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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pinata: Survival Island

At this point, there have been waaaay too many movies about inanimate objects killing people. Killer cars, killer dolls, killer laundry can pretty much just take any noun, add the word "killer" to the front of it, and you have a ready-made movie. But...a killer PINATA?

Yup. A pinata goes on a killing spree. That's the plot of today's SAW, Pinata: Survival Island. It's official: I'll watch pretty much anything. Grab a stick, put on a blindfold, and let's break open the SPOILERS!

The opening credits break through a clay shell before they appear. Yeesh. A narrator tells us that "many moons ago", a village in South America was facing a deadly drought. The "village" looks like it was built out of a Lego set. One of the village elders constructed a large clay pinata.  He killed a wild pig, then placed the animal's heart in the pinata. Oh, and then he built a second pinata, for shits 'n' giggles.

He gathered the villagers for a ceremony, where he proceeded to use magic to tear out the evil in their souls, and place it into the first pinata. After the ritual was completed, he then let them break open the second pinata, while the evil-filled one was sent downstream on a nearby river. The evil pinata was then undiscovered for centuries, but a prophecy warned that if it was found and opened, the evil would pour out of it and devour more human souls. Pfft, like THAT would ever happen!

Moving on...The flashback ends, and we meet a large group of college kids out on speeding boats. They're laughing, drinking, mooning each other...Is it wrong for me to wish that they were already being slaughtered? Eh. An Asian guy named Paul and a cute brunette named Monica are waiting for them on the beach. A nearby sign tells us that the island will soon be the site of something called the Franklin Oceanography Research Lab.

The students from the 2 boats start to unpack their gear, and we get some introductions. There's a jive-talking dude named Doug; his best buddy(and former Buffy co-star) Kyle; Kyle's recent ex-girlfriend Tina; a party animal named Jake; and assorted others. I'm sure that there will be tons of memorable character development in a movie about a clay pinata going on a murderous rampage. Oh yeah.

Anyway, Monica and Paul advise them to set up camp, and they briefly go over some rules. This is apparently some sort of Cinco de Mayo college scavenger hunt, and it looks like anything goes. First up is a drinking session, then we learn the rules of the scavenger hunt. Pieces of underwear are hidden all over the island, and the students will be paired up into teams, as well as handcuffed to each other. They have until a certain time of night to collect as many pairs of underwear as they can find. The prize is $20,000 to the players, and the same amount donated to a charity in their name.

Before the race begins, they have a trivia contest about the origins of Cinco de Mayo. Being idiots, they don't get too many correct answers. The students are then paired up, and we finally get more names on these soon-to-be corpses. Jake, the bandana-wearing bro, is paired up with an attractive girl named Julie; a shaggy-looking pothead named Larry is teamed up with a cute bookworm named Connie; Doug and Carmen, the only pair of black people in the movie, are handcuffed together(I wonder if the movie will be generic enough to kill them off first?); a cute couple of generic teens named Bob and Lisa are paired off; and, finally, Tina and Kyle, the exes, are forced to team up.

The competition begins, and all of the teams race away into the jungle, except for Kyle and Tina. They stand there in stunned silence, then Kyle knocks them both to the ground as he struggles to pry off his shackle. After a quick spat, they choose to just sit in the dirt and do nothing.

The rest of the teams keep busy running themselves ragged. Jake and Julie seem to have an early lead, mostly because Jake is running his ass off and snatching up every pair of underwear he sees. Poor Julie looks like she might get her shoulder dislocated by the big lummox.

The generic couple, Bob and Lisa, find a clearing where they seem to be alone. Bob reveals that he has a key to the handcuffs, then he and Lisa smoke a joint together. They get the giggles, then run offscreen. Now working in different areas, they temporarily lose track of each other. Uh oh...

As Lisa gathers up piles of underwear to horde, she stumbles across the clay pinata. It's not even hidden, it's pretty much just sitting out in the open, waiting to be found. Sheesh. She abandons the scavenger hunt to go examine it.

She stumbles while dragging the heavy clay pinata, and stops to make the sand equivalent of a "snow angel", which is as goofy-looking as it sounds. Then she calls over her partner. While they look it over, they decide to see what's inside.

Easier said than done. Using heavy tree branches, they don't even dent it. Then Lisa suggests that they use a large rock, so Bob gets the biggest one that he can carry. After several attempts, Bob makes a crack in the shell, and weird howling sounds seem to surround the drunk couple. The wind becomes fierce, then the eyes of the demonic pinata glow, and it grabs the large branch that Bob dropped next to it.

The pinata moves away from the spot where it was dragged, then it swoops in to bash Bob with the stick. After he's dead, the pinata snarls at Lisa, who runs away. A brief glimpse at Bob shows his soul being wrenched out of his body.

At the camp, Kyle proposes that he and Tina call a temporary truce. She refuses, but he stands up, forcing her to go along. As they try to play nice, we check in on Larry and Connie. She seems bored, but he's getting into the groove with the scavenger hunt. Then he hears a noise, and convinces Connie to hide behind a tree with him.

They wait a few seconds, then Lisa scares them by rushing to their hiding spot. She rambles on about Bob being killed, and then mentions that the killer was a pinata. They laugh at her, even after realizing that the blood on her is authentic. Lisa runs away again, and the couple decide to resume the scavenger hunt. Then we see the pinata wandering in their general direction.

As Larry and Connie mock Lisa, the killer pinata tracks them. It manages to hide in some bushes, and watches as they pass right by. Then they find one of the normal pinatas, and share the alcohol that was stored inside.

Lisa finds the tent where Paul and Monica are keeping an eye on the players. She tells them about the killer pinata's sudden attack, and neither of them laugh. They take it very seriously, probably because she's covered in blood.

Larry and Connie come across a shovel and some instructions, and follow the instructions to a specific area. After digging a small hole, they uncover a treasure trove of underwear. As they celebrate, the pinata looms behind them, using the shovel to bludgeon them both to death. This may be silly, but the kills are at least impressive.

Monica and Paul head to their ATV's. They debate over how much of Lisa's story might be true, but agree that the fact that she was covered in blood is not a good sign. They fervently hope that they will find Bob alive. Nope. Not gonna happen!

Kyle and Tina are working better as a team, with her straddling his shoulders to reach some panties up in a tree. As Tina tries to convince Kyle that she never cheated on him while they were dating(the apparent cause of the breakup), they meet up with Paul and Monica. The leaders only tell them in very general terms that a player was injured, and that the scavenger hunt is at an end. When Kyle offers to help them, he is politely told that his assistance won't be necessary. Instead, Kyle is instructed to return to the base camp, fire off a pistol to let the other teams know to come back, then wait.

As Paul and Monica ride around the island, they keep calling out Bob's name. Yeah, good idea while something is hunting down humans... They hear noises in the vicinity, but can't pinpoint where they're coming from. As they trudge through the jungle on foot for a minute, they stumble upon poor Bob--or his top half, at least. He's half the man he used to be.

Meanwhile, Jake and Julie have abandoned the contest, choosing to explore each other instead. The evil pinata sees them and gets royally pissed off. They stop smooching to gather up their stockpile of undies, and then spot the demonic pinata dangling from a tree. As soon as they get close to it, the pinata castrates Jake with one massive hand, then it attacks Julie with a machete.

Back at the camp, Lisa, Kyle and Tina are packing up the gear, while also searching for the pistol. Lisa starts having a flood of traumatic flashbacks, and tries to calm herself down by drinking some water. Kyle sees that she's having problems, then he apologizes to Tina for the bad way they broke up. They kiss, and are now un-broken-up-ish. I guess. *exasperated sigh*

Paul checks in on Kyle with his walkie-talkie, and urges him to take the women to the boat area. He describes the discovery of Bob's mangled corpse, and suggests that they'll gather the rest of the players, and get them off the island in the second boat. After the brief chat, Kyle asks Lisa for more details about the deadly attack on Bob.

Doug and Carmen are up next, but their scene is brief. It more or less shows that they've managed to get lost in the jungle. I don't know, I never thought a movie about a killer pinata would actually start to bore me. I'm sort of hoping that it will eventually hit somebody hard enough to make candy pour out of them. That'd be fun to see!

At the beach, oversized footprints reveal that the pinata has sabotaged the boats ahead of them. The sun begins to set, and we see Monica and Paul still riding around in the jungle. The pinata leaps up suddenly behind them, and a chase begins. As the pinata starts to charge at them faster and faster, the earth begins to shake.

An overturned tree bars Monica's vehicle, and she gets thrown into a clearing. The vehicle explodes, and Paul stops to run into the clearing to rescue Monica. On foot, the pinata easily catches up to them, and Paul gets his leg dislocated with a brutal yank. Then the monster finishes him off by bashing his head in with a stick. No candy, though.

Monica shrieks, and the pinata decides to shut her up. She briefly loses him as she rounds a bend, but she stumbles, and falls into a ditch. The pinata fails to see her as she crawls away, and it snarls out of sheer frustration.

Kyle, Lisa and Tina make a campfire, then wait on the beach for other survivors, or maybe even a boat, to discover them. Tina expresses disbelief in the concept of a killer pinata rampaging around on the island(You're preaching to the choir...), despite the story that Lisa told them. Then Kyle tells them both a legend about a possessed pinata, summarizing what we saw in the opening scenes of the movie.

Lisa believes that the pinata that she and Bob broke open must have been the same one from the legend, but Tina remains a skeptic. The pinata is seen thrashing through the jungle, then the trio hear noises coming from the trees. As they prepare to fight off a possible pinata attack, the noises turn out to be a visibly relieved Doug and Carmen. Doug asks them where the other teams are, and we see a montage of various body parts strung up in the trees by the pinata.

Early the next morning, they start to realize that they might be the only survivors of the pinata massacre. Man, I felt stupid just typing that out! Lisa is afraid of another encounter with the monster, so she suggests that they swim to the mainland. Kyle explains that another island search would be better, as the nearest land is 15 miles away from the beach.

A debate follows, and both sides of the argument have good and bad points. In the end, the vote is to remain on the island, as either the other survivors might show up, or a rescue boat might be sent to search for them. Lisa isn't thrilled, but the others are swayed by Kyle. They head back into the jungle to do some more investigating.

The pinata senses them, and decides to resume the hunt. The group makes a stop at another clearing, and they all detect a rather unpleasant smell in the area. It turns out to be an animal carcass, something that the pinata killed, then gutted for them to find. Lisa once again suggests that they return to the beach, but they continue deeper into the jungle instead.

Doug stops to tie his shoe, insisting that the others can continue on without him for a second. Predictably, the pinata decides to swoop in just as the others leave Doug behind. But then Kyle has a sudden outbreak of logic, and they decide to return to him.

Back on the hunt, they start to call out the names of the missing students. The pinata, hiding in a tree, pulls poor Doug up into the branches to kill him. Wait, is that irony, or just really bad luck? Either way, Carmen is the first member of the party to notice that Doug is gone. They wearily re-trace their steps.

They come to the spot where he was snatched up, unaware that the pinata is dangling him over their heads. Lisa's fear starts to work on Carmen, and now the group is split on whether to resume the search, or head back to the open beach. In the end, Carmen and Lisa turn back, and Kyle and Tina go their own way. Oh, and poor Doug gets his soul wrenched out of his body.

Kyle and Tina find more pinata tracks, suddenly realizing that the monster pinata is steadily tracking the other pair. Sure enough, the pinata is on the trail of the girls, and they are having some setbacks. Not only is their progress to the beach slow, but now Lisa is whining because she needs to pee. They stop, and Lisa ducks behind another fallen tree trunk.

While Lisa is squatting, Carmen stands guard. They both clearly hear the approach of the pinata, but can't see him just yet. He rushes up behind Carmen, and decapitates her while Lisa screams. Kyle and Tina are still trying to come to the rescue, but it doesn't look like they'll make it in time to save Lisa.

Huh. Guess I was wrong. They find Lisa before the monster does, and save the day. While Tina works on calming her nerves, Kyle decides to hunt for the pinata himself. A brilliant plan, worthy of a 4-star general. He doesn't find the pinata(Yet!), but he does discover more bloody remains.

Left alone, Lisa decides to abandon Tina, in the hopes that the pinata kills her first. Tina chases her, but not before leaving a clue for Kyle to follow them. He's still tracking the pinata, trying to be as discreet as possible. He sneaks up behind what he thinks is the monster, only to find a distraught Monica, dirty but very much alive.

Now at a full sprint, Tina is determined to reach Lisa. Lisa's back at the base camp, and sweat is rolling down her face in buckets. Some rustling motions from the nearby tent get her attention, and the pinata drags her inside by an ankle when she moves in for a closer look.

Tina detects a presence in the tent, but assumes that it must be Lisa. The pinata sticks its massive head out to roar at her, and ANOTHER chase begins. For a second or two, the pinata seems to transform into The Smoke Monster from Lost. Man, I would trade the worst episode of Lost for ANY 5 minutes of this movie any day of the week. If I ever see a movie dumber than this one, I might actually just give up.

Anyway, right in the middle of the action, we catch up with Kyle and Monica. Who are on a casual stroll. Terrific. When they return to the spot where he left the girls, he realizes that they've left. I think they took most of the film's energy with them. Oh, but they found the makeshift arrow that Tina left on the ground!

They all reunite, and duck behind a tree to hide from the pinata. It growls and spins around quite a bit, but the pinata can't seem to find the last of the students. When night comes, Kyle decides that he needs to figure out a way to distract the pinata, so that they can get to a better location. He picks up some stones, throwing them as far as he can, in order to make the pinata curious enough to check the noise out.

That somehow works, and the trio head the opposite way. Paul has another plan in the works, but he needs to calm Monica down in order for it to work. He asks her to try to remember where she and Paul crashed the vehicles, and they all take off into the jungle.

They find the one that didn't explode, and Kyle works on removing the fuel. He siphons as much as he can, but they hear the pinata rapidly approaching their position. As they get closer to the beach again, Monica asks them to stop for a moment, so that she can catch her breath.

A body suddenly falls out of a tree, and Monica's scream is heard by the pinata. The creature swoops in, and they reluctantly leave the body hanging where they found it. For a second, it looked like Monica was just going to stay there and let the pinata kill her.

The next sequence is right out of MacGyver: As a group, they start to rig up a booby-trap to kill the pinata. Wires are buried in sand, sticks are tied together, fuel is doused around the camp, fake walls are's silly, but I kind of get a kick out of how serious the tone is in this scene. Even the music is ridiculously melodramatic.

Some time later, the pinata arrives at the beach. We see Kyle sitting in front of a campfire, and one of the women is talking VERY LOUDLY, just saying random crap. The pinata, which has gradually gone from a big clay figure with large feet, to a worm-like flying monstrosity with a long tail, approaches the fire very, very slowly, growling the entire way.

As the pinata reaches Kyle, it suddenly decides that it doesn't want to be ignored. It reaches out with a massive claw, obliterating his head...which turns out to be a decoy head, a melon. As chunks of it go flying off in a million different directions, the real Kyle hoists on a rope, trapping the pinata in a net. As the trapped creature is lifted off of the ground, Lisa and Monica set the trap on fire with torches. They watch as the blaze consumes the pinata.

Then it shakes loose from the trap, knocking Monica to the ground, possibly killing her. The angry pinata goes for Tina next, but Kyle saves her by swinging by on the rope, kicking the killer pinata to the ground. While he fights it off with a torch, Tina goes into the tent for more gas.

While she prepares a hasty Molotov cocktail, Kyle gets his ass kicked around the beach. Literally. Tina emerges from the tent just as the killer pinata gains the upper hand, and she shoves the explosive into a crevice in the back of the pinata. She, Kyle and Monica(She lives!) run to a safe distance, and the pinata explodes. The freed souls all fly away, no longer trapped in the pinata.

The next day, several rescue boats arrive, filled with people wearing shirts that say CAMPUS POLICE. A couple of cops question them, then the pinata pops up for one final jump-scare. THE END

Well, that was either the best killer pinata movie ever made, or it was the worst. Since it's probably the only one, take your pick. At least it had several good actors in it, from shows like Buffy and My Name Is Earl, among others. But...a killer pinata? If they ever decide to do another one, I kind of want to see a big, bright generic-looking pinata go on a killing spree. That would be funny as Hell. 3 out of 5 killer trees, not the worst...but not nearly as fun as the concept sounded.

And what did I learn from my experience with Pinata: Survival Island?

-"Death by pinata" would be a dumb way to go.

-Nicholas Brendon somehow makes even dumb stuff kind of awesomely watchable. All hail Xander Harris!

-When the odds are against you, you can suddenly turn into a trap-building genius.

Next up is either something called Taboo, or the classic slasher He Knows You're Alone.