Island of Terror (1966)

Island of Terror (1966)

How could they stop the devouring death…that lived by sucking on living human bones!

On a remote Irish island, a team of scientists are working to try and cure cancer by creating a cancer-destroying organism. But they inadvertently create hideous creatures which liquefy and digest human bone, leaving their victims behind as a pile of jelly. The creatures escape from the lab and start to terrorise the island.

 

One of my favourite horror films from childhood, Island of Terror is your typical ‘small community comes under attack from monsters’ flick. Many people would laugh at a film like this nowadays and, whilst I can see why, it’s certainly not a laughing stock to me. It’s a shame that there is no love in the genre anymore for films like this – innocent shockers made on small budgets with decent casts and plots based as much on science as possible. After all, it was usually the low budget ones which stuck in people’s minds for various reasons (usually the wrong reasons) and they are the ones remembered with more affection. Nowadays it’s just down to the likes of The Sci-Fi Channel to regurgitate the same story over and over again every Saturday night for their creature feature movies. But they lack the charm, the innocence and the passion of films like this – they are simply soulless films.

There is something about Island of Terror which provides the necessary ingredients one wants from a horror film. For a start, I can’t remember seeing a film which opens with so many prophecies of doom. The islanders moan about their generator not working very well, the phones aren’t installed yet and a supply boat only comes once a week – if that isn’t asking for trouble I don’t know what will! And worse is yet to come when, after finding the first dead body, the town’s doctor takes the only emergency launch and heads off to the mainland to get help – the only problem is that they take a helicopter trip back so leave the boat behind. And the helicopter won’t be stopping around either, its needed elsewhere and will be back in a few days. Dear me, it looks like the situation can’t can any worse and this is only the first fifteen minutes.

The now-clichéd elements come thick and fast with the characters we’re introduced with. There’s the island’s policeman, the town doctor, the head of the island, the obligatory cowardly guy (who always meets a horrid death) and the man who goes off to investigate a weird noise. You can spot the monster fodder a mile off and it’s nice to see which of them survives the ordeal. Peter Cushing is excellent as always and although his role isn’t the biggest, he’s still the one who shines above the rest. Cushing is so laid back in his films but his performances are always exceptional. Here he infuses a nice amount of dry wit and sarcasm in with all of the serious shenanigans. He has the ability to turn ridiculous dialogue into serious fact – when he explains the nature of the creatures to the townspeople in the meeting hall, they all accept it without question.

Edward Judd also makes a memorable impression as the younger scientist but he comes off as simply more arrogant and bullish. But they both do great jobs in getting across the menace and seriousness of the creatures. You’ll certainly believe anything they tell you. The rest of the cast are simply there to provide bodies for the creatures to feast off but there are a few familiar faces including Sam Kydd and Niall MacGinnis.

The monsters or ‘silicates’ are arguably the worst point on the film. They look really cheap and plastic – just look at their rigid bases when they move. They move so slowly too and you wonder just how they can actually get close enough to their victims without them noticing and running a mile. It’s amazing how many times characters are ‘surprised’ by a silicate suddenly appearing from nowhere. And they can climb trees too as one unlucky extra gets to find out when one falls on him from above! However their reason for being is quite interesting even if the science is a bit flawed and they do at least look unique. Their eventual demise is scientifically plausible and even though they may be slow, they still deal out a really horrible death as demonstrated with some excellently chilling slurping sounds. In fact the slurping noises that greet the audience whenever someone is killed are sickening and disturbing.

After realising that they can’t stop the monsters (after an exhaustive use of shotguns, petrol bombs and dynamite), the townspeople hole up inside the meeting hall to try and starve of the creatures. This finale works in much the same way as Night of the Living Dead, with a bunch of survivors holed up somewhere trying to fight off the ravenous hordes. Maybe this is where Romero got his inspiration from? After all, this idea has become common place in horror films now. The finale is fresh and exciting here despite the limitations of the monsters.

 

Island of Terror is one of my favourite horror films and arguably one of the best of its genre. It’s fast-paced, features some extremely understated performances from Peter Cushing and Edward Judd and packs in plenty of genuine shocks and scares. I just wish the budget had stretched a bit more to improve on the silicates’ appearance. Watching bone-slurping monsters has never been more fun!

 

 ★★★★★★★★★★ 

 

 

Related Movies

Post a comment