John Bruni reviews Terror In The Tropics

Terror In The Tropics 57 min., 2006
Written by A. Susan Svehla
Directed by A. Susan Svehla
Language: English
My rating: ★★★

There’s a fine line between parody and homage.

* * *

Boris Karloff. Bela Lugosi. Lon Chaney, Jr. They reunite in TERROR IN THE TROPICS, which was made in . . . 2005?! How can this be?!

Remember that episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which kinda-sorta starred Humphrey Bogart? They used old footage of him and molded it to fit the script’s needs. Well, writer/director A. Susan Svehla does just this, and not just with the aforementioned actors, but also with a lot of old stock footage and even more scenes from forgotten movies in the public domain.

A mysterious millionaire dies, and he names a handful of strangers as his inheritors. However, in order to get their reward, they must go to Fog Island. One of them, Mary Ankers, has a couple of reporters along with her to cover the story. Together, this odd assortment of b-movie staples encounter a lot of eerie situations and curious people. When it becomes apparent that the folks on Fog Island have nefarious purposes in mind for Mary, the others must—

Actually, it doesn’t really matter. None of it does, because this isn’t actually a movie; it’s a gimmick. Granted, it’s a pretty cool gimmick, but at its heart, it lacks the originality and creative drive that produces a true work of art. The main concern with this film is, something like this can easily fall from being a noble homage to an unimportant parody.

It’s very apparent that everyone involved in this film truly loves these movies of old, and they do their best to reproduce them, rather than make fun of them. While the dialogue is obvious, it is still pretty catchy, just like back then. They use bad models, but hey! That was par for the course back then. They even do an excellent job of getting the picture to look like an old film, scratches and pops and all.

But they’re just not good enough to perfectly blend the old scenes with the modern ones. The ones shot in 2005 are too obvious, and even though they did their best to dirty them up, they seem too clean, to focused. The actors do their best to act like folks did back then. They get an A for effort, but they just can’t pull it off. And when they do the old spinning newspaper headlines bit, it just doesn’t come off well.

The fight scenes are bad, which works out for the movie. Some of the dubbing is awful, which doesn’t do much for viewers at all. But they do use the expected tribal dance number. And Claymation dinosaurs! They have those, too!

But the biggest strength of the film is the music. It perfectly imitates the soundtracks of the old days, almost to the point where one wonders if they borrowed those from some forgotten stock folder.

Is this great? No. There’s not a lot of substance to it. Is it fun? Hell yeah! If you loved watching Lugosi, Karloff, and Chaney in some of their lesser known flicks, this is an absolute must for you.

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About John Bruni

John Bruni is the author of DONG OF FRANKENSTEIN (New Kink), POOR BASTARDS AND RICH FUCKS and TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE (StrangeHouse) and STRIP (Riot Forge). His short work has appeared in anthologies like A HACKED-UP HOLIDAY MASSACRE (Pill Hill), ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! BRAIN BANG! (StrangeHouse) and the critically acclaimed VILE THINGS (Comet). He edited STRANGE SEX 3 for StrangeHouse, and he was the editor and publisher of TABARD INN: TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE. Find out more at www.talesofquestionabletaste.com and www.talesofunspeakabletaste.blogspot.com.
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