that is an honor, not an insult. ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of his final films, as he died shortly after shooting it and ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING back-to-back, but it is a capstone to a historic legacy of horror films. Chocked full of the things that make his work great, this film is a must-have for zombie fans.
If you are not familiar with ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Intervision:
Italian horror maestro Bruno Mattei director of such infamous gut-munchers as MONDO CANNIBAL, HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD and IN THE LAND OF THE CANNIBALS made his triumphant return to the zombie genre with his penultimate gorefest: When a boneheaded group of treasure hunters are shipwrecked near a deserted island, they’ll instead discover an undead nightmare of flesh chomping, skull blasting, absurd plotting, perplexing flamenco, and old-school levels of graphic zombie carnage. Yvette Yzon (ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING), Gaetano Russo (CAGED WOMEN) and Jim Gaines (THE ONE-ARMED EXECUTIONER) star in this beloved Mattei jaw-dropper from the screenwriter of Fulci’s A CAT IN THE BRAIN, now presented uncut and uncensored for the first time ever in America!
I never have discovered why Mattei chose to release most of his films under pen names. Vincent Dawn, Pierre Le Blanc, Gilbert Roussel…these are just a few of the pseudonyms he used. As you can see, the names are as diverse as his filmography. I have to confess I know little about the man himself, therefore this might warrant some investigation on my part.
ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD is a typical Mattei flick. It is low-budget fun, shot decently but at the same time looking kinda cheesy. Again, this is not a negative, but a simple factual statement.
The acting is, as expected, not very good, and much of the dialogue is delivered in an overly-dramatic fashion. Every time a character spoke, I was reminded of how comedians poke fun at William Shatner with their Captain Kirk impersonations; you can’t help but grin when you hear them. The same can be said here. Although the dialogue attempts to provide information and move the story along, it’s almost so terrible to the point of distraction.
True to form, ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD contains plenty of Mattei’s trademark gore and zombie effects. I love how he makes the dead look, well, dead. I’m sick of seeing zombie makeup that makes a person look white and lifeless; that’s not what a rotting body should look like. Much like Fulci, Mattei uses decomposing zombies in his films, and the result is spectacular. Even so, there are some cheesy effects in the film as well. For example, a man who is supposed to be a skeleton is wearing a black outfit with a skeleton printed on it. The result is laughable but still a lot of fun.
ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD is a major win for me, and fans of schlocky, gory flicks should love it. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good zombie-throwback film. They just don’t get much better than this. ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD is available now.