Savage Island DVD Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Ardustry Entertainment
Directed by Jeffery Lando
Written by Jeffery Lando & Kevin Mosely
2003, Region 0 (NTSC), 90 minutes, Not rated
Kristina Copeland as Julia Young Harris
Steven Mann as Steven Harris
Matthew Turner as Alex Harris
Brendan Beiser as Peter Young
Beverly Breuer as Beth Young
Don Davis as Keith Young
Gregg Scott as Joe Savage
Zoran Vukelic as Lenny Savage
Kyle Sawyer as Jimmy Savage
Winston Rekert as Eliah Savage
Lindsay Jameson as Mary Savage
Steven and Julia Harris are visiting Julia's parents on Savage Island, a remote isle that the retired couple are planning to develop. They are picked up from the harbour by Julia's wayward brother Keith, who tries to scare the young couple by driving without lights at night. What he doesn't bank on is young Jimmy Savage being on the road and, with no lights to see the boy, Keith hits him with the speeding truck.
Imagining what he hit to be an animal, Keith carries on driving after a brief stop to look for the body is curtailed by Julia's insistence to get to the family house. What he doesn't realise is that he has left Eliah Savage cradling his dying son, before wringing his neck in true redneck fashion.
Bereft of their youngest child, the Savages approach the Young/Harris family and demand that they hand over Steven and Julia's baby son Alex, to compensate their loss. Naturally the family refuse and set about making plans to leave the island before any more trouble comes their way from the inbred clan.
Meanwhile, Keith unearths the body of young Jimmy Savage from his shallow grave, mistakenly believing it to be a hoard of redneck money and illegal booze. When the Savages find Keith tampering with the grave, they capture him and what follows is a stand up battle between the two families as they fight for their lives.
The great thing about this low budget movie, and the thing that draws you in and keeps you hooked, is the fact that the cast do an incredible job with their acting skills. While many movies made on limited resources show tell-tale signs of a lack of budget, Savage Island easily eclipses any shortcomings it may have by impressing the viewer with great performances and high quality production. Although the performances aren't going to win any Oscars, they easily rank alongside those of much bigger budgeted genre titles like the Friday the 13th series.
Gone are the typically hollow sounding dialogue scenes so common in cheaply made movies, either proper sound recording equipment has been used or an audio dub of the movie has been applied in post production. Plus, the way the story has been written to centre around the island, makes use of the natural environment and removes the need to build sets, everything looks like you would expect on a redneck island.
Director Jeffery Lando pulls off some impressive scenes which play with the viewer's mind to increase the horror of what happens on screen. While it's not a particularly gory film, Lando directs in a way that makes your mind fill in the blanks which is always a good way to impact the audience. One scene in particular, when Eliah Savage takes action to shut Keith up, ranks alongside the ear cutting scene in Reservoir Dogs for maximum effect with minimum display.
If one thing lets the movie down slightly, it is the performance of Don Davis, who plays Keith Young. It's not that he's a bad actor, he's just average, but the rest of the cast are so strong he sticks out like a sore thumb beside them. It's a credit to Lando he's been able to pull such good results from a cast of unknowns. The other eybrow raiser is Zoran Vukelic (Lenny Savage) who is just far too good looking to pass off as an island dwelling redneck despite being able to act like one!
What has been pulled off here is simply amazing on the limited budget. It shows that with the right script, cast and the determination to succeed a director can pull off a tightly paced, gripping and downright scary movie. I'm glad to see that the ending was quite grim and not the sugar-coated 'by sunrise everything is OK' type affair we've come to expect from Hollywood. Savage Island is a worthy addition to the 'rednecks terrorising city folks' genre, and should be checked out by any horror fan looking for something just a little bit different.
Video and Audio:
This is a Region free NTSC DVD. The colours are a little muted and washed out in the opening car journey scene, but once on the island, the daytime and interior shots are crisp and clear. Once night falls (and it does for most of this movie) the picture gains some incredible grain and some scenes are (purposefully, I think) shot in an almost black and white, surveillance quality footage. It doesn't distract too much, but it does lead to some digital noise and artefacting in the darkest of the movies's moments. The movie is presented in 16:9 aspect ratio.
Just a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack which is adequate for the story. Maybe a 5.1 mix could've added more atmosphere during the forest scenes, but the movie doesn't suffer in any way from not having it. There are also the options of 3 commentary tracks; the first by Director Lando and writer Kevin Mosely, the second (unusually) by the sound designers Chris Hind and Jeremy Butler with score composer Chris Nickel, and the third is a cast commentary featuring cast members Kristina Copeland and Gregg Scott.
- Also Available from Ardustry
- Trailers for Savage Island, Liar's Poker, and Jack Frost
- Director's & Writer's Commentary
- Sound Engineers' Commentary
- Actors' Commentary
- Post Commentary Interviews
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