Monday, March 8, 2010

'Horror Island' is barely worth visiting

Horror Island (1941)
Starring: Dick Foran, Leo Carillo, Peggy Moran, Hobart Cavanaugh and Foy Van Dolsen
Director: George Waggner
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A struggling businessman (Foran) organizes a "mystery weekend" excursion to an old, supposedly haunted pirate hideout as part of a new tourism venture. He and his customers are soon haunted by a very real killer.


This is a minor horror film from Universal that's more spoof than horror, poking fun at the style of mystery/thriller films where a cast of characters are stuck in a creepy house and stalked by a killer. The film is amusing enough, especially once the action moves to the island, but it would have been a stronger film if a little more time had been spent on the mystery/thriller aspect of the film. Instead of trying to come up with a decent story, the writers instead seem like they were simply trying to cram as many movie mystery cliches into the story whether they belong or not. For example, a gangster on the run with his gun moll go on the tour of the island, but they are neither effective red herrings nor particularly sympathetic so we don't really care if they live or die. All they do is waste space and film running time.

"Horror Island" does manage to present a villain that is both amusing and creepy, as well as provide a third act twist that comes as a genuine surprise. The cast is also universally good, even if some of them are just wastes of space in the film and story. The sets and cinematography are all solid and add to the film's atmosphere. Aside from the weak script, everything else is solid enough... not spectacular but good enough.