Bad movies seem to go hand-in-hand with the horror genre. While every category of film is bound to have its lesser offerings (usually found on the direct-to-video shelves of your local shop), it is the horror genre that seems to attract more stinkers than any other. There's an old saying in Hollywood that horror movies are so numerous because they can be made cheaply and will almost always turn at least a small profit. Maybe it is that flawed logic that deserves the blame for the atrocity that is Island of the Dead, a film that had no right in ever being MADE, much less earning any profit.
Malcolm McDowell, whose career has now sunk to levels previously not thought to be humanly possible, plays a megalomaniac developer inexplicably obsessed with building a housing project on a desolate New York island. His counterpart in the film is a young Manhattan detective searching for three little girls who continually haunt her mind each day. We get to know both of these characters all-too-well throughout the first hour of the film, which is literally nothing but character development. This is the most exhaustive example of exposition bad cinema has ever seen, and yet it's all for naught, as none of it does anything whatsoever to engage the viewer. Instead we are left banging our heads in frustration, wondering when the hell the action is going to start - after all, well-developed characters don't mean anything unless they are placed in perilous situations.
Once the 'action' does start, however, one is left not only frustrated but also utterly perplexed at what is happening on the screen. While a title like 'Island of the Dead' might lead you to believe the scourge of the film is a horde of zombies (or something similar), the actual threat is far less commonplace - and far, far less interesting: flies. Poison flies. As ludicrous as the idea sounds, the characters in Island of the Dead are attacked by a swarm of poison flies.
In a good 'bad' movie, a mass of attacking flies wouldn't be so unheard of. In fact, it could be a blessing, opening up any number of campy possibilities. But Island of the Dead is not at all campy. It plays the whole fly angle completely straight, which means the film doesn't even come across as so-bad-it's-good. It's just BAD.
Giving credit where credit is due, there is some nice cinematography in the film. Many of the shots are really overused, however, to the point where you find yourself getting very tired of what you are seeing, talent or no talent. It is a rare case of a film which has nothing to offer; whatever small nuances of entertainment that might be hidden within Island of the Dead are crushed by the overwhelming amount of truly awful stuff. The film lurches and drags throughout its whole duration, leaving the viewer with only two distinct options: continue to suffer through it and risk almost certain destructive tendencies, or shut the tape off and salvage what time you can.
Island of the Dead is the worst of the worst, a bottom-of-the-barrel piece of garbage that is so painful to watch that it really could be detrimental to your mental stability. Stay away.