Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Piñata: Survival Island

Like The Mangler, Piñata: Survival Island (2002) offers a premise so ludicrous, you'd think the filmmakers would have realized just how silly the whole enterprise was and tried to have fun with the idea. Sadly, like The Mangler, Piñata: Survival Island tries and fails to be scary, resulting in a rather slapdash and tedious picture. I'd like to say it's so bad it's good, but it's not even entertaining on that level, the whole thing becoming tiresome and repetitious fairly quickly.

Following a prologue in which some ancient tribe casts all of their evil into one of two clay (?) piñatas, the movie begins with a group of college students (i.e. actors in their 30s at least) arriving on some tropical island for Cinco de Mayo to take part in some fraternity-sorority competition that involves having the men and women pairing off and being handcuffed together so they can search the island collecting the most pairs of underwear (yes, I just wrote that sentence). One pair stumbles upon a certain piñata. They try to crack it open but only end up awakening the evil within it, causing it to go on a murderous rampage, slaughtering the students and stealing their souls.

My big problem with the movie is how little faith in their own concept the filmmakers demonstrate. Maybe it's just me, but when I think of a piñata, I think of a paper-mache creation, probably shaped liked a horse and covered with bright colors. When I heard of this movie, I thought for sure this was the kind of piñata they were talking about. Can you imagine this type of piñata going on a supernatural, evil rampage in a movie? Hot damn, that's sounds ridiculously awesome. Sure, it wouldn't have been the least bit terrifying, but it could have been hilarious and might have demonstrated the movie was willing to have fun at its own expense and maybe even send up other monster movies. But instead of poking fun at the conventions of the genre, Piñata: Survival Island languishes in them, and the result is dead on arrival.

But we don't really get a piñata. The title says piñata, and the characters refer to it as a piñata, but the monster in this movie is not a piñata, at least not any piñata I've ever seen. For the most part, this thing looks like a life-size version of the Tiki doll that cursed Greg, Peter, and Bobby when the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii. Other times, it looks like a cross between a demon creature from Doom and the Garthok from The Coneheads movie and sometimes flying like Slimer from Ghostbusters It's realized by a combination of guy in a rubber suit and computer animation and isn't particularly convincing. The movie never takes advantage of the fact it has a killer piñata on the prowl. You could have replaced it with just about any monster or wild animal, and it wouldn't have changed anything.

The cast includes a couple of moderately well known actors, mainly Nicholas Brendon and Jaime Pressley, but the acting is mostly poor, and nor is it helped by an uninteresting, lethargic script and poor special effects. The attacks by the piñata, in particular, are ineptly staged, dominated by choppy editing, poor framing, and shaky cam. Many monster movies have monster vision to show us the monster's point of view, and while some are cool (the heat vision in Predator) or basic but effective (the black and white in Dog Soldiers), Piñata: Survival Island has the worst I've ever seen: an ugly red filter with a triangle that makes it impossible to see anything.

Any upsides? Well, most of the female cast members appear in tank tops, bikinis, and short shorts; I guess that counts for something for some people. But if all you want to do is ogle scantily-clad women, there are more efficient ways of accomplishing that goal than watching this waste of time.

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