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Friday, November 7, 2008

Anthropophagus (1980) review


George Eastman (Nikos), Tisa Farrow (Julie), Zora Kerova (Carol), Serena Grandi (Maggie)

***WARNING! This review contains pics of graphic violence***

Vacationers are stranded on a desolate Greek Isle whose inhabitants have seemingly all vanished save for a mysterious woman seen wandering around the village. The island contains a dark and horrifying secret. The group is stalked by a flesh eating madman who hunts them down one by one, killing and eating his victims. With no help coming, the ever dwindling survivors must find a way off the dangerous atoll alive.

Definition of Anthropophagus: A cannibal; an individual that subsists on human flesh.

Joe D'Amato does a sort-of slasher movie with this infamous horror flick that isn't quite as good as its reputation would have you believe. I've always enjoyed it, but I find it hard to recommend it to anyone save for die hard Euro horror completists and sheer curiosity value. There are too many slow stretches between the action. The film picks up towards the end and it still has some seriously creepy moments ably pulled off by the sometimes resourceful D'Amato.

One of the best sequences comes shortly after the group stumble upon a young blind girl hiding inside a barrel. She is covered in blood and brandishing a knife. Seemingly in shock, the group get her cleaned up and manage to get her to talk about what has happened to all the people. She reveals enough to make the vacationers want to end their trip early. What's interesting and scary about the blind girl, is that she can SMELL the killer coming.

During a thunderstorm, she screams out, "He's here, he's HERE!" One of the men searches around and returns upstairs to tell her no one is in the house. As the man exits and closes the door, there's darkness. Then, lightning flashes and you can see the cannibalistic killer was hiding behind the door the whole time! The man rushes back in but the killer is too strong savoring a large chunk of his victims throat.

Another bit deals with the controversial scene where the killer rips Grandi's unborn child from between her legs. It's understandable why such a scene would cause such a stir (Apparently in Britain, censors thought this was snuff footage). It's quite tasteless, although you never really see him eat the fetus, you do see him bite down on it while the husband, stabbed in the shoulder with a butcher knife, watches on helplessly.

Supposedly, this sequence was removed from US prints, but in a review from the (in)famous drive-in critic, Joe Bob Briggs, he mentions having seen this, and a later scene that was also supposedly trimmed. Perhaps theatrical prints were complete but cut for the video release? Or maybe some prints got out uncut? I don't know for sure.

The other scene that was removed, (at least for the US video release) under the title, THE GRIM REAPER, is the final shot where the killer is stabbed with a pickaxe. His innards spill out and he then proceeds to chow down on them! In the video version, you see him stabbed, then cut to him falling over, cue THE END. This final shot is rather lazily filmed as the two survivors just stand there showing very little emotion while Klaus, the cannibal, fondles his innards before putting them into his mouth and falling over dead. Even still, D'Amato (a former cinematographer and what he was best at) manages to capture some innate atmosphere from the island location. He also successfully generates suspense and tension during several sequences, one of the best being the above mentioned scene with the blind girl whilst a lightning storm rages outside.

The effects in the film aren't that great but are serviceable for what was a very small budget. There's an axe in the head, a severed head in a bucket, a scalp is ripped off and a hanging among other things. Nothing overly special, but Eastman brings a fervent voraciousness to the role and is clearly the best thing about this movie and the one aspect that holds it all together and the only reason to sit through the film. What's especially ironic is that Eastman dislikes having participated in this production (also co-writing the film) despite it (sadly) being his best known work. Nonetheless, he has nothing but praise for the humble D'Amato, whom Eastman had a very long working relationship.

The music in the original film is very pedestrian and uninteresting save for maybe one or two cues. In the US video version, the original score is supplanted by creepy stock music that can be heard in old TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, the films KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977), THE DARK (1979) and briefly in ALLIGATOR (1980). I actually prefer the music in the US cut as it definitely sets the mood much better than the humdrum original score by Marcello Giombini, a composer who made a career out of creating scores for some of the sleaziest exploitation movies ever made.

For some odd reason the first scene is all in German until after the second kill. In the US tape, this bit is in English. I assume Media Blasters sub-licensed this title from one of the other foreign distributors whose elements lacked English dialog for this opening sequence. This sequence is interesting as it sort of sets the story up like the killer might truly be a monster. With the first kill recalling JAWS and the POV shot of something emerging from the ocean with blood dripping onto the wet sand, an impression is given that this thing may not be human.

Another creepy story conceit is the appearance of an old woman who wanders around aimlessly never acknowledging any of the doomed tourists when they attempt to speak to her. She has a connection of sorts to the crazed madman. Also, the seemingly abandoned villa adds a creepy ambiance of isolation. Everyone seems to have vanished without a trace save for a rotted corpse or two found by the stranded vacationers. Director D'Amato sets the film up very well and is successful in certain areas but the near endless parading around by the cast members seems to go on for what seems like an eternity. With some of this trimmed down, the film could possibly flow better.

On the interview with Eastman and Kerova, it seems to be quite a laid back affair, although Eastman seems embarrassed to be still talking about this movie. Kerova, who looks more beautiful now than she did at the time of the film, seems to enjoy the attention the film has gotten. A bit more in depth discussion on this film would have been nice. There's also a continuation of a Joe D'Amato documentary that covers his career and not this film in particular. An audio commentary would have been a great addition. I'm sure judging by Kerova's enthusiastic responses, she would have gladly participated in one. Tisa Farrow, Mia's sister, is the main protagonist and it would also prove curious to hear her thoughts on her brief career in Italian exploitation films.

The pseudo-sequel, ABSURD (1981), is a bit better and is a far gorier version of HALLOWEEN. It's unrelated other than the fact that it shares the same crew. That one again stars Eastman as an unstoppable killer who spills his guts in the opening minutes attempting to traverse a spiked fence. Edmond Purdom plays a priest who happens to be a scientist. It seems Eastman's character can regenerate damaged cells making him ostensibly indestructible. It's a bit better than the first film, but is sadly, not available on DVD. As it stands, ANTHROPOPHAGUS (1980) is an enjoyable movie whose notoriety is more intriguing than the actual film itself.

This review is representative of the Media Blasters 2 disc set.


TheReverendDoom said...

What a classic piece of weird Italian cinema. The fetus eating scene takes the cake. Man that's messed up.

venoms5 said...

I used to have the Monterey VHS of this under the GRIM REAPER title. The music was previously heard on old TWILIGHT ZONE episodes and most especially KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, one of my fave nature amok movies. The original score is pretty awful I think, save for one or two barely listenable cues.

lef teris said...

classic weird movie
original score sucks
nice post

venoms5 said...

Hi, Tentas. I agree about the original score. The one used in the US edit fits much better, I think.

Maldoror said...

"For some odd reason the first scene is all in German until after the second kill. In the US tape, this bit is in English".

They are just foreign tourists.

I think Marcello Giombini soundtrack is pretty good.

Is it not original OST?

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