Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
October 1st, 2005

Pirates of Ghost Island

Pirates of Ghost Island
Directed by Mitcheal Toles
Writen by Kristen J. Johnson, Pauline Thomas
Starring Melissa Powell, William Landsman, Thomas Stiver, Jennifer Casco
Produced by David Sterling
80 mins

With the highly, highly successful conclusion of "Pirates of the Caribbean" still fresh in everyone's minds, it's not so outlandish to think that the "me, too!" crowd has crawled out of the woodwork.

Imitators are a mixed bag, as always, with some skillful imitators at work as well as some scavengers out for a quick buck also at play. "Pirates of Ghost Island", fresh off the boat from Lions Gate, will prove to be one of the scavengers.

And what "Pirates of Ghost Island" digs up is the story of half a dozen kids shipwrecked on an island following a sudden storm. The island only looks uninhabited, because the next morning, one of them is kidnapped. And thus, the kidnapping leads the remainder into a fight for their lives against the titular pirates of what is, apparently, now Ghost Island, formerly Fishkill Island.

"Pirates of Ghost Island" screams, at once, "low-budget" and "shoddily executed". How? Why, just follow the pirates down their cave on the island when, in 1685, they invented tiki torches. That's right--the "pirate cave" is lit with remnants from a lawn and garden store. For crying out loud, people...this isn't rocket science! You want to make torches for a pirate movie, you make them yourself! You don't run down to Menard's or K-Mart or some such and clear out the tiki torches! This is not a barbecue! This is not a garden party! This is a fucking pirate movie! Show some authenticity, for crying out loud!

And it only gets cheesier the farther in you go. I mean, I've got something of an appreciation for low-budget filmmaking. Some of the best movies I've ever seen were shot on the strength of someone's credit card. But still...for crying out loud, there's low-budget and then there's just downright godawful. "Pirates of Ghost Island" qualifies as downright godawful. The acting has more wood in it than a pirate galleon and the script has more holes than same. The effects are limited to blood and the occasional bit of shimmering blue light to represent ghosts.

I'm not up on my editing techniques, but when they're using wipe effects to advance the footage, I know something pathologically low-budget is going on. That and the movie is also very, very dialogue-heavy. You're spending most of the movie, as a result, watching people talk. That's not exactly entertaining by itself, and with the rest of the problems this movie's got, it just drags it down even further.

Oh, and let's not forget the sheer logical impossibilities, like when the search party goes into the woods and runs into a "native" with a blowgun. The native makes one shot--it's audible that one puff goes into the blowgun--but somehow, the target takes no less than FIVE DARTS TO THE FACE. So unless that's a shotblowgun, somebody really screwed the pooch.

Then, as a final blow to my sensibilities, the characters actually have catch phrases. One starts most of his sentences with "fact is". Dawn, the tall blonde with the accent who spends the entire movie in a red bikini, says "I just wish we could go home" at least four times. I'd say something snarky about that but there's really no point. It's just thoroughly stupid and anyone who watches this will know that anyway. So why bring it up?

The ending is pretty shoddy, but at least manages to not leave too many loose ends. Mostly because the rest of the movie didn't advance a whole lot of plot that had to be tied up later anyway. It's not too hard to put a decent ending on a movie that was pretty much garbage to begin with. The fact that the evil pirate captain was actually defeated by...get this...talking him into giving up is a downright tragedy from a narrative standpoint. The twist is equally shoddy, and the credits roll with what sounds like a karaoke version of "Fifteen Men on a Dead Man's Chest".

The special features are limited to Spanish and English subtitles, along with trailers for "Acts of Death", "Haunted Boat", "Cross Bones", and "Komodo Vs. Cobra". All in all, "Pirates of Ghost Island" is a slow, waterlogged wreck of a movie that proves to be one of the worst pirate movies I've ever seen. Slow, dull, and poorly executed, this scurvy dog is no treasure.

H.P. Lovecraft's The Tomb

H.P. Lovecraft's The Tomb
zero stars
Directed by Ulli Lommel
Written by Ulli Lommel
Starring Victoria Ullmann, Christian Behm, Gerard Griesbaum, Michael Barbour
Produced by Ulli Lommel

Man, what a year 2007 was, huh? I'm personally taking to calling it the "Year of The Taser". There was that guy at the Canadian airport, the pregnant woman, a whole bunch of others, leading up to mister "Don't Tase Me, Bro!" back at that Kerry convention.

By now you're probably shaking your heads, wondering just what the hell I'm up to, anyway. Well, I figured it was high time I shook things up just a bit, and in that vein, I'm taking an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. This year, for the first piece of 2008, I'm doing something nifty: I'm offering up a New Year's Resolution.

I resolve to never again knowingly write about anything that Ulli Lommel does.

Folks, I knew this time was coming. Ulli Lommel has been on my short list for a long time now, and now he's gone and done it. I've seen seven consecutive films from the man in 2007--that's one roughly every seven weeks--and not a one of them has been good. Oh, sure, I've held out some hope, given the man the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe, the Broken Clock Theory might finally apply to this man's slow death of a career, but no. Not once in seven films. Seven consecutive horrible films.

But this one here, "H.P. Lovecraft's The Tomb", was the one that pushed me right over the edge. I've been watching this man singlehandedly destroy every mythos he got his hands on. From Poe to the Zodiac to even zombie movies, I've watched him ruin everything he did. And that was bad enough. But when he put his horrible anti-talent to work on an H.P. Lovecraft concept, that was it for me. That he could ruin the only occasionally coherent work of Lovecraft just enraged me.

Lommel's "H.P. Lovecraft's The Tomb" defies explanation. He's locked a bunch of people in that all-too-familiar warehouse set of his and let them run around in a vaguely "Saw" kind of atmosphere as they try to accomplish the ludicrous task of figuring out why they're there in the first place and the much more rational task of trying to get out alive.

It sounds ludicrous that that could be an actual movie plotline, but it's Ulli Lommel. And frankly, considering that it's Ulli Lommel, there is no such animal as too ludicrous. That's why I'm swearing off the man, frankly. I've got better things to do and write about than wasting my time with this man and his non-stop parade of garbage. And you, conversely, have much better things to do than waste YOUR time watching this man's non-stop parade of garbage.