Adventure novelist and playboy Tom Harris is sent from Miami Beach to remote Voodoo Island in the Caribbean to gather material for a new book. Harris's publisher Duncan Fairchild and Fairchild's wife Coral accompany him. As they near the island, their small airplane runs out of fuel. Tom takes the controls from pilot Enrico and lands perfectly on a narrow beach.
Tom sets out alone for a house he spotted from the air. On the way he stops to watch a young blonde woman swim naked in a jungle pond. Suddenly a tall zombie appears. Tom yells to warn her. He dives in and swims toward the zombie as she swims in the opposite direction. But Tom can't find the zombie. He asks a fisherman for help. The zombie, wielding a machete, attacks them and decapitates the fisherman. Tom fires four bullets into him to no effect. The zombie runs away when armed men arrive in a Jeep.
The leader of the men introduces himself as Charles Bentley. When Tom asks him about zombies, Charles says there are none and that the islanders are "a very simple people" who cannot comprehend that a man could be "deranged of mind, a homicidal maniac."
Back at the plane, Duncan, Coral and Enrico are frightened by islanders who are approaching in a threatening manner. Tom and Charles arrive. Charles orders the islanders to secure the plane. He introduces himself to Duncan as the overseer of Voodoo Island, which is owned by the never-seen Lord Carrington. They go to Charles's house.
As Coral and Duncan admire the tropical sunset, Tom warns them that not all is as lovely as it seems. He asks the housekeeper about voodoo drums and human sacrifice, but she is a member of the voodoo cult and feigns ignorance.
Before dinner that night, Tom meets the woman he saw swimming. She is Janine Biladeau, the daughter of scientist Dr. Augustus Biladeau. As the others gather, Tom tells them of the zombie attack and says "I heard a rumor there's an army of walking dead on this island." Augustus immediately dismisses the notion, saying that the islanders use a plant-based narcotic that can cause physical and mental problems.
Tom and Janine go for a walk in the moonlight. Zombies attack them and carry off Janine. Tom rescues her and escorts her back to the house. Privately, Charles tells Tom that Janine is at risk of being sacrificed because she is a blonde virgin. Janine and Tom fall into bed. Tom asks her to leave the island with him and the others the next day, but she refuses because she will not leave her father behind. Meanwhile, the cult performs a ceremony presided over by the masked Papa Neybo.
The next morning, Tom tells Duncan to gather everyone at the plane so that they can leave. Janine has decided to go with them and to ask Augustus to leave as well. She takes Tom to Augustus's lab, but before they can enter, her friend Fernando warns them that Janine will be kidnapped and sacrificed that night.
Augustus is in his lab experimenting with irradiated snake venom, which he hopes will cure cancer. He injects a man with it and the man immediately transforms into a zombie. Augustus asks Tom to take Janine away, but says that it is too late for him to leave. Zombies attack the lab. Janine and Tom flee toward the beach.
Tom, Duncan and Enrico manhandle the plane into the proper orientation for take-off. But zombies grab Janine and Coral. As Enrico starts the plane's engine, the tall zombie walks into its spinning propeller carrying a box of explosives. The resulting blast kills Enrico and destroys both airplane and zombie. Tom and Duncan dive into the sea to escape the zombies pursuing them.
Duncan and Tom swim until they find a motorboat. They then disguise themselves as voodoo cultists and go to the ceremony to save Janine. Unknown to them, however, Augustus is watching. Just as Papa Neybo is about to behead Janine, Augustus throws a knife, killing Papa Neybo and revealing him to be Charles.
Tom, Janine, Coral, Duncan and Augustus race back to the lab, the cultists and zombies giving chase. Augustus rigs his equipment so that it will blow up and destroy Voodoo Island, ending, he says, Charles's "insane" plan to take over the world with his army of indestructible zombies.
As they escape in the boat, two cultists clamber aboard. Augustus is stabbed in the back before both cultists are killed. Dying, Augustus explains that the zombies are the accidental result of his experiments and when Charles discovered this, he hatched his scheme for world conquest. Augustus dies, the island explodes and the others sail back to Miami Beach.
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