Also known as Survival Island, Piñata, and Demon Island.
We open with a cautionary depiction of an unidentified Mesoamerican tribe overcome by drought and pestilence. The shaman determines that the gods are angered by the tribe’s sins, so he sculpts two clay piñatas. One represents good fortune; the other becomes a vessel for all the tribe’s sin and negative energy.
The good fortune piñata is broken open to reveal gifts. The other is filled with the evil of the people’s hearts and then floated away on the river.
The irony is that this all gets explained later by one of the characters. The other irony is that the number of extras for this prologue is probably three times that of the cast itself.
Of note is the fact that said piñata is not the candy-filled Party City product responsible for so much YouTube hilarity (look up Piñata Fails some time). Instead, it’s more like the Sonrientes figures dating form 300-900 CE.
Cut to the present. A bunch of fraternity/sorority lads and lasses come to a remote island for an annual Cinco De Mayo scavenger hunt/party. The object of said hunt is to find as many pair (pairs?) of underwear as possible in a specified amount of time. Pairs of lads and lasses are handcuffed together and turned loose to hunt down their loot. Those with the most get $10,000 for their organization and $10,000 for themselves.
I dunno about y’all, but Greek Life at my college did not have that kind of dough to throw around.
Soon, one pair happens across this ancient relic just layin’ about on a muddy bank in the island’s interior. They’ve been told that there are booze-filled piñatas scattered around for their enjoyment. Naturally, they try to break it open but only imagine to crack and awaken the evil contained inside. Duh.
The main “feature” of the cast is Nicholas Brendon. That’s right, Xander from Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. He’s one of the major flaws of the movie, not as an actor, but by 2002, the Buffy-verse has been pretty well established, so watching Xander trying to be not-Xander just doesn’t work.
Another major flaw is the word piñata itself. It’s difficult to get into the proper horror vibe with such a word in the title. I do like the tagline above, “A Weekend To Dismember.” That and Demon Island’s tagline, “You don’t get voted off this island…you get slaughtered off.”
*Chef’s kiss* marketing gold.
None of this is meant to suggest that this flick doesn’t have its appeal. It’s ridiculous. It’s gory. It’s fun. It’s fully the movie it wanted to be and would have been perfectly at home under Full Moon’s banner
As for the piñata itself, it apparently gets stronger the more souls it claims. This is never made explicit, but it’s not difficult to sort out. For one thing, it begins by walking around and soon progresses to being able to fly. The CGI is about what you’d expect from 2002, the word on the street being that, late in the game, CGI mostly replaced a guy in a rubber suit.
I first ran into Piñata somewhere around 2004. Despite its shortcomings, there was much about this hidden gem that instantly warmed the dark, icy place where my heart should be. Too often, for example, jumpscares come off as cheap and predictable, but there aren’t many jumpscares here. The one I recall the most clearly doesn’t even involve The Big Bad. Also if you like your college kids with a side of bloodletting, you’ll walk away pretty satisfied.
Oh, and be on the lookout for the Raiders Of The Lost Ark-style climax.
16 (including 1 pig and 1 deer)
Available on DVD AND VHS from Amazon and, surprisingly, only streaming here on YouTube.