Island Escape Poster

Island Escape (2023) Review

Most of writer/director Bruce Wemple’s films fall into one of two categories. There are films about cryptids like Dawn of the Beast and The Retreat. And there are films dealing with abnormalities with time, such as The Tomorrow Job and Lake Artifact.

Island Escape seems to be an attempt to bring the two themes together with this story of an accident at a research base on the Isle of Gran Manan. We know something is really wrong as the prologue shows a helicopter pilot being killed by what appears to be a bestial version of himself, who then tries to fly off in the chopper only to have it explode in midair.

Meanwhile, after a barfight, Chase (Chris Cimperman, Dangerous Medicine, First Contact) is approached by Alison (Ariella Mastroianni, My Best Friend’s Dead, White Noise) who claims to know him, although he doesn’t remember her. She does know he was part of The Ghost Project and wants to hire him.

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Whatever went wrong on Gran Manan left several people stranded there, and she needs a team to go in and rescue one of them, the CEO’s daughter, within the next twenty-four hours. Seven people, two teams, one going to each of the two camps on the island. Find the woman and meet at the rendezvous point for extraction, sounds simple, right?

Plotwise Island Escape sounds like an Italian zombie film from back in the day, something like Hell of the Living Dead/Night of the Zombies or Zombie 3, pitting a team of military types with names like Colt (Michael L. Parker, The Host, Burn My Money) and Tank (LeJon Woods, Baby Oopsie 2: Murder Dolls, Bring Him Back Dead) against the walking dead created by science gone wrong.

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Instead, the script gives the viewer a variety of odd events that make it clear that this is no ordinary extraction but doesn’t give them much idea of what is going on. It’s all fairly creepy as they begin having flashbacks and finding things that suggest they’ve been here before. Which apparently they have, as something is not only preventing them from leaving, it resets time on the island every three days. And the next one is in twelve hours.

“With Island Escape, I wanted to make a classic horror action movie in the vein of the classic John Carpenter movies (Escape from New York, LA, Big Trouble Little China)”

Bruce Wemple, writer/director Island Escape

This is when the action kicks in with creature attacks and a race to escape during a brief window immediately before the reset. It’s still not non-stop action but it does serve as a nice payoff to what’s been building up, turning into something like a Twilight Zone episode with, for lack of a better term, rage zombies.

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While Island Escape may not be non-stop action, what we do get is well-staged if rather basic. The same can be said for the effects, various gruesome-looking corpses and some serviceable makeup for the creatures. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. Unfortunately, as with The Tomorrow Job, almost none of this is explained, however. Even at the end of the film, there’s no explanation of how any of this works. Wemple says he thinks films work better when they explain less, but leaving it so mysterious that it might as well be magic doesn’t work either.

In the end, the lack of explanations is frustrating but not a dealbreaker. There’s more than enough going on, and going right, to make Island Escape an enjoyable indie action horror film.

Epic Pictures has released Island Escape to select theatres via its Dread division. It comes to VOD and Digital Platforms on August 6th and Blu-ray on September 12th.

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