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SH*T SH*W REV*EW: Pinata: Survival Island

| January 28, 2013

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When I decided to start writing these reviews of the film world’s version of ‘shovel-wear’, starting with Two-Headed Shark Attack a few weeks ago, the first film I put on my ever-expanding list of potentials was Piňata: Survival Island. I’ve seen Piňata about half a dozen times in my life because there was a spring break during college when it was on late night tv every night… so what else was I going to do but watch it. Now I’m a proud owner.

“Oh, scary… Let’s open you up there, big guy.”

Piňata: Survival Island starts with a convoluted origin of an evil Piňata. Joaquim de Almeida narrates the story of a magical shaman in an ancient village who builds a clay Piňata to house all the sins of the villagers. Note: If this sounds like something you’d be interested in attempting, the movie gives you exact instructions about what pig parts should be used and how, as well as the construction of a good-luck Piňata, and the details of performing the required ritual. Educational attributes will not affect the film’s final score. The Piňata is then set adrift in the ocean where it gets struck by lightning, which… probably… gives it powers or something. Where might the Piňata run aground??

We join our party of boating college students on their way to an island to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by doing an underwear scavenger hunt put on by the greek community at their college. The frat brothers and sorority sisters are handcuffed in pairs and sent out onto the island to gather undies. Kyle (Nicholas Brendon) and Tina (Jaime Pressly) just went through a breakup but they end up handcuffed together, which would be the worst of their problems if a pair of loopy pot-smokers didn’t come across a clay demon statue and try to break it open, hoping that it’s filled with underwear. Then people die!

“And when we cracked it, we heard a sound like we were letting out the pain and suffering of an entire village. I had no idea how to describe it until you just put it into words. We thought it was because we were high but that is exactly what it sounded like.”

The best things about this movie are tied into that ridiculous premise. I don’t know what the actual origins of the modern, candy-filled piňata are, but if I found a clay demon statue on an island I wouldn’t immediately call it a piňata. Any time the piňata is on screen its comedy gold without hardly doing anything. It spends most of its time walking around the jungle watching people harvest underwear, we spend plenty of time watching close-ups of its footsteps and repeated animations of the demon walking, or eventually flying—because eating souls causes it to evolve—and when it does descend upon our victims it usually just bashes their heads in with a shovel. He does rip one guys heart out and tries to kill another with his magical boomerang club, but that’s as creative as it gets. It’s clear that they use a guy in a suit for most of the shots where we see the whole creature, but they have a more articulate head that they use for extreme close ups, and the attacks are mostly done by a CG entity. The worst thing about this is that because the guy in a suit can’t articulate his face it seems they resorted to just distorting the image to make it look like the creature has some life. As the movie moves forward they rely on this idea that the piňata can change, using an entirely CG version instead, and eventually teaching it to fly so that they can save on animation.

As you expect we get some pretty ridiculous scenes. While running away from the piňata, one woman feels it is necessary to slowly walk along a fallen long rather than simply jump over it, allowing her to dramatically fall over in slow-motion. Nicholas Brenden has a scene where he retells the entire opening origin story from memory, I guess because he studied Megonyo history in college. There is an ominous chapter break that decides we need to know that it is now May 6th. Maybe my favorite thing about this movie is how much the piňata loves trees and vines but can’t use them. It ties a noose around its neck twice, once to lure in victims who think it is a normal piňata, and again later to swing from the trees, turn one hand into a knife and cut a girl’s head off while her friend pees nearby. It even strings a guy up with fake looking hobby store vines while he stops to get a rock out of his shoe.

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No SH*T SH*W is really complete without seeing through the monster’s eyes. Here we get Piňata Vision!

“Time for us to stop being hunted and start doing the hunting.”

Like any other movie that doesn’t leave a way out for its characters, they resort to makeshift explosives to defeat the piňata. There is really no mention of a plan until the other remaining survivors start telling Kyle that they hope his plan works. Preparation involves a montage and an intense gas siphoning sequence, later followed up with a swinging kick and an equally intense gas pouring sequence. It turns out all they have to do is handcuff a molotov cocktail to the piňata’shead and it’ll explode. Then campus police show up and ask them what happened.

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“Someone, or something, is out there and it’s majorly fucked up.”

What’s not good about this movie might surprise you, it’s the acting… it’s too good. The parts of this movie that don’t involve the piňata demon are too serviceable. Movies like this are more fun when the dialogue is cringe-worthy and poorly delivered. Nicholas Brendon, Jaime Pressly, and the rest of the actors do their best to channel performances from a mid-nineties sitcom, which really takes the edge off of the majority of the scenes without the piňata. If this were really just a movie about an island possessed by a demon, if you removed all the piňata context, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun.

I’m disappointed to say that I’m giving this movie a 3. I remembered it being much worse, and therefore much more fun to watch. But for as stupid as the premise is, most of the scenes are borderline watchable and there is too much time between the stupid sequences. If you had your friends over to watch Piňata: Survival Island, you would be doing it for the sake of saying you’d seen a movie about a killer piňata, not because you want to.

Oh, and GOOD NEWS EVERYONE! In my research I found that the entire film is on Youtube… so… if you feel like it:

– James Hart

SH*T SH*W REV*EW will return with another Brooke Hogan joint, Sand Sharks

Have you seen Piňata: Survival Island? Tell us what you think about it below!

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