In stormy seas, a ship transporting prisoners, prison officers, and a female psychiatrist to an offshore jail runs aground. The lighthouse has been sabotaged by infamous psycho Leo Rook, escaped from the prison ship, and now out to hunt them all down. The radio is ruined, the generator keeps failing, people are picked off one by one, and the one person with the gumption to take charge is an allegedly wrongly convicted murderer…
Let’s start with the good stuff. Writer-director Hunter does manage to stage several incredibly tense set pieces; a sequence where the psycho returns his latest trophies – human body parts – to his rowing boat, unaware that a prison officer is cowering inside, is remarkably scary.
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There’s also some tremendous imagery – though the sub-Hitchcock dream sequences may have been a step too far. However, it’s a good thing Hunter has some directing skills, because judging by this, he’s not much of a writer. Given that psychopaths are focused and clinical individuals, Rook shows every sign of having been misdiagnosed. Escaping from the prison ship with remarkable ease – and unmissed by anyone aboard – he doesn’t stop to murder the crew and prisoners on board, where they’d least expect attack. No, he rows to the lighthouse, kills everyone there, and wrecks the ship. Then, being the only one in possession of a boat, does he row for the mainland, where there are all the victims he could wish for? Of course not… This all makes for a muddled set-up, with too many clichéd characters trying to make an impact. Where they do have some distinctive feature, it’s ignored; for example, the psychiatrist is supposedly the world expert on Rook’s crimes, but doesn’t know anything that they can use against him, or try (however uselessly) to establish contact with him. The dialogue varies from the serviceable to the downright silly; the chief prison officer’s heroic assertion that they should stay on the island and “fight like men” is the most hysterical thing I’ve heard in a long while.
All in all, this is a wasted opportunity. The cast acquit themselves as well as can be expected – and perhaps the scariest thing about the film is the fact that the great Don Warrington has been reduced to appearing in it. With a strong script at his disposal, Hunter could be a director to watch; but unless this is the only thing left on the shelf at your local video store, I’d give this one a miss.