Dir. Adam Werth (2023)
After a plane crash at sea, the survivors find themselves stranded on an island that is more dangerous than they can imagine.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I don’t know how I got hooked up with Mahal Empire, the production company founded by writers and brothers Michael and Sonny Mahal, but they’re producing watchable films at an incredible clip and have nearly perfected the process of making indie films with a blend of recognizable talent, interesting plot, and some great low-budget action/adventure/horror. I’ve reviewed Night of the Tommyknockers, Bridge of the Doomed, and Death Count, and next up in their prodigious lineup is Bermuda Island, a film that once again stars the excellent Sarah French (read our awesome interview with her here) and Tom Sizemore. The film focuses on a group of castaways who have barely survived a plane crash at sea, finding themselves stranded on an island that is perhaps not as deserted as it seems. With them is a group of federal agents who were transporting a drug lord, who chooses the turbulent flight through a sudden storm as the perfect time to unlock his cuffs, steal a gun, and go all shooty. But where did the storm come from, and is it related to the mysteries that will soon be uncovered on the island?
What’s great about these movies, in large part, is the performances by all of the actors involved. It’s easy to assume that French and Sizemore will be pretty good, especially by indie film standards, but the Mahal’s have an almost supernatural instinct for picking directors and crew who get the absolute best out of their casts, in this case director Adam Werth. Not every member of the cast is a hit, and there are definitely some limitations compared to a studio film, but by and large the cast does a great job top to bottom. The acting is not the only part of the film that shines, however. The special effects are excellent, and while some of the effects are purely digital, they’re quite nostalgic of the 90’s SciFi Channel stuff that I grew up watching. What practical effects there are (most commonly body parts and entrails) are pretty believable, and certainly close to the top of what you’d expect from indie horror. The creature effects (spoiler alert) are fantastic, making the film feel like a cross between Survivor and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
There’s a good bit of the film that’s played for comedic effect, and it works really well in what essentially becomes a monster movie. You never quite know what to expect from Mahal Empire, but you know that you’re going to get a super-fun genre film regardless of the direction the plot heads. And believe me, this plot is all kind of bonkers. As someone who grew up a huge fan of mysteries surrounding the Bermuda Triangle and other bizarre occurrences in the world, exploring those kinds of phenomena through a cinematic lens is fascinating and really interesting to flesh out. Granted, on a small-scale indie budget, there’s only so far that those plot points can travel, and most of the fantastical elements of the story are dialogue driven. It’s very well done, though, and all in all it’s a well-crafted story that is a helluva fun watch. That’s what you’re here for, after all, and this movie is a great bang-for-your-buck value. As with previous Mahal Empire film Bridge of the Doomed, Werth delivers a relatively fast-moving and succinct essay on whether man can be as beastly as the beast itself.
Who this movie is for: Indie horror lovers, Creature feature fans, Jeff Probst
Bottom line: Mahal Empire has created another really fun movie, this time an exploration of a Survivor Bermuda Triangle story. The acting is better-than-decent, there are some famous actors involved, and the plot is compelling with some awesome creature effects. You really can’t ask for more from indie horror, and if these types of popcorn movies are your thing, you could do a lot worse. If you enjoyed SciFi Channel films from the 90’s and early 2000’s, check out Bermuda Island, on VOD or bluray from Gravitas Ventures starting January 20th.