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Reviewer’s notebook: “Grand Isle”

Courtesy of Screen Media
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Kelsey Grammar, KaDee Strickland, Luke Benward
Director: Stephen Campanelli
Release Date: Dec. 6, 2019

Being a movie reviewer is harder than you might expect it to be. Consider, for example, my dilemma in reviewing “Grand Isle.”

I could tell you this movie is bad, but you – smart discerning reader that you are- already know that it’s bad. Its two biggest stars are Nicolas Cage and Kelsey Grammar, for god’s sake. It has a 0% Rotten Tomatoes score. So telling you that it is bad does not quite cut it.

You might be wondering ‘Just how bad is it?’, and that is indeed the question to ask. There are plenty of bad movies in the world, but only a hallowed few are so bad, they manage to be almost brilliant.

So does “Grand Isle” make the cut? Well, only you can decide that. That’s why I have included my notes from my recent viewing below.

Before reading, please note that there are many spoilers below. Also note that, while “Grand Isle” is unrated, there are heavy amounts of R-rated violence, sexual content and language, which are reflected in my notes.

Without further ado:

2:27- These Girls Scouts are going to be super dead by the end of this movie. How do I know? The subtitles literally say “ominous music” as soon as they walk off the porch of the creepy mansion. Also, Kadee Strickland’s character is looking into the middle distance menacingly.

8:17- Poor Buddy (Luke Benward) has not had sex in six months. I don’t know why they’re telling us this, but I am hoping it is a crucial plot detail. Only time will tell.

9:28- Walter (Nicolas Cage) really wants Buddy to fix his seven feet of broken fence even though there’s a hurricane coming in a matter of hours. This seems counterproductive.

10:14- Buddy asks Walter where he was stationed during his time in the Marines. This would be a perfectly normal question except Walter has never mentioned that he served in the Marines nor has he worn a military uniform. Walter seems unfazed by Buddy’s nascent psychic abilities.

Courtesy of Screen Media

11:10- KaDee Strickland is back! This time, she is dancing down a set of stairs while sexily singing a Frank Sinatra song. Enough said.

12:03- It’s Cage’s and Strickland’s anniversary! Cage is very hung over and possibly unconscious. So they’ve been married a while.

15:43- Buddy seems unfazed by the fact that the fence he is replacing is literally covered in blood. I’m starting to worry about this kid.

16:13- Strickland’s character is named Fancy, because of course she is.

16:48- At least Fancy acknowledged that it is indeed stupid to replace a fence right before a hurricane. Not that she’s going to stop Buddy from doing the work or anything…

30:19- Walter and Fancy tell Buddy that they have known each other for “A lifetime. Multiple lifetimes.” So they’re definitely vampires.

31:16- I did not know how much I needed to hear Cage ask “When was the last time you had your cock sucked?” until just now. And, no, this line does not make sense in the context of the movie.

33:36- Fancy mentions that she can occasionally feel her ancestors’ presence in the house. So the mansion owned by the vampires is definitely haunted.

34:19- Fancy tells Buddy that the door to the basement – which has three bolt locks on it – leads to a storage area. This means the basement is most definitely not a Girl Scout sex dungeon.

36:34- Fancy cannot have children. “But there are always other measures,” she says. Four words: Girl. Scout. Sex. Dungeon.

38:07- Fancy asks “Can I tell you about my young boy sex fantasy?” The answer to that question, my dear readers, should always be ‘No.’

39:41- Fancy undoes Buddy’s pants with her high-heeled shoe, which is no reasonable person’s sex fantasy.

Courtesy of Screen Media

43:22-  “You ever think about your own death?” Walter asks as he unzips his pants. Nope. But I’m starting to.

49:30- Walter’s step-by-step instructions on how to kill someone with cyanide: “You just huh, huh, huh, ah.” Got that?

52:09-  Now, Fancy is seductively singing “Strange Fruit” – a Billie Holiday song about lynching African Americans. If that doesn’t turn you on, I don’t know what will.

56:43- Buddy’s six-month sex sabbatical is an important plot detail! Hooray for foreshadowing!

60:01- Walter seems upset that Buddy did not kill Fancy with the cyanide. And he gave such clear instructions!

65:04-  I most definitely did not need to hear KaDee Strickland say “I’ll look him right in the eye while you make me cum.” And, no, this line does not make sense in the context of this movie. NONE OF IT DOES.

69:12- Walter asks Fancy “Did you have to stab me so hard?” Which begs the question: Is there a soft way of stabbing people?

72:53- Buddy was literally knocked unconscious with a frying pan, “Looney Tunes” style.

74:15- Buddy asks for a lawyer and Kelsey Grammar’s Detective Jones tells him “We don’t subscribe to that big city nonsense” like due process and laws and stuff.

74:53- Kelsey Grammar accurately summing up the entire movie thus far: “Now you’re just making shit up.”

86:57- Third random musical cue of the night: a children’s toy creepily playing “London Bridges Falling Down.” Spooky!

Courtesy of Screen Media

90:35- Finally, we get to the Cage-Grammar faceoff nobody wanted.

93:51- I don’t want to give too much away about the ending, but suffice it to say, one of the things I’ve been joking about – either the Girl Scout sex dungeon, the vampires or the haunted house- is indeed an actual late-in-the-game plot reveal. Told you so!

You may notice that there is not a star score above per the norm. That is because reviewing a bad movie is even more subjective than reviewing a good movie. This may be a zero-star movie for you, and it may be a four-starrer. Only you can answer that question. I’m just going to provide the facts and let you decide from here.

About the author

Stephen Dow is an award-winning journalist with a passion for film – not just consuming it, but thoughtfully and actively engaging with it. He believes that these modern myths have a lot to tell us about our world and ourselves.  He can be reached at




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