From desert dwelling cults to an alien invasion and the wild west, indie production company Mahal Empire has explored a range of genre niches to say the least. This time they’ve crash landed their brand of horror on a tropical deserted island off the coast of Puerto Rico. Adapting Bermuda Triangle urban legend, Mahal Empire pits castaways against harsh elements and cannibalistic flesh eaters in their feature Bermuda Island.
Opening as a shoot ’em up action flick, Bermuda Island begins with an FBI apprehension of notorious criminal Diego Montalban (Noel Gugliemi: Training Day) for a laundry list of frowned upon behavior. With a full federal escort for his extradition, Diego boards a plane that is destined for an unexpected foreboding destination. As we’re introduced to characters in the airport terminal, I’m somewhat reminded of character introductions via interactions from Final Destination (2000) … before the plane goes down in a fiery ball of flames.
Capturing the damsel-needs-no-help vibe, Sarah French firmly asserts herself into the character of Carolyn, an independent woman who needs no prince charming in an unsavory situation. However, she does find a prince in Damon (Victor V. Gelsomino: Night of the Tommyknockers; read our review here) who isn’t afraid to stand up to Brett (Steve Pacheco) – a stereotypical high school jock who hasn’t grown up since peaking in high school 20 years ago.
Bermuda Island turns into a sort of pseudo-Survivor reality TV episode when the group of passengers split into two camps after the arrival of Bruce (John Wells: One Must Fall 2018), a mystery man who has survived on the island since long before our merry band of travelers arrived in paradise. Because his ego can’t take the new leadership, FBI Agent Victor Sweden (Wesley Cannon) recruits others and convinces them that he actually knows what he’s doing. Spoil alert: He doesn’t.
Bermuda Island may be a fictional horror, however, it was filmed while real terror took a grip on the world. During production, Bermuda Island turned into a real life nightmare during the height of the global COVID pandemic.
“The CDC came in their hazmat suits,” said Sonny Mahal from Mahal Empire. “They were strict, but we were able to salvage enough [footage] to come back a couple months later to finish. But it was at a really high cost. I’m just glad we were able to finish everything. This was definitely the most stressful and hardest movie we had to complete. I do have to admit. I fell in love with Puerto Rico and I look forward to visit sometime soon!”
With a short runtime of 1hr and 25min, Bermuda Island is a good indie popcorn flick to warm you up for the feature presentation in a double feature night. It’s even better that a pandemic- era indie feature found its way to audiences let alone saw little to no evidence of such a hurdle on the audience side. Also, the fact that this is one of the final feature film appearances by Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan 1998) adds to this film’s appeal.
In addition to the cast, Sarah French is always a welcome face to the Mahal lineup, Gelsomino gives a notable performance, and Pacheco flawlessly portrays the type of character you’d love to punch in the face. Wells and Cannon give equally good performances as opposites, and the rest of the cast hold their own in their respectable roles. And, as always, the Mahal special effects team pulls no punches to the blood, guts, and creature design. However, I personally love seeing filmmakers experiment, grow, and reach new heights, which is why Hollywood has been a disappointment for the last several years. Cookie cutter predictability just no longer suffices.
While Mahal Empire continues to rock it at this current caliber of filmmaking, and Bermuda Island puts an unforeseen second spin on the first Lost-esque predictable plot twist, there isn’t much we haven’t already seen from previous ME films. We’re given a group of horror movie survivors who face off against well-designed and produced creatures with a plot twist and gruesome ending. Don’t get me wrong. These are fun flicks, especially the over-the-top Bus Party to Hell (2018), which is arguably ME’s best feature. However, further and more complex character and plot depth would be more than welcome at this stage of their filmography.
Repeated plots and scenarios aside – with the exception of environment – Mahal Empire continues to produce some fun indie flicks worth checking out, especially after a drink or two. Although I feel they could be growing in substance, ME is becoming a recognizable producer brand that I’ll always check out.