We would like to give a big thank you to the folks at Mahal Empire for the opportunity to review a pre-release of their new castaway monster movie Bermuda Island (2023) being release by Gravitas Ventures. From the perspective of fundraising, marketing and releasing high-quality content at an amazing pace, Mahal Empire’s game it real tight. The secret to their success involves keeping it simple and delivering honest horror films that cater to tried and true formulas. One of the shining examples of one of those tropes is the good old fashioned monster movie with a hint of Lovecraftian horror.
In Lovecraftian horror, the focus is on the unknown and the unknowable, often involving powerful, ancient deities or in this case an ancient esoteric tribe of monsters that are indifferent to humanity. The stories often describe characters coming into contact with these beings and being driven to madness by the experience. The settings of these stories are typically dark and oppressive, and there is often a sense of hopelessness and helplessness in the face of the overwhelming power of the entities described.
Menagerie of tourists set their sites on traveling to an island paradise in the midst of a brewing storm off-shore. In transit, the plane is struck by lightning causing it to torpedo into the ocean, killing most on board apart from a small band of survivors. The survivors make their way to the shore, but it’s not the paradise that they were looking for. Their trouble begins with infighting amongst themselves.
When night falls, their situation becomes much more dire. Behind the beautiful tropical backdrop hides an ancient tribe of bloodthirsty monsters.
Fantastic cinematography in fantastic location
The production team shot Bermuda Island on the the island of Viques just off the coast of Puerto Rico. The setting is utterly fabulous and the Director Adam Werth and Director of Photography Michael Su take full advantage of it. It start with what seems to be reoccurring theme in Mahal Empire films, towering fly over shots of vast terrain. One shot in particular creeps over the edge of a waterfall cascading into a pool below while the subject, make their way like tiny little ants.
Honestly, its more than simple photography of majestic scenery. The night shooting looks fantastic, maintaining the illusion of darkness with the subjects fully illuminated and visible. Furthermore, the use of a cinematic depth of focus draws the eyes to the critical visuals while obfuscating the rest really stands out. One shot brought back serious vibes from Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980). That’s a serious accolade.
Filming at Viques did not come without its challenges. Production of Bermuda Island occurred during the height of the pandemic and strict COVID protocols triggered hazmat suits and impromptu testing. This created serious delays and undue pressure on the budget because of costly reshoots. Fortunately the production team persevered and completed the film.
Adam Werth gets some strong performances in key roles to help carry the film. It begins with Sarah French as the lead female role of Carolyn. Coming off of a strong performances in Death Count (2022) French plays another strong female character that sets the tone very early. Carolyn is a literal ball-buster.
Other strong performances come from Victor V Gelsomino as Damon, a street smart survivor and eventual apple of Carolyn’s eye. He concedes early on that he’s not a survivalist; however, his ability to navigate his environment makes him a strong character. The other is a man named Bruce played by John Wells. The survivors find Bruce already living on the island as a previous castaway. He proves to be the keystone to the plot of the film.
The supporting performances range from good enough to pretty damn interesting. It starts with Sherry Davis as the Peggy, the loud and abrasive traveler with resting bitch face. Our only lament is that name “Karen” went to another actress in the film because she is a “Karen” if I have ever seen one.
Kimberly Lynn Cole utters my favorite dark comedic line as Maleah. She screams, “It’s going to take more than you to fucking take me down” while being attacked… dies 2.5 seconds later. Lest we forget Midnight, the gothic rocker for Baphomet records played by Greg Tally.
My favorite supporting performance comes from Noel Gugliemi as the notorious gun runner, Diego Montalban. For those that know their film history, Gugliemi delivers one of the most terrifying performances while going cold on Ethan Hawke in Training Day (2001). Bermuda island, tugs on some of that street tough personality. Diego provides another outlet for dark comedy. Sadly, Diego doesn’t make to the island, but his short screen presence works really well.
Bringing it all together
Heretofore, I’ve been really high on Bermuda Island, but it’s not without its not with issue. The story feels somewhat fragmented sometimes wanders. For example, as much as we like the Diego Montalban story arc it doesn’t really fit the overall plot other than to provide a clumsy vehicle for getting some FBI agents to the island. But hey, we all know that FBI agents are delicious.
In explicably, Carolyn and Damon decided that after a night of harrowing attack by flesh eating monsters sexy time and a skinny dip alone by the waterfall is a prudent move. Furthermore, the carnivorous beasts starve for flesh, but kindly ignore a herd of wild horses.
At the end of the day, it’s horror movie and these things are not only par for the course, but they are also forgivable.
The writers, do a great job of setting up a MAJOR twist at the end that I did not see coming. That twist resolves some of the wide-open questions concerning Bruce’s strange tale of how he got to the island and how long he had been there, but I was left wanting more. For the sake of spoiling the film, we’ll leave it at that.
Mahal Empire does a great job at making honest monster movies, and Bermuda Island is another fine example of that. We loved the mystery of this monstrous civilization, but would have preferred a bit more resolution; however, Bermuda Island is beautifully shot and provides enough strong performance to keep it all together.
If you are looking for an honest indie horror movie about a lost civilization of Lovecraftian monsters craving human flesh garnished in Hawaiian shirts, Bermuda Island is the film for you.
In one last shout-out, the marketing and design department did a fantastic job with the movie poster for this one. All in one, it tells the story in an abstract enough way to create mystery. It’s both beautiful and horrifying at the same time.