The Best Island-Set Movies You’ve Never Seen

The Pack (1977)

A small island community enjoying the peace and quiet of the off-season finds terror instead in the form of wild dogs. The canines have grown hungry and feral from neglect, and as their numbers grow, they begin growing bolder in their attacks on livestock, pets, and people.

Animal attack movies are among my favorite sub-genres of horror for the visceral thrills the good ones deliver. There’s just something appealing in their “man vs nature” mentality that reminds us that our place atop the food chain isn’t always a lock. The attacks are crafted to deliver suspense and anxiety and succeed with sequences set both in nature and in more confined spaces. One attack in a Volkswagen Beetle offers a terrific slice of claustrophobic terror as the dogs tear through the canvas roof. It’s frightening stuff and a sobering reminder that pets – like people – are still animals. Speaking of which, the great and frequently ferocious Joe Don Baker takes the lead here in the fight against the dogs while also still realizing the beasts aren’t to blame.

The film’s biggest strength is Robert Clouse’s direction, but his script is every bit as important here. There’s reason given to the dogs’ behavior making this almost a revenge tale of sorts. They’re animals brought to the island by seasonal vacationers who’ve then left them behind. The discarded dogs are simply surviving, and this motivation adds a pathos to the action. It all leads to an ending that delivers big thrills amid a fiery blaze before slowing down for a moment of redemption, sweetness, and compassion.

Watch The Pack on Amazon or buy on DVD from Amazon.

The Devil’s Rock (2011)

A two-man commando team arrives on the beach of a small Channel island with a singular mission. They’re there to destroy German artillery units and serve as a distraction leading up to the invasion at Normandy, but things take a turn when they discover something far more dangerous than cannons and German soldiers.

What starts as a war flick casting two New Zealander soldiers well beyond their borders takes a supernatural turn when they enter the bunker and find slaughtered German soldiers within. One man survives, an officer, but while our heroes hold him responsible, the haunting cries of a woman echoing through the concrete tunnels and rooms suggest something more is afoot. And I don’t say that just because they feed the female demon a man’s leg.

While it starts outdoors the bulk of the film’s action takes place within the bunker, and it works to deliver some tightly-crafted thrills. Once the succubus enters the picture, it becomes something of a battle of wills between the Kiwi and the Kraut with the demon seemingly happy with either outcome. The effects are a mix of gory remains and creature makeup, and it’s effective on both fronts. The demon herself is a beautifully designed blend of old-school imagery, frightening appearance, and sex appeal, and the ensuing visceral thrills shift smoothly into grander narrative ones. It’s a solid horror film in a sub-genre (war horror) that isn’t overly populated, and fans of Dog Soldiers (2002) and R-Point (2004) will want to give it a spin.

Watch The Devil’s Rock on Amazon or buy on DVD from Amazon.

Suntan (2016)

A middle-aged sad sack arrives on the Greek island of Antiparos at Christmas time when it and its 800 residents resemble more of a way station for the elderly than an island paradise, and he settles into the mundane motions of his job as a local doctor. Everything changes, though, with the arrival of summer and the boat-loads of young tourists who follow the sun. They party and play at the beach together, and his affection for one of them grows, but like the summer itself his good times are destined to end before all of the revelers are ready to say goodbye.

The film captures this island at its two extremes, from the doldrums of the winter months to a summer bursting to life with the energy, cash, and a lack of inhibitions with visiting youth. There’s beauty in the island’s scenery, and the parade of naked flesh offers something for everyone on the eye candy front, but it’s the slow shift from hopeful to obsessive, from the sun’s brightness to the man’s growing darkness that captivates. There’s also a freshness to its perspective as it sees people’s physical selves without judgment, and instead, it’s a movie that weighs them on their actions and choices.

It feels at times like your pervy uncle has somehow wandered into 1982’s Summer Lovers, and while you know it can’t end well for him or the unclothed youths it’s worth sticking through to the end. (On that note, stick around for the post-credits scene.) The film blends character drama, cautionary tale, and marketing for Greece’s Tourism Bureau into an engaging slow-burn of sandy beaches, sex, and sadness. And if nothing else, it also teaches you how to remove sand from someone’s eye using only your tongue.

Watch Suntan on Amazon or buy on DVD from Amazon.

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