Island (1980)
Directed by Michael Ritchie

Starring Barney Frank David Warner Michael Caine

An unjustly forgotten horror movie if there ever was one, "The Island" was widely publicized upon its release in 1980, mainly because it was based on a book written by Peter Benchley, whose novel "Jaws" was still the basis for bad sequels.

His novel, and inevitable film, are both horror stories about real-life pirates in the modern day. It opens with a massacre aboard a yacht -- and includes an axe in the head sequence reminiscent of the same year's "Friday the 13th."

We then meet Michael Caine's single-father journalist character, who is doing a piece on missing boats in the carribean. He manages to bring his son (Barney Frank) along for his trip investigating the disappearances. After the two barely survive a plane disaster, they go out fishing and are of course kidnapped by the same pirates that have been murdering rich yachtsmen.

They're taken to "the island" -- where the pirates have been living, untouched by civilization, for more than 100 years. In addition to booty, they need human beings to reproduce. And one female pirate takes a liking to Caine. Meanwhile, Caine's young son joins with the pirates.

A pretty intense horror film that reminds me a bit of "The Hills Have Eyes" -- just not as bloody or as good -- "The Island" is a classic tale of a man who must become an animal in order to conquer a savage enemy. This theme gets played a lot in man-against-man horror films, and screenwriter Benchley and director Michael Ritchie do a good job of playing it out here. Plus, Caine gives a good performance.

It's curious this film didn't see a DVD release, even after the success of "Pirates of the Carribean." Perhaps because it doesn't fit with the "fun pirate" mythos. These pirates are real savages -- killers who set their hair on fire before they attack.

With gore aplenty, a score by Ennio Morricone and a violent , politcally incorrect storyline, "The Island" is the kind of movie they don't make anymore. It's difficult to to believe that director Michael Ritchie would go on to direct the "Fletch" movies -- but not any more horror.

While far from a classic, Ritchie's foray into the horror genre is an underrated effort that is better than most of the horror stuff being produced today.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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