Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Frank Morris Massacre: Terror on Alcatraz (1986)

Terror on Alcatraz (1986)
Rating: ***
Starring: Aldo Ray, Sandy Brooke, Verónica Porche Ali

How often do we get a slasher movie set on Alcatraz Island? Apart from the underrated cheese-fest Slaughterhouse Rock and this title, not much. But what sets this title a tad more interesting is the plot itself and horror legend Aldo Ray! (of Haunts (1977), Don't Go Near the Park (1981) and Terror Night (1987), among others)

Ray here portrays a slightly unhinged Frank Morris, as in THE Frank Morris who some of you history buffs may recognize as one of the escapees from the real life event known as the June 1962 Alcatraz Escape. It's been decades since he got out and money's getting a bit low on his end due to being, well, in hiding for all of these years. But after recalling he scribbled some information about a key back at his prison cell, (which in turn will open a safe with loads of money in it), Frank bolts back to San Francisco.

After killing a former guard that he had a beef with back in prison days, Frank boards a boat to the island, joins a tour and slips away unnoticed to skulk around. Unfortunately for him, five partying teens find the run down prison as a great place to sneak in and party their heads off, so what will a man with an IQ of 133 do in a situation like this? Device a plan to slip away? Take their boat and drive it back to shore? Pretend to be a guy who fell asleep in the tour and ask these kids for help?

Nope. In true slasher film cliche, he decided that it's better to hack them dead with a meat cleaver and be a mindless maniac for the majority of the film.

Terror on Alcatraz is an odd duck; it's basically two plots mashed together, one focusing on Morris' plan to get rich and another is your typical slasher fare. They don't mix in too well, with the get-rich scheme being tossed aside in the middle to make room for the killings, only to be brought back in by the last third of the film, completely ignoring that he had just murdered a bunch of kids. Due to this, the pacing's a tad off and the characterization of all of the characters, may it be Morris or the no-name teens he is hunting, are mishandled. 

Quite sad actually as the teens have their interesting notes but that's as far as they go for depth; one is a young coke-head lawyer, another is the rich son of a land owner, two big-titted bimbos, a know-it-all, and one sorta-crazy security guard who has some Native American blood running through his veins. The latter is the most notoriously portrayed in the film as he jugs a lot of alcohol and dresses his face with red war paint after he figured out there's a maniac on the loose. (Only to die easily moments later. Um...) Not sure what this film is implying but it just seconds my claim on how bad the scripting was for this B-flick.

Most of the personality goes to Aldo Ray's character but not in a way any proud historian would ever find appealing; Frank Morris in real life was known for many burglaries, but murder? Hard to picture. He's basically a man of plans but the movie portrayed him as a blood-thirsty thug with a sexist and sadistic streak. If anything, he is much closer to Otis B. Driftwood of both House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, with their "kill first, think later" way of carnage. The only difference is that Morris unexpectedly switches personality from time to time, wherein he can be savage killer in one moment, and then back to being just an obnoxious, money-hungry escapee in the next.

Then again, as bad slashers go, Terror on Alcatraz is stupidly fun for what it is. The gore splatters in bright red and death rattles are plenty (if not overly exaggerated), the villain has a unique motive compared to your typical slasher and, I have to admit, the overacting gave my sides something to laugh at. There's also the fact it utilizes its backdrop effectively despite the budget, but with a better script and more imagination, perhaps they could have done more than simple meat cleaver murders.

For this film, cheesiness matters and for the right audience, it should be enough. Luckily for it, I'm the kind of guy who loves a good balance of cheese in my films. I can overlook the fact that the editing and scripting sucks so long as they can show me a guy moaning to death after getting his skull split open with a cleaver. End the film with a unexpected twist and a cool gore scene, and you have me recommending this obscure slasher for viewing whenever you get a chance to see it!

1 male impaled on a broken plank
1 male hacked on the face with a meat cleaver
1 female drowned in a barrel of water
1 male hacked on the head with a meat cleaver
1 male found hanged
1 male found shot on the gut with a shotgun
1 male knifed on the gut
1 female strangled to death
1 male knifed, later had his arm crushed off by a steel door and left for dead
Total: 9


  1. I'm glad you reviewed this. I just purchased a copy of it, and haven't watched it yet. Thanks for giving me something to look forward to. :)

    1. my pleasure, friend! Just switch off, relax, and let a fat Frank Miller entertain you in the most braindead way possible!

  2. The supernatural slasher Prison from 1988 is also in... Well, prison!

    1. Oh yeah! I love that movie!

      Thanks for reminding me, mate! 8D