SEPTEMBER 26, 2007
One of the great perks of watching a Horror Movie A Day is discovering a movie I knew nothing about (OK, it’s the only perk. This has severely cut into my video game time!). Such is the case with Cannibal Apocalypse. Like many of the movies I watch, it was simply queued on Netflix or Blockbuster because it came up as a recommendation for another movie. So when I began to watch the film, I had no preconceived notions about it. Hell, I didn’t even know what it was about or who was in it. I assumed there would be cannibals, and that there would be some sort of apocalypse.
The film began in the jungle. So I thought “OK, another Ferox/Holocaust ripoff. Fine.” But then they reveal the jungle scene was just a nightmare of John Saxon’s character. A few minutes later, John Morghen (!!!) goes to a movie and bites a female patron, then holes up inside a flea market, killing anyone who tries to capture him. So now I am thinking, “OK, it’s a siege movie with cannibals, sweet!” But no, Saxon comes along and talks Morghen down, and Morghen is taken back to a mental institution. And so on. Usually when I see a movie as old as this, not only do I know the general structure of the plot, but have half the kills spoiled from seeing the trailer, know who survives because they are in the sequel, etc. But here, every time I thought I knew how the rest of the movie would play out, it went off in a new direction (but not in a confusing or crippling way). Needless to say, I had more fun watching this movie than most of the others all month.
The best surprise was how much Morghen was in the film. Usually the poor sod is killed instantly after being introduced, but here he’s got more screentime than anyone save Saxon. A film can never have too much John Morghen, so this was fantastic. His eventual death (I’m not spoiling anything. Come on, the guy NEVER lives) was amazingly well done, considering the time period. I honestly can’t really figure out how it was accomplished, though I have a theory (body suspension - notice you never see the top of his head or an angled view).
Being an Italian film, there is also a hefty dose of ridiculous dialogue. My favorite came early on, as a man says “I always said you should have married me instead. But anyway, speaking professionally...” and then goes on to tell a woman that her husband is nuts. The line is ridiculous enough, but the guy doing the dubbing says it with such lazy nonchalance it becomes a minor treasure in the annals of horrible Italian horror movie lines. Then there’s the usual complete dismissal of any female character (“come here, bitch!” is said more than once, often unprovoked), a hateful old woman, cops who threaten everyone they encounter, etc. All filmed in Georgia for some goddamn reason.
The only downer is the soundtrack. The DVD is in horrendous mono sound, which not only leaves a few lines up to your imagination, but also betrays the great, Goblin-esque soundtrack by Alexander Blonksteiner, who also did House by the Cemetery. Some of his cues are sort of porn-ish (especially the first one, which is totally inappropriate to the scene involving the massacre of a Vietnamese village), but the rest is reminiscent of Dawn of the Dead without being a total ripoff. The lack of remastered sound is all the more baffling when you consider that the film is actually presented anamorphic despite having the rightfully rare ratio of 1.66:1, and there’s also a nice collection of extras, including an hour long recollection from Saxon, Morghen, and director Anthony Dawson (aka Antonio Margheriti). My favorite though, was a text description of all the different cuts made to the film (as well as a few of the dozen or so titles the film has gone by).
I hope the Grindhouse Festival (a monthly double feature in LA that has introduced me to many a Morghen film) shows this one sometime soon; I’d love to watch it again with a crowd. Till then, definitely check this one out, it’s the most accessible of the “Cannibal _____” films of the era.
What say you?