Original Title: 孤島驚魂
Countries: China, Hong Kong
Languages: Mandarin, English, Japanese
Director: Chung Kai Cheung
Mysterious Island feels like one giant troll of a film by director Chung Kai Cheung. The story follows eight youths – four guys and four girls – who make their way to the titular island to compete in a televised reality show. The game: survive without any supplied food and water and retrieve a flag. Led by a TV reporter and her cameraman, and divided into pairs, the first team that is able to retrieve the flag will win one million USD.
As they approach the island, their boat is struck by an unknown force, sinking their ride and sending them into the ocean. They all wind up on shore with all supplies lost. However, only one group was able to hang on to their map, making them the targets of the other teams. As they give chase, the entire group is attacked by a herd of raging wild boars, leading them to an abandoned house in the middle of the woods.
There, they stumble upon a strange sight – urns with each of their names on them, with a message written on the windows saying that each and every one of them will be killed.
The story has all the makings of a horror-turned-accidental comedy: strange and nonsensical plot, generic characters, really odd cinematography, and much more. For someone who enjoys those kinds of flicks, it’s like being a fat kid at a buffet.
Let’s start with the characters. There are a total of ten characters, all of whom the narrative is split between. That means you have ten characters who the film tries to push as being the lead. With ten leads, what ends up happening is that the audience doesn’t get attached to any of them. They won’t know who to cheer for…well, that it, until last person is left standing.
Let’s describe all the characters we get to choose from: reporter girl, cameraman, Jordan Chan, girl #1 who bitches at Jordan Chan, girl #2 who flashes Jordan Chan, soft spoken girl who partners with Jordan Chan, girl with glasses whose main purpose is to indirectly tell the backstory of the island, random guy #1, random guy #2, and random Japanese dude.
Sorry for the weak descriptions, but it’s kind of hard when you don’t really get introduced to anyone by name. But that goes to show that one, Jordan Chan is most likely going to be the only face anyone cares about. Two, there is barely anything to set the characters apart from each other. And three, there are too many characters.
There doesn’t seem to be a language barrier separating any of the characters. While the majority of the characters speak Mandarin, the reporter and cameraman speak in English the entire time, even to the Mandarin speakers. Topping it off is the random Japanese fellow who speaks Japanese to everyone, regardless of what language is spoken to him. The best thing of it all is they all understand each other as if they are speaking the same language.
There is no purpose of having this kind of international mix of characters when the story’s TV program isn’t even being broadcasted all over the world. It’s kind of strange, too, when the game is meant to split everyone into pairs, yet there are only one cameraman and one reporter to follow each of the players.
The storytelling does its best to make us forget that the film is supposed to be a horror story. Imagine you are walking through a haunted house, and that at just about every turn and corner, there is someone to pop out from a hidden door. Each scare is accompanied by the usual loud noise that is aimed to make the audience jump. What that does is lessen the impact of each scare successively.
But maybe to enjoy this film, it’s best to just laugh at everything. Laugh at the CG sting rays that swim so fast, they pick up enough velocity and force to sink a boat. Laugh at how over-the-top Hayama Hiro gets when he starts being a bloodthirsty knife swinger. Laugh at the story’s attempt of a plot twist.
And of course, laugh at the ending, seeing the final survivor having no way to get off the island.
Watch this film…
…if you love it when hot models strip in an attempt to divert your attention.