March 22, 2014

Movie Review: Anthropophagus

Anthropophagus is an interesting beast. Firstly, it is a film of many names, besides the title seen above, it has been called The Grim Reaper, Man Eater, Cannibal, and Antropofago (probably a few other variations, too). Guess the numerous titles could be due to the difficulty of pronouncing, much less defining, it. On top of that, it made the BBFC's Video Nasty list and has been banned in numerous countries. It has also been mostly available in an edited version with something around 10-minutes excised from it. I have had an uncut DVD sitting on my shelf for a long time, but for some reason it took until now to actually pop it in the player.

The movie was directed by Joe D'Amato, a man who seemed to make a good five or six movies a year. A man who worked in pornography, horror, exploitation, pretty much anything you could mix with sleaze. He also co-wrote the movie with actor George Eastman, a regular of Italian horror and exploitation films known for his imposing presence (he also features in this film as the titular bad guy).

For those wondering what Anthropophagus means and doesn't want to look it up, it means a man who eats human flesh. Delightful, no? That probably gives you a good idea of where the movie is going to go. The problem is really how long it takes to get there. It takes well over an hour for the movie to really get going. The first 60-70 minutes are something of an endurance test, how much of nothing can you take? I will admit, it was a chore to make it through to the end, but I have to admit I did not totally dislike it. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, I actually enjoyed it a bit. I guess we should get on to what is in the movie, right?

The movie opens with a German couple on vacation, walking through an idyllic Greek town. They go to the beach where he lays down to catch some sun while she heads into the ocean. In a bit that is a little reminiscent off Spielberg's Jaws, we see the woman swimming from a far beneath the water point of view. Before long, she is pulled under and replaced with a watery cloud of blood. Now, unlike Jaws, the killer exits the water in order to plant a knife in the head of the sunbathing boyfriend. Not a bad open, but with that out of the way, you can forget about seeing any blood for the next hour.

The scene shifts to a group of young tourists getting ready to hop a boat and visit some of the islands. Julie (Tisa Farrow, Mia's sister and star of Zombi 2) overhears them and asks if she can tag along, she was going to visit some old friends and missed the last ferry. They agree and off they go. Once they arrive at the island, things seem a little strange. There is nobody around. There does not appear to be a single soul on the island. Rather than loot a little and get out, they decide to poke around and see if they can find anything.

They do end up finding a young blind girl that Julie used to babysit for when she was little. From her we learn about what may have happened to the other folks and how she can smell when “he” is around, he smells of blood. Now we begin ramping up to the final act when the bad guy finally makes his presence felt. It has been a long time coming and I have to admit to wondering if the nasty reputation the movie has was really deserved or if it was pure hype.

The group gets split up as they are wont to do in movies like this, makes for easier pickings. I am not going to give you a run down of what happens, but there are two gore scenes that stand out and are likely the bits that led to its nasty reputation. You will know them when you see them, but if you have heard of this movie before, you probably already know about at least one of them. It is not quite as graphic as I was expecting, but it was still disturbing. The final bit suffers a bit from being shot in full daylight, but is still a bit on the gross side.

I don't know. It is true that a lot of this movie is dull, but it does end well. George Eastman is a very creepy and imposing presence with that particular makeup job he had. I have read that Italy was starting to make some rip off movies based on the American slasher cycle, and it has been surmised this might have been one of them. I am not so sure as the slasher run was barely beginning when this movie was released in 1980, but it is an interesting theory. This movie does play out a bit like an American slasher. Well, an American slasher if it were filtered through Italian sensibilities. There is really nothing quite like some old school Italian gutmunching, and the few bits we get here are pretty good, interesting to see in a movie that is much more slasher-like than cannibal-like.

Anthropophagus is not one of the better Italian flicks I have seen, and so far as D'Amato goes, I prefer Buio Omega. Still, there is something interesting about this one. If only it moved a little quicker and set up some kills, even if there were ancillary characters, earlier on and didn't leave it quite so back loaded. The bits with Eastman, when he finally shows, are pretty effective. Overall, it left me a bit torn. The early boredom is almost erased by the last twenty minutes, but it is still a bit of a chore to get through. However, I would not be surprised if I liked it more upon repeat viewings. I think it may have a cumulative effect making it something of an acquired taste. Not great, but should not be easily dismissed.

Mildly Recommended.

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