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Pinata: Survival Island (DVD)

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Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / Theatrical Release: 2002 / Director: David Hillenbrand / Actors: Eugene Byrd, Garrett Wang ... / DVD released 04 February, 2003 at First Look Pictures / Features of the DVD: Colour, DVD-Video, NTSC

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      14.10.2007 18:21
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      A film not worth making.

      85. Pinata: Survival Island (2002)
      [aka Demon Island]

      Would I rather watch Pinata, or be a Pinata? Tough question. Both involve a fair amount of suffering.

      Everything starts with a history lesson told by a gravely ethnic voice. Telling the tale of a Mexican village over a hundred years ago suffering from droughts and famine, believing they are cursed by evil spirits. A shaman conducts a ritual (pig hearts and all) to trap the evil that plagues the land inside a pinata. Then they chucked it in the river and ate a load of candy. There were apparently no fly-tipping laws in those days.

      Cut to 2001, a sunny island, pop music, lots of skin baring college teens having a water fight. They're on a bizarre charity scavenger hunt that involves collecting thousands of pairs of underwear all over the island. Whilst handcuffed together in pairs. Soon enough someone finds a washed up pinata and does what any self respecting, drug fuelled, panty hunting teen would do. Hit it with a stick. I'm sure everyone knows what will follow.

      Written and directed by what I will assume is the Hillenbrand brothers, Scott and David, their previous offering was King Cobra – a sequel to Anaconda. Enough said already I think, but I should give them a fair hearing. It's rubbish. Another 'teens die horribly' film. All the usual rules apply; smoke drugs – die, get jiggy – die, make bad jokes – die. All thanks to the NIMBY tribe. Speaking of which that intro sequence tells you the entire plot, destroying any chance of some potentially fun surprises. Then the Hillenbrand brothers have the gall to explain it all again later for the benefit of the dying teens. It's this kind of lazy film-making that typifies Pinata. I can only conclude that this movie was more about getting a quick buck off the Hollywood horror obsession that's been going strong for nearly a decade.

      For the most part the camerawork is about as mundane as possible, aside from some random slow motion shots at inappropriate moments, and really ugly point of view shots from the pinata bearing a loose similarity to Predator. Other than the modern effects and video quality the whole film is very reminiscent of the cheap schlock that came out in the straight to video horror craze of the eighties. This wouldn't be as bad as it is if it didn't take itself so seriously. How that's possible with a killer pinata I don't know. It lacks atmosphere, and the story is on such well-trodden ground I doubt even the best directors could do much to improve it without a total overhaul. The core audience for this type of movie will be wanting cheap thrills, and while there is a little gore it generally fails to deliver. It barely deserves the 18 rating, probably best used to spare as many people as possible from watching it.

      The pinata monster looks sort of cool (in a cheesy way) in the brief moments where it's a man in a suit. Then suddenly starts looking like a cheap rejected computer game sequence when the CGI takes over. And it takes over far too much and in the most under-whelming fashion thinkable. One of our sweet filled friend's chosen methods of death is of course hitting people with a stick. I guess it's supposed to be ironic, but ends up looking cheap. It may have been a wasted opportunity to set things on a tropical island. Imagine if the pinata had crashed a pool hall, and all the glorious potential stick hitting action. Perhaps even more amusingly I've actually seen stick hitting deaths done far better in other films, such as Sleepaway Camp 2. No kidding.

      The acting is of the sort of standard you could expect from taking the supporting cast from numerous TV shows, and it's not too far from what they've done. There are no great performances, though it's all very easy on the eye. The leads are played by Nicholas Brendon (who was Xander in Buffy), and Jaime Pressly, whose other roles include Poison Ivy: The New Seduction and The Karate Dog. They don't really get characters to play, more so vacuous victims, and Brendon is given the unfortunate role of happening to know all about this bizarre piece of Mexican history. It just doesn't fit, unless it was a question on Jeopardy that week. After that it's faceless, one dimensional, pinata fodder.

      I've no sympathy for this movie. It gives horror a bad name, and for it has rightfully sunk into the IMDb bottom 100, scoring an average of 2.6 out of a possible 10, with 1,341 votes (as of 17th July). Even though I laughed at it a fair few times, it's so badly made I can't bring myself to give it any extra stars. I'd rate this zero if I could for sheer incompetence. The tagline reads 'A weekend to dismember.' Just forget it.

      Rated: UK:18 / USA:R
      Running Time: 85 mins


      DVD extras include:
      - Some trailers.
      - Director's commentary.
      - A multiple choice trivia game based on the movie. Joy. I won first try.
      - Behind the scenes photos, and biographies.
      - And most foolish of all, a 'Making the Monster' documentary, which tries to talk up the CGI effects after admitting they stuffed up filming the man in suit version of the monster.

      Oh, and the box says it's 90 minutes long. It's not. It's 85 including a long credits list. Naughty.

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    • Product Details

      A group of college fraternity and sorority kids show up for an island adventure, the annual Cinco de Mayo treasure hunt. The testosterone runs high and the scheming is down and dirty to collect the most underwear before crossing the finish line. The fun and games soon turn into a contest of survival when two of the co-eds smash an ancient piñata, reviving the demon spirits within. Suddenly the drunken and sexy exploits become hide-from-the-creep. Only something this evil could tear such good friends apart!