Directed by Alain Deruelle. Starring Silvia Solar, Gérard Lemaire, Pamela Stanford, Olivier Mathot, Antonio Mayans. Horror/Action, Spain/France, 93 mins, cert 18.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray by 88 Films on 11th March 2019.
"...It's such a harmless little film" says writer/producer Calum Waddell during THAT'S NOT THE AMAZON!, the documentary that accompanies CANNIBAL TERROR on this new HD transfer from 88 Films, and he is right - CANNIBAL TERROR is a harmless film. In fact, it is so harmless it is almost pacifistic, offering up a watered down take on the Italian cannibal movies that were causing a stir at the time.
But why is it watered down? The cannibal genre arguably peaked with Ruggero Deodato's CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which is still the byword for extreme, gut-munching gruesomeness – so much so that a full uncut version has never been released in the UK – and the genre sort of petered out with a whimper after that, with only Umberto Lenzi’s CANNIBAL FEROX really going anywhere near the excessive gore and violence that marked out Deodato’s movie. And if you can’t top – or at least equal - what has gone before then what is the point, right? Well, possibly but CANNIBAL TERROR was made the same year as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and is not part of the Italian cycle, instead being made by French production/distribution company Eurociné, the company responsible for, amongst others, Jean Rollin’s ZOMBIE LAKE, Jess Franco’s THE DEVIL HUNTER and OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, so that should give you an idea of the level of quality we’re looking at here.
Yes, CANNIBAL TERROR is a poor imitation of Italian cannibal movies that is extremely limited by its low budget and sheer lack of imagination, in its storytelling and execution of its ‘action’ scenes. The plot is the same old recycled guff about criminals having to hide in the jungles of the Amazon (note the title of the previously mentioned documentary on the disc) and being set upon by hungry tribespeople desperate to eat entrails, brains and anything else they can scoop out of their victims’ body parts.
But, and this is key to the enjoyment of this movie, the ‘actors’ portraying said tribespeople have clearly never been in a jungle in their lives, nor have they eaten raw meat as they don’t seem to actually put anything in their mouths and, oddly, some – but not all – of them appear to be middle-aged white men in bad wigs and coloured grease paint like something out of a Vic & Bob sketch, a comparison made all the more appropriate when they start doing a weird tribal dance that is really just several clueless extras doing a ‘dads-at-a-wedding-disco’ stepping up and down move and sneakily trying to look at what each other is doing because there is very little direction coming from behind the camera – just look at their eyes and gormless expressions while they are doing it.
Elsewhere, we get the customary rape scene that in this context is part of the plot as it is this act that sets the criminals on their path to being chowed down upon but it is so badly executed – the rapist ties the victim up in an elaborate cat’s cradle of ropes tied to nearby trees that keeps her suspended in mid-air – that there is little-to-no sense of danger considering that the man must have had his hands busy creating such a system of ropes and pulleys so she could have made a run for it, and considering said woman is dancing with her rapist in the next scene it just feels like sloppy writing in order to get all the main characters in one setting.
As a film on its own CANNIBAL TERROR is bad. Very bad, in fact, but in a way that is so incompetent that you cannot help but be amused by its attempts to look dangerous and think it can grab some of audiences that were lapping up titles such as MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD, LAST CANNIBAL WORLD and MAN FROM DEEP RIVER, which aren’t as extreme as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST but do have more going on in them than CANNIBAL TERROR. However, this package is worth picking up if you are a cannibal completist just for the THAT'S NOT THE AMAZON! documentary that covers Eurociné’s entries in the cannibal cycle, featuring interviews with, amongst others, Calum Waddell, actor Antonio Mayans and lecturer Mikel J. Koven, who all shed some light on what made these no-budget knock-offs so much fun despite being objectively quite awful. If you’re on the fence with cannibal movies then CANNIBAL TERROR is unlikely to persuade you that there is much to enjoy in the genre as what it does show you is done with all the skill and competence of, at best, a student film, but if you are well versed and on board with the absurdity of it all then there is much joy to be had at deriding its lack of finesse, and THAT'S NOT THE AMAZON! is worthy of a place in any enthusiasts collection and warrants more of your attention than the main feature.
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