Piñata: Survival Island (2002): Unintentionally Funny

“Many years ago, a small, isolated tribe were cursed by spirits for their sins. One of the tribesmen crafts a piñata, to which the tribe put their evil into and set afloat in the ocean. The curse was lifted from the tribe, however if the piñata was to be disturbed, an evil would be unleashed.” (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

To someone, Nicholas Brendon most likely as he produced the thing, this must have seemed like a good idea. On paper, it might have looked funny, pithy, clever and very tongue-in-cheek. On celluloid, however, it struggles to overcome mediocre and it is funny for all the wrong reasons.

Starring Nicholas Brendon (Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Jaime Pressley (Pricilla from Not Another Teen Movie), directed and written by the sibling team of Scott and David Hillenbrand, Demon Island (aka Piñata : Survival Island) is a really bad teen horror film.

A group of Fraternity and Sorority students all go to Demon Island to take part in the annual Cinco de Mayo treasure hunt. Each girl and boy is handcuffed together as a couple and must collect underwear that has been scattered about the island. At the end of the event which ever couple has the most underwear will win twenty thousand dollars.

*Warning: in terms of plot depth, this film hasn’t got any.*

While searching for the underwear one couple, Bob and Lisa find a clay piñata, thinking it will be full of booze they break it open. Unfortunately for them, this was the cursed piñata that had been set adrift by the local cursed tribe. It immediately gets bigger and beats Bob to death with a tree branch. Lisa flees for her life.

Meanwhile back at the beach (sorry) Lyle (Brendon) and Tina (Pressley) are arguing and not too happy about being cuffed to one another. It seems that the newly buff Xander, I mean Lyle, and Tina’s relationship had broken up prior to the Cinco de Mayo and they don’t want to be team members. But they decide to patch things up just long enough to enter the event and win. Wow, what a couple of great kids.

Jaime Pressley clearly overjoyed to be in this film.

Lisa is trying to warn everyone about the killer piñata and her information is met with disbelief and derision. One of the girls she tells scoffs and laughingly says, “A piñata? Are you kidding me?” Just moments before she is exterminated by said piñata. I felt bad for her because we felt the same way that she did but, fortunately for us, we were watching the film from the safety of our house. We could make fun of the film’s premise without fear of piñata punishment.

As bad as this film is (and trust me it is bad) it is still fun to watch. It falls into the category of favourite bad films. It is hard to imagine a film more badly edited or shot. The acting, even Mr Brendon’s and Ms Pressley’s, is a pretty poor affair. I was not surprised to see that, although he had produced it, Nicholas Brendon’s presence in the film is pretty minimal considering the prominence that his name took on the cast list.

According to Wikipedia, the film had no computer effects until the rubber monster made its appearance. It was then decided to enhance the monster to make it scarier. They really should have saved their money, at no time while watching this movie did I ever think the monster looked scary; neither did my daughter.

As this movie was made when the Buffy the Vampire Slayer show was making its exit from prime-time telly, Brendon obviously meant for this to be a “first step” into furthering his career. Presumably, I was not on my own in my feelings about this film and he moved sensibly back into television where he seems to be doing fine.

My daughter and I found this film in a local video rental shop quite a few years ago, it has since been on the Horror Channel and I don’t doubt that it will be on it again. It falls into the category of being so bad that it’s funny and if you like that sort of film, have fun.

Demon Island gets a real 4 out of 5 stars for inadvertent hilarity.

Did you floss those teeth buster?

Hunger by Michael Grant: A ‘Filling’ Read

Cover of "Hunger: A Gone Novel"
Cover of Hunger: A Gone Novel

Hunger is book number two in Michael Grant‘s continuing story of the survivors of Perdido Beach California. Perdido Beach has been re-christened the FAYZ and it is a dangerous place to live. Still trapped under the bubble, they don’t know if there is a world outside or not.

Gone finished with an apocalyptic battle between the Dionysian forces of Caine, Drake and Diana and the Apollonian forces of Sam, Astrid and Edilio.

The survivors have lived to fight another day. And to starve.

Food is running out too quickly for the youngsters to replace. Albert, who has taken over the local Mickee D’s and Edilio, the fire chief and soon to be sheriff have decided to harvest the crops that are lying in fields around the town.

Their first attempt ends in disaster when they find that humans aren’t the only things that have mutated in their new little world.

Caine has been in and out of a coma since his close encounter with the evil in the mine shaft. Drake’s been a bit more fortunate in his dealings with the creature in the shaft. He’s gotten a nifty new arm and has become even crazier than he was before.

Sam is rapidly losing his focus as things keep spiralling out of control. Kids are dying, starving and scared. There is a ‘movement’ started by the “normal’s” to take over control from the freaks. Despite help from Astrid, Edilio  and Quinn, Sam’s spinning plates are wobbling and falling.

Caine’s now recovering from his fugue and is intent on taking over the nuclear power station. Drake is plotting to kill Caine and Diana is still playing them both against each other. The rest of Caine’s troops have deserted after he killed a boy while he was delirious.

Lana the healer of Sam’s group decides she has to kill the thing in the mine shaft as it continues to talk to her and Caine. She is afraid that if she does not destroy it everyone in the FAYZ will die.

The ‘mutants’ continue to appear and get stronger. But Little Pete is still stronger than anyone realises. He has been making monsters while he sleeps.

But more frightening than the monsters is the fact that Pete is talking to the evil living in the mine shaft. It is hungry and it wants to be fed.

Michael Grant’s story continues to move at break neck speed. Introducing new characters, new problems and solutions. Like Sam Temple, Grant is spinning a lot of plates but they are in no danger of toppling off their stands.

We are given a basic thread of hunger that spreads through every thought and action of all the characters. It drives much of what happens in the book and affects the outcome of things more often than not.

Sam is close to losing control and breaking down despite the strong support he gets from Astrid and his friends.

Both groups have to deal with treachery, civil unrest and madness. Their small captive world is dangerously close to unravelling.

Hunger was another ‘page-burner’ in other words, if I’d turned the pages any faster, they would have caught fire from the friction. Just like the first book in the series, Gone, Hunger grabbed my attention and did not let go until the very last page.

I am still completely transfixed by the two groups and their battles with each other and with themselves. I want to see them win, whatever that entails, and I want to be there when it happens. Lead on Mr Grant, I’m right behind you waiting impatiently for the end.

I will finish by saying that I am amazed that these stories are classed as Young Adult Literature. Like the Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn, I think that this classification is wrong. Anyone can read these and get carried away by the writing, the story and the characters.

Thank you Michael Grant for writing them.

Michael Grant


Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts: It’s All In the Eyes

Firstly I have to thank the lovely young lady in Waterstones at Norwich. When she found out that I was a Michael Grant fan and was looking for the second of his books dealing with the FAYZ, she was delighted. A  fan of the series as well, she asked me if I’d read Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts. I had to admit that I had not. She highly recommended the book and helpfully pointed out that it was part of their ‘buy one, get one, half price’ deal. I quickly took advantage of their deal.

Thank you young lady, you didn’t lie. The book is scary and creepy. It is also very, very good.

In Jeyn Roberts’ book we follow the trials and tribulations of four teenagers who are affected by the events of the book. Their world has been rocked by earthquakes and school bombings. Some people are going crazy and killing each other. The world is in the grip of an ancient evil that has been released by the earthquakes.

The Apocalypse has started. Or as another character says, “It’s the End of Days.”

Mason’s mother has been in a car accident and while he’s at the hospital waiting to see how she’s doing, he sees that the school he’d been called from just a short time before has been obliterated by bombs. All his friends are dead and his mother is about to join them.

Aries (I’m Aries but I’m a Gemini) is on a public transport bus with two school friends when a massive earthquake causes the bus to crash and kill a lot of the passengers. Luckily for her she meets Daniel, a mysterious boy who seems to know why all this is happening. He helps Aries find one of her friends and helps her to escape the growing mayhem after the quake.

Clementine is in the town hall with her parents. They are attending a town meeting where the elders are saying that volunteers are needed to help assist in the quake stricken areas. Just as the meeting is getting under way two towns people enter cradling guns in their arms. Clementine’s parents tell her to leave the town hall. Now. Going outside, she finds the the place surrounded by armed people and she barely escapes them.

Michael and Joe are riding in Joe’s truck when a motorcycle and a car in front of them start ‘dueling‘ not surprisingly the motorcycle loses the duel and the rider is killed. His body and crashed motorbike cause a pile up on the highway. Michael and Joe crash the truck into a ditch to avoid being hit by a tanker. The police arrive in force and after telling all the drivers to get back into their cars start shooting them if they don’t act quickly enough. Michael and Joe are given a lift by another driver as their truck won’t start.

Roberts does a brilliant job of jumping from each of these four teenagers experiences and the paths they are having to take. At times the four cross paths and temporarily join forces. The people that have become affected by the quakes are known as ‘baggers’ a hunting reference. As in “they are going to ‘bag’ a deer.” People now equate the term bagger with killer. There are several different types of Baggers and the teens and the people they temporarily team up with must avoid them if they want to live.

Baggers suffer from bloodshot eyes, but, instead of their eyes being threaded with red veins, their veins are black.

The young lady who recommended this book to me said she read it at night. She was so ‘freaked’ by the book that she woke her sleeping boyfriend up and checked his eyes.

Just in case.

I had the luxury of reading in the daytime, in the park. I was surrounded by people, but Roberts yanked me out of that park just as effectively as if she’d physically grabbed me. The settings of the book, the main and secondary characters and actions of everyone felt real and scary and pretty freaking awesome.

The ending leaves you with the feeling that this is just the first of what could be a long running series. I hope so. I am dying to find out what the post apocalyptic world has in store for Mason, Aries, Clementine, Michael and that mysterious lad Daniel.

Either way, Jeyn Roberts has become another author that I will keep an eye on. Great stuff, Ms Roberts. Please, may we have some more?

Jeyn Roberts, courtesy of Google Search
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