Retro-review: Available on Blu-ray/DVD from Arrow Films!
aka DEMON ISLAND, DEMON’S ISLAND, BLOOD TIDE, THE RED TIDE
Directed by Richard Jefferies
Written by Richard Jefferies, Nico Mastorakis
Starring Martin Cove, James Earl Jones, José Ferrer, Lila Kedrova, Mary Louise Weller, Lydia Cornell, Deborah Shelton, Sofia Seirli, Despina Tomazani, Rania Photiou, Spyros Papafrantzis, Irini Tripkou, Annabel Schofield
For some reason, I was under the impression that BLOODTIDE was a slasher film. Turns out, it isn’t. It’s a ancient water demon monster film with an awesome cast, beautiful cinematography, and a rather hokey looking monster. It’s also got kids throwing cats, so there’s that.
Neil (THE KARATE KID’s Martin Kove) and Sherry (ANIMAL HOUSE’s Mary Louise Weller) make their way to the Greek Island of Synaron in search of Neil’s missing sister Madeline (Deborah Shelton). Turns out she’s whacked out of her gourd on drugs, studying painting restoration, and becoming mesmerized by an ancient demon on the island. While Neil is not too happy about the way Madeline is presenting, he is forced to stay on the island by the locals led by their tribal leader Nereus (José Ferrer). So he makes the best of it and hangs out on the beach with his girlfriend Sherry and his sis Madeline, joined by another odd couple the fortune hunter Frye (James Earl Jones) and his ditzy gal Barbara (TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT’s Lydia Cornell). When Frye accidentally lets loose an ancient demon from an underground cave, the waters become more dangerous than ever and Madeline’s connection with the ancient sea god becomes too much to withstand.
The real draw here is the cast of BLOODTIDE. This film gives all kinds of actors a chance to shine in bigger roles than they usually get. Kove is great as the heroic and slightly dim witted Neil. His performance makes me wish the actor would’ve had more lead roles as he does have a likable charisma to him. Weller is great as Neil’s girlfriend, who is really the brains here who seems to be the only one not entranced with the island itself and notices all of the weirdness going on. Shelton is decent as the spacey Madeline, but her role requires her to be pretty much out of it the whole time. She does have a very entertaining scene involving a bottle of expensive perfume that made me laugh loudly. James Earl Jones as Frye is the most interesting character of the bunch. Jones really brings a developed presence to the role that makes you want to see the hundreds of other adventures he’s been on through the years. And holy mackerel, Lydia Cornell was one of my biggest crushes as a kid. I had no idea she was in this film and she is simply stunning as the bathing beauty who is dedicated to Frye’s every whim. I loved the fun relationship between Frye and Cornell’s Barbara that is abusive on the surface, but seems to be mutually beneficial for both of them. Both the relationships between the four leads are complex and more realized than most horror films of this era.
The monster itself is hokey as all get out. They must have spent all of the money on the airfare to get the cast out to Greece. It’s supposed to be an ancient dragon demon thing, but looks like something from the man in suit beach party era of monster movies. More interesting and intimidating is the representation of Greek culture and religion as a bizarre pagan belief system full of strange rituals and mysticism. BLOODTIDE really works at giving off that stranger in a strange land feel as Neil and Sherry boat up to this mysterious island.
BLOODTIDE is extremely entertaining from beginning to end. It’s full of performances that are better than they should be for this type of schlocky horror. There’s gratuitous nudity and a little bit of bloodshed (specifically a person is torn to shreds and floats up in the surf). There is also a very weird kiss between Neil and his sister Madeline that is a bit too sensual for comfort and left me with a lot of questions. While I’m sure Greeks may be a bit put off at the oddity assigned to their religious beliefs, it ended up being a suspenseful thriller that works despite the goofy monster (which thankfully is only shown in snippets, most likely because the director knew how bad it looked).