Taking a group of people, shoving them onto a tropical island, setting upon them some kind of “force”, and then watching how they react is just about as popular a subgenre of horror as the group of people trapped in a small location with some kind of monster or crazed human unleashed on them movie. Other memorable tropical island horror movies I can think of include the Blood Island trilogy (Brides Of Blood/The Mad Doctor Of Blood Island/Beast Of Blood) from the late 60s/early 70s, Screamers/Island Of The Fishmen (1979), the more recent After Dusk They Come (2009), and its remake The Lost Tribe (2009).
Now we have the latest in this subcategory of this subgenre called, Surviving Evil. Billy Zane plays Seb Beazley, the star of “Surviving The Wilderness”, he’s a reality show adventurer who trots the globe exploring remote corners of the world and showing how one can survive in these inhospitable environments. For their newest episode he brings his crew to Mayaman Island in the Philippines. Along with his longtime crew, Phoebe Drake (Christina Cole), Rachel Rice (Louise Barnes) and Dex Simms (Colin Moss), they add two new people, Chill Reyes (Natalie Mendoza) and Joey Valencia (Joel Torre). Joey is supposed to make contact with the local tribe, but in the prologue we already know that’s not going to happen for they were just wiped off the face of the map by savage, humanoid creatures with black orbs for eyes and piranha-lined maws.
Joey also has an ulterior motive for being there a sub-plot that mirrors one in a movie I reviewed last year called, Dead Mine (2012). In that one the search for the fabled Yamashita’s Gold ended up trapping a bunch of explorers in an underground WW2 bunker, here Joey’s after the same thing, but no one else knows it. Eventually he lets Chill in on his secret.
In the meantime we learn all is not harmonious with Seb’s crew. Seb has recently and unknowingly knocked up Phoebe prior to arriving on the island and a burned out tryst between cameraman Dex and director Rachel is not being handled well by the latter. Add in the fact that the Aswang is slowly grooming them for an eventual all out onslaught that takes place at the hour mark and you’ve got yourself a pretty good episode of “Surviving The Wilderness”. Presuming, of course, it’s all captured on film and they all make it back alive, which (SPOILERS) as the movie progresses seems highly unlikely.
Joey and Chill are the Aswang sages and fill the others in as to what these Filipino nightmarish legends are all about. They’re shape-shifting sub-humanoids that drink human blood and eat human flesh, they’re favorite is the blood of a pregnant human. They also have the insidious ability to turn human fetuses into their own through some kind of ritual that isn’t detailed, but shown in the early stages of in the movie’s downbeat epilogue.
The flick moves at a good pace, giving you only glimpses of the Aswang for a majority of the movie and then at the aforementioned hour mark unleashing them fully in the final twenty-five minutes so you can see how vicious and bizarre they are. Good practical effects are used to depict them, and you got a taste of their shape shifting sans CGI as they run Dex down in canine form then assume his shape briefly to menace Phoebe later on. They even have the ability to fly by shape-shifting wings onto their backs; flying scenes which looked to be all done with wirework. The wings may have been CGI but the camera never settles on those appendages too long for you to get a good read on it. All in all very good FX.
The movie is gory but not exceedingly so and the characters were all likable in my book. Natalie Mendoza (The Descent) even contributes a song to the ending credits. The flick was all filmed in South Africa and Zane is the only American in the cast. This would explain why the UK has had this movie available on DVD since 2009. It’s been available here in the US only in digital form from Freestyle Digital Media (www.freestyledigitalmedia.tv) since last year from what I can gather and is only now hitting DVD (from the same company) on February 25th.
There’s no mention of the aspect ratio on the back cover, but IMDB states it’s 1.85:1 so that’s what I’m going to assume the DVD transfer is in, Audio is 5.1 English stereo. I didn’t have any problems with either. There are no subtitles and only the movie’s trailer as an extra.
Basically, I enjoyed this film a lot. It’s a good tropical island monster movie with very good practical effects.