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Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Monster Island (2004)

"Death is their final destination"

Plot

When he wins an MTV competition that his sister secretly entered him in, Josh is whisked off to a remote jungle island for a special party where he will get to meet Carmen Electra. Unbeknownst to everyone at the party, the island used to be the location of a government atomic test and is now home to giant bugs. During the party, a flying ant swoops down from the sky and carries Carmen off towards the mountain. Josh decides to take a stand and instead of heading for the rescue boat with the others, he and a few of his friends decide to set off through the jungle to rescue her.

 

MTV is hardly going to be the first name on anyone's lips when you talk about the movies. More famous for their music videos and TV shows, MTV seemingly decided to branch out a bit more into the world of film in the 00s. You'd half-expect them to head towards the teen comedy route like American Pie, something which best embodied this whole generation, or even a more routine horror film like I Know What You Did Last Summer or Scream - hell, some of those teen slashers were walking posters for music videos. But, for some inexplicable reason, MTV chose to make a throwback to the old 50s atomic monster movies which no doubt 90% of their audience would never have heard of, let alone seen.



Don't try and even take this seriously. From the ridiculous plot about rescuing Carmen Electra (she's smokin' hot but if she got carried off by a flying bug, tough luck!) to the atrocious special effects (and 'special' is pushing it) to the even more inane dialogue, there's nothing here that should really click. In order for homages to work, the people behind the scenes need to have some degree of love, affection and respect for the original works but what's clear from Monster Island is that no one has ever seen the likes of Them! or Earth Vs The Spider. There is a silly, cornball charm to Monster Island which quickly outstays its welcome when you realise that's all it is up its sleeve. Thankfully, it doesn't take too long to get down to business and once the characters set off to rescue Carmen, there are always plenty of shenanigans to fill the time. At a running time of around an hour and half, it's not that much to allow your brain to die and doesn't overly outstay its welcome.


When you settle down to watch a film called Monster Island, you don't come for the dialogue though, you come for the monsters. The bulk of the special effects are stop-motion and whilst the design and execution of the various monsters is solid, not much effort is made to integrate them in with the models and live-action footage which lessens their impact. Coupled with a few giant prop mandibles and a feeble-looking spider, there's enough monster action in here to make it worthwhile. The best effect in the film is that of a piranha man - simply a guy in a suit. At least I'll give some credit for the effects team to use stop motion as opposed to CGI. They could have taken the cheap route out but opted to pay homage a little more with some old school effects. Just next time, hire some better animators.



As for the cast, well the youngsters do their best in their tiresome roles. Daniel Letterle does what he can with the throwaway lead role and has a few moments of inspirational absurdity (like watching him try to rally a posse to rescue Carmen). I completely lost track of his friends though and just referred to them as stoner, nerd, bitch, jock and so on because they don't develop anything resembling characters. Chelan Simmons can scream like no other though and has since gone on to become quite a regular on this site (so much so, that I gave her a tag!) There's also an early performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, another actress who has gone on to bigger and better things. Winstead has been acting on-screen since her teens and you can tell she's a natural, with plenty of signs there of the success she'd have in later years.


As for the more famous people in this flick, Carmen Electra looks amazing as usual but apart from a few minutes sandwiched at the beginning and end, she's not in the film at all. Adam West, Batman from the Sixties TV show, pops up here as Dr Harryhausen (a pretty weak homage name to the god of stop motion) and he's funny. He's kind of an in-joke of himself now and laps up the chance to show what he can do to a younger audience. There's also a lame cameo from Nick Carter (of Backstreet Boys fame) who arrives in the nick of time to save our friends. Its definitely a bizarre couple of cameos which all work in their own quirky way.

 

Final Verdict

Monster Island is a dopey genre flick. Low on budget, skill and all-round talent, it makes up for it in honesty, wit and cheesy charm. It's clearly targeted at MTV viewers who have no idea what some of the in-jokes and homages to the 50s 'atomic monster' films are all about but for those of us who do know, there's a few smiles to be had. Don't watch if you're offended by bad films.



 

Monster Island


Director(s): David Lister


Writer(s): Jack Perez (story), Adam Glass (teleplay)


Actor(s): Carmen Electra, Daniel Letterle, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, La La Anthony, Nick Carter, Adam West, C. Ernst Harth


Duration: 92 mins




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