Demon Island (aka Survival Island, 2002) Movie Review

It is incumbent on anyone who plans on picking up “Demon Island” to notice the title, the cover, and the fact that the movie used to go by “Pinata: Survival Island”, and make their final choices appropriately. It goes without saying that “Demon Island” is no masterpiece; in fact, it’s barely a serviceable comedy. What? Oh no, of course it’s not a horror. The film is pure unadulterated cheap comedy. To approach the film in any other way would be utter madness.

The most notable thing about “Demon Island” is that it’s the first post-“Star Trek” role by Garrett Wang that I’ve seen. Wang used to play Ensign Kim on the long-running “Star Trek: Voyager” TV series, which went off the air a few years ago. Here, Wang plays Paul, a judge/organizer of some sort of college scavenger hunt in some island off the coast of Mexico somewhere. I make these assumptions because the movie makes it a point to tell us that the day is “Cinco de Mayo” (the 5th of May, marking Mexico’s independence over perennial war losers the French).

Now, before you ask why a group of college kids (about 10 of them) and two adult organizers (Wang and Casey Fallo, as Monica), would spend a lot of time and money and effort to string thousands of underwear on a deserted island for a silly scavenger hunt — don’t. Just…don’t. To ask writer/directors David and Scott Hillenbrand anything about their movie — such as: Why does the pinata look like a fat man in a Troll costume one moment and a bad CGI fire breathing bull the next? — is a waste of time. You must know what you’re getting into if you picked up this movie, so asking questions is purely an exercise in self-mutilation.

Nicholas Brendon, taking a small vacation from TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, plays our lead. I’ve never seen “Buffy”, and don’t particularly care to anytime soon, so I don’t know who Brendon is beyond his credit listing. As Kyle, Brendon flexes a lot of muscle and shows off his (and I’m supposing here) new tattoo. Oh, and he uses a hunting knife to battle the pinata, who has just beaten one kid to death with a branch and ripped the crotch (literally) out of another one. Along the way, Brendon makes kissy eyes at Jaime Pressly’s Tina, who looks fabulous running around in shorts and a midriff-baring shirt.

I think Pressly and Brendon’s characters are supposed to be having relationship problems. Or something. All you need to know is that no one gets naked and there’s no promiscuous sex going on. Thus, “Demon Island” has destroyed the two reasons why anyone would bother watching it. How could you make a movie with ex-Playboy playmate Jaime Pressly and not have any nudity? I mourn all the missed opportunities. Sometimes life isn’t fair.

There are two locations for “Demon Island” — a stretch of beach somewhere, and what looks like either a California State Park or a California forest. The truth is, I don’t think the Hillenbrands even bothered to use more than one part of that forest. They might have just chosen one location and kept re-using it over and over, just barely dressing it differently each time. If it wasn’t for the fact that there’s a sequence involving the college kids racing in inflatable boats, all captured with helicopter fly-bys, I’d swear the movie was shot in someone’s backyard.

It’s very unfair to pick on “Demon Island”, I know. It’s a bad film, to be sure, filled with ridiculous moments and just bad, bad writing. The filmmakers must have realized early on that having a guy wearing a pinata costume beating college kids to death with branches was rather silly, so they inserted a bunch of shots featuring the CGI Bull Pinata running around the forest. Of course, they created the Running Bull once, then kept re-using it over different shots and from different angles.

On a final note, in case you think that I’m a film snob, perish the thought. I live for films like this, but even so “Demon Island” is simply too bad even for me. And don’t even get me started on the Pinata Vision. Oy vey!

David Hillenbrand, Scott Hillenbrand (director) / David Hillenbrand, Scott Hillenbrand (screenplay)
CAST: Nicholas Brendon …. Kyle
Jaime Pressly …. Tina
Garrett Wang …. Paul
Eugene Byrd …. Doug
Casey Fallo …. Monica

Buy Pinata: Survival Island on DVD