Whodunit? 1982 Review
aka Scared Alive aka Island of Blood
Directed by: Bill Naud
Starring: Marie-Alise Recasner, Rick Dean, Bari Suber
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This peak period slasher was one of the first that I got my grubby little hands on when I was a nipper and the store keeper at my local rental shop was more than happy to part ways with it in exchange for a shiny £1 coin. Even back in those days it didn’t make much of an impression on me. I was keen however to give it another look with an adult mind, because I notice that my opinions have somewhat softened over the years.
Interestingly enough, ‘Dunit managed to escape the wrath of the BBFC and doesn’t look to have been castrated at all in the UK. There’s one quick cut when someone’s about to be murdered, but unless this was snipped by the MPAA before it was submitted here, then it looks like the full print. It’s also very hard to tell by the jumps in the runtime if they’re forced or not, because like most of the film’s technical aspects, the editing is rank amateur.
The story is basically an update of, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. In the opening, a girl is seen relaxing by a pool. There’s a noise in the bushes and all of a sudden, she is shot in the face. Her lifeless body sinks to the stone cold concrete below. Next up, we meet a group of young actors that have headed off to a secluded island to shoot a comedy. Almost immediately, they learn that they are stranded and an unseen someone begins killing them off one by one.
Whodunit has its own Facebook page, where one person wrote that it’s an underrated gem. Now me, I’m all for uncovering diamonds in the rough and posting them here so that you guys can have the joys of hunting them out. Unfortunately in the case of Bill Naud’s dreary slasher, I would suggest that it’s a fugazi.
On paper the idea is very good. The killer is murdering people as per the words of a peculiar song, and he leaves a calling card of a portable cassette player that loops the lyrics that associate with the method of slaughter that he has used. The track in question is a punk rock oddity, which repeats, ‘Burn me, Burn me face to face’ to the point of insanity. The burn part is substituted dependent on how the victim is despatched; for example, ‘Stab me’ or ‘Boil me’. The only problem is that once we have heard it for what feels like the millionth time, it does begin to tear at the strings of our patience. By the roll of the closing credits (accompanied of course by the track in full), it was a case of ‘please, no more!’
The soundtrack however is only the beginning of the issues that make the film difficult to watch. There’s a humongous body count and some imaginative kill scenes, but the lighting is so bad that we’re left ‘in the dark’ in every conceivable fashion. Joel Goldsmith’s score is certainly not the worst and the mystery is riveting, but any attempts at suspense are wasted by the lack of a clear sight on what the hell is going on. This makes the feature feel more tedious than it really is; and the pace never raises high enough to keep a roving eye transfixed.
As was the case with Freeway Maniac, Whodunit includes an average actress satirically playing the part of an actress that’s supposed to be even worse. Yes it is a tad ironic, but purely self-recognition from a screenwriter that was well aware that this was a lunch-money budgeted production and so he has a bit of self-referential fun. The script is authentic in the fact that the same girl, who plays the heroine, is not the shy sensitive type like Laurie Strode and I think that the only reason that she survives so long is because she looks good in a bikini. Well, we can cross ‘dramatic ability’ from the list of possibilities why she made it to the conclusion. We do get a smart twist that is really quite unexpected, but it’s delivered half-heartedly and turns out to be a bit of a mess.
The plot touched on real estate agents buying up land against the wishes of locals and I thought that it was a really good idea for a motive, but it’s never followed through or developed anywhere beyond nowhere. In reality, the film feels like there actually was only a brief idea of a synopsis and the screenwriter made up the rest of the scenes as he went along, which would explain the craters that pop up time and again throughout the runtime. All these flaws though could have been acceptable if they had invested in adequate illumination. Staring at a screenful of blackness whilst a terrific score rips through the speakers is like going to bed with a glamour model whilst wrapped in a straight-jacket. Well, not quite that bad, but you get the idea.
Early in the feature there’s a superb scene that raised my hopes immediately. A girl heads off to explore the basement of the dilapidated house, but in the shadows lurks an assailant in one of the best killer guises that I’ve ever seen. He stalks up in steadicam, but it turns out to be a dumb false scare. That costume is never seen again (boo) and from there on begins the rampaging descent to mediocrity. To be frank, the film never recovers.
Released under three separate aliases, this one is not a gem of any kind and will even disappoint genre enthusiasts. Whodunit…? Who cares… As Donnie Brasco famously said, Forgetabahd it… PS. September 2021, I have heard the Bluray sorts the lighting issues. I’ll likely buy it at some point and post an updated review.
Final Girl √√