Originally released in 1982 and also known by the names Demon Island and Bloodtide, Blood Tide has some heavy casting, with both James Earl Jones and the venerable Jose Ferrer contributing performances to what amounts to a relatively bloodless and not too scary contribution to underwater horror. Blood Tide is one of those films with some really good ideas but lackluster execution.
Writers Richard Jefferies (his debut film) and Nico Mastorakis (a Greek filmmaker a radio producer) tap into elements of Lovecraft, exploring the nature of how myth evolves from humanity’s most primitive fears, which are often based on the truth. However, Jefferies as a director instead elects to focus on the lackluster, working the script much too slowly and delving into melodrama and long sequences that add up to little. As a result, Blood Tide is difficult to sit through, but once experienced, the concepts are strong enough to leave most viewers satisfied.
The story centers on recently married couple Neil (Martin Kove, best known for his turn as the Cobra Kai karate instructor in the Karate Kid franchise) and Sherry Grice (Mary Louise Weller), who rent a yacht and travel to Greece as both a honeymoon and to search for Neil’s sister, Madeline (Deborah Shelton). The couple meets with some suspicious villagers, including the mayor (Ferrer), all of whom say that they have never seen Madeline and that perhaps the couple should search elsewhere.
However, it turns out the Madeline is on the island. An artist, Madeline has found sanctuary in a monastery of nuns. Inside, she has been working on an obscure painting, which she has discovered consists of several layers, each older than the previous. These layers show a de-evolution from Christianity to Greek myth to perhaps something that is much, much older.
That something turns out to be a hideous creature that during ancient times was placated by sacrificing young virgins to it. This creature apparently served to inspire various myths throughout the centuries, going so far as even serving as King George’s dragon. Entombed for centuries in an underwater sepulcher, the creature has itself become a myth, although local children continue to reenact the ritual of sacrifice as a form of play.
Unfortunately, a local treasure hunter Frye (Jones) discovers the underwater tomb. With the help of explosives (while looking for more gold), Frye sets the creature free. When the creature kills Frye’s love (Lydia Cornell), Frye (who often recites lines from Othello) vows to destroy the monster once and for all. But he cannot do it alone.
Although lacking in production values, Blood Tide cannot be faulted for its actors, all of whom do their best with the material they are presented. As noted previously, the concepts sketched throughout the film are fascinating and stimulating to the imagination. Sadly, the execution of the film results in a talky, bland, and tensionless movie, one that few will be able to sit through to the lackluster conclusion. I cannot recommend this movie, but fans who recognize terms such as Dagon and Deep Ones should check it out.
Another note: There’s a hint of possible incest between brother and sister, particularly when they both do some heavy petting in one scene. This rather disturbing sequence is complemented by a scene in which Madeline uncovers the final layer of the painting, which shows a well-endowed creature (with erect penis) with a human female at its feet. Could there be a hint here that incest and other types of sexuality breed monsters? This theme is further explored with Frye’s interracial relationship with a Caucasian female, which is further emphasized by Frye’s constant allusions to Othello, a play that also taps into various themes of sexuality (including interracial relationships). A second and third viewing will yield further clues regarding this theme—and perhaps this makes Blood Tide worth watching from a terror perspective.
Blood Tide can be purchased as a standalone item or on anthologies, such as Classic Drive-In Series Horror, one the DVDs from the Let the Nightmare Begin Horror ultimate collectors edition (50 movies).