Piñata: Survival Island (2002)

JANUARY 18, 2011


Earlier today, I posted my weekly "Terror Tuesday" article for Badass Digest, and the topic for this week was how I was getting sort of sick of people recommending me movies to watch while adding "it's so bad", because I find enough bad movies on my own. Such as Piñata: Survival Island (aka Demon Island), a woeful piece of shit that is already my front-runner for the worst movie of 2011. I guess it's karma for complaining about bad movies. "You think you've seen too many bad movies, asshole?" shouted the gods of cinema; "You haven't even seen Piñata: Survival Island!"

Fitting then, that the film starred Jaime Pressly, best known for starring on My Name Is Earl, a show built around the concept of karma. She's also recently known for being arrested for driving while intoxicated, but I think the judge will show leniency if she proves that despite starring in Piñata: Survival Island nearly a decade ago, this was the first time she felt compelled to get dangerously drunk. I would have downed a half-bottle of Ouzo after the first screening, personally.

Right off the bat I knew I was in for a tough ride, as the film began with at least six minutes' worth of voiceover explaining the legend of the damn thing. Since I knew the movie was about a killer piñata going after a bunch of college kids, I assumed the legend wasn't really that important to the actual plot (and I was right), but that wasn't what was troubling me - the overly serious tone was. This movie's about a fucking killer piñata, so I assumed that it was supposed to be funny (whether it actually WOULD be or not was another matter), but this endless opening suggested otherwise.

Then the kids showed up, and all hope for a good-natured borderline spoof of these things went out the window. All the actors were playing it straight, our leads were saddled with an inane relationship subplot involving his suspicion that she was cheating on him, and despite the fact that the reason they were on the island was for a panties scavenger hunt, no laughs, attempted or earned, were in sight. And they don't even bother sticking with the "quarreling couple" storyline for long; Pressly and the guy (Buffy's Nicholas Brendon) make up about 30 minutes in, not that their relationship status has a goddamn thing to do with their character actions for the rest of the film.

Now, I did laugh at the killer piñata attack scenes, because they were so gloriously awful. Despite my initial excitement at seeing that the Chiodo Brothers were responsible for the creature FX, it became clear, and quick, that their work was either done as a favor for someone they didn't really like, or replaced with someone else's CGI, because the monster was atrocious. The scenes where it attacked were edited so frenetically it became impossible to understand what was happening, and his size seemed to change from scene to scene as well. Every now and then you can catch a glimpse of what may have been a goofy but still kind of cool monster, but it vanishes before you can give it any sort of reverence.

Worse still are the numerous "Piñata POV" shots, where we see... actually I have no idea what we're supposed to be seeing most of the time. Occasionally you can make out one of the actors in the middle of the frame, but mostly it's just a big pink blob of nothingness covering the screen, with a little triangle (of a darker or lighter shade of pink) in the center for some reason. Weezer fan, perhaps? There are at least 50 of these shots in the movie, and I started to suspect that the movie was running short and they were tossed in to pad it out a little bit, with the excessive filtering as an attempt to hide that the shots had fuck all to do with the rest of the scene.

Then the climax comes, and the movie reaches all new levels of terrible. First of all it's so dark that it's difficult to tell exactly what they are doing or why that random 3rd character is a. screaming and b. not dead, since these sort of things should always come down to one or two people, not three. But then they just BLOW UP the supernatural monster that's spawned from the souls of a dead village. As with Dolly Dearest, it seems to me that simply blowing up an abstract thing like a soul won't work - even End of Days knew better and did that whole "faith" thing at the end. And then, I shit you not, CAMPUS POLICE show up to "investigate". They're not on campus - the movie takes place on a deserted island. What the hell kind of jurisdiction do these guys have?

Actually this final scene does serve some purpose, unlike the ones that preceded it. First, it doesn't hint at a sequel, so I have to laud them on that one - even they knew this thing would be doomed (it's the rare non-MST3k episode or Gigli level disaster that's in the bottom 100 on the IMDb, in fact). Second, the directors appear as two of the campus police, so now angry viewers will know what they look like. I discovered this when I went to seek out their other films on the IMDb, so I could be sure to avoid them, only to find out that this is actually the THIRD movie from the pair I've watched. Yes, David and Scott Hillenbrand are also responsible for the woeful early HMAD entry Gamebox 1.0, as well as Transylmania, their horrid vampire spoof that somehow got a theatrical release back in 2009. And as much as I disliked that movie, it was still better than this. If they can continue the same rate of improvement, I eagerly await the film they release in 2079, which by my math will be kind of OK. Until then, screw these two. This is the type of shit that makes me want to quit HMAD.

What say you?


  1. My deepest condolences, I sat through this about 5 years ago, and then had a late fee when we accidentally returned an empty DVD case.

  2. I just don't get it! How is it even possible to botch a film with a name as awsome as "Piñata: Survival Island?"

    This title screams "midnight screening favorite." But all it is is a piece of garbage? What a shame...

  3. Hilariously, this film is the entire reason behind this epic film I've been working on since 2004. When Pinata Survival Island came out on video, I told my friend I'd rented it and then we watched it together. He was disappointed to find that it was nothing like what the title made him picture in his head, an actual island of pinatas fighting to the death. So, we went off to two separate colleges, and then he calls me up one day and says that that movie should exist. But, instead of pinatas, we used stuffed animals. The film still has yet to be finished (and, sadly, may never be finished). We had a website that included a newer, better trailer (which we edited to make it look like all the characters were singing "Breaking the Law" by Judas Priest!), but it no longer exists. You can still see a REALLY old trailer for it though (for some reason, it's been edited to where, at the end, you don't see the name of the movie, "BADASS", nor do you see a Lobster pop up and say "Muthafucka!" But still, you might get a laugh out of this. Trust me, the finished film would've looked a lot better, as we cut a lot of this old footage out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ15Dto5DzM

  4. I remember this appearing on AMC's "Fearfest" a few years ago and I made it through about 45 minutes. If I had known Campus Police were going to show up, I would have made it till the end. Seriously, that alone has made my day. I love ineptitude at that kind of level. It's genius.

  5. The only thing that made me laugh harder than the movie was this review. First of all, I didn't think anyone else in the world had seen this except for me. I loved this film in all its absurdity because I saw it at 5 am on the sci-fi channel - my expectations were not high. Campus security popping up was definitely the highlight. I swear, I think screenplays got mixed up. I'm just glad someone else has witnessed this masterpiece and for that, I thank you.

  6. fuck u assholes... it was a great movie... go try making a movie urselves... otherwise lets all team up and buttfuck the sales girl Sharifa Tanjim over at my office


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