A group of six young people (three men and three women) from a theater company visit a burial island, with the hopes of digging up a corpse to use it as part of an acting project. They stay in the caretaker's cabin beside the cemetery. Their leader is Alan, an overly-eccentric actor and pervert, who is disliked by all the others. Alan tells them that the caretaker is in an asylum for killing his wife and two children. The next caretaker hung himself. He goes on to say that the island's been deserted for two years.
Alan starts out just playing with them but then he tries to perform satanic rites, from an ancient book, to raise the dead. When it fails, they ridicule and mock him. They then take a real dug up corpse and play with him. Without warning, the dead start rising from their graves and attack their cabin. The ending leaves us with many possibilities.
The story's fairly simple: a group of young people fool around with rites to raise the dead. Sounds simple? It is. But there's an underlying uniqueness to it. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Don't expect Shakespeare.
This is one of the film's strong points. It's shot at night, on the dark and secluded island. Not much can be seen beyond the immediate camera view, nothing, that is, besides utter and total darkness. It constantly begs the question: what is out there and do we care to find out? There's several spooky looking trees, a cemetery, a deserted cabin, eerie sounds. I felt it very similar to the atmosphere created by The Evil Dead, Night of the Living Dead, and Carnival of Souls.
Alan Ormsby plays Alan, the overly-eccentric director of the theater company with him on the island. He has an air of upper-class-ness but it's mostly an act of arrogance to try to prove he's better than everyone else. This causes great animosity with the others. He also makes unwanted vocal advances on the women which only adds to his dislike by them. While the group mocks and belittles him, they still follow his leadership as they think he can get them good acting roles in the
future. Underneath his arrogant guise, he's seems likeable to an extent. Alan Ormsby does a great job in his role. He portrays his cockiness to an extent that you want to choke him but not enough to kill him. He's eccentric and colorful. His enunciation and diction sounds like he did do stage acting a bit. He's written and produced or directed such films as Deranged, Porky's II, Cat People, and The Substitute. He's also been a writer on Nash Bridges and The District.
Valerie Mamches plays Val, the most outspoken girl of the group. She's sort gypsy-like because in one scene she chants the rites well. I don't know if she was meant to be a gypsy or a witch or whether or not she was just mocking Alan. Either way she added a great sarcasm to the story.
Jeff Gillen plays Jeff, a heavy set man who is slightly outspoken at times. He is likeable.
Anya Ormsby plays Anya, a psychic girl among the group. She's soft-spoken and says she thinks bad things are about to happen. Again, she adds another level of color and an air of mystery to this film. She does well with her role.
Paul Cronin plays Paul, a low-key character who doesn't stand out much at all. He gets pushed around pretty easily.
Jane Daly plays Terry, the strong-willed girlfriend to Jeff. Alan makes advances on her which she promptly retorts.
Robert Philip plays Emerson and Roy Engleman plays Roy. They're two of Alan's friends who help him play a trick on Alan's group.
Alecs Baird plays the caretaker who's tied up to a tree by two of Alan's friends so that they can play a trick on Alan's group.
Seth Sklarey plays Orville Dunworth, the corpse the group plays with.
Director Bob Clark has worked on other films such a Deathdream (1974), Black Christmas (1974) - he was also the prowler/phone voice, Porky's (1982), A Christmas Story (1983), Porky's II (1983).
Don't expect high-quality film. It's a bit faded and shot at night with plenty of dark shadowy areas. Rather than detracting from the film, it adds a bit of charm to this low-budget project. Without this, it wouldn't been half as good as it is.
The FX are pretty good for a low-budget film from the early 70s. The zombie make-up is the best part of the film! They are some of the best zombies I've seen. They'd be perfect for Night of the Living Dead and certainly better than the original Dawn of the Dead (move over Savinni!). Now not all of the zombies are great but there's two or three that stand out (pictured below). Just try to find creepier looking zombies!
The sound is pretty good. There's almost a constant sound of chirping crickets, owl, and water. It certainly adds to the atmosphere immensely.
Give this film a chance. Sure it's low-budget, sure the acting isn't great, and sure it's not the greatest effects. But there's something special about it. It's no The Evil Dead or Night of the Living Dead but it's not bad. Actually, the ending could possibly fit into Romero's Dead series of movies as a pre-cursor to NOTLD with another explanation to how the zombies were first resurrected. Parts of it seem to be very similar to The Evil Dead, which was produced nearly a decade later.