Cannibal Apocalypse (aka Apocalypse Domani)

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?


  1. Wow, this is one of the Italian cannibal films I haven't seen! I think it was banned in the UK as a "video nasty" and I don't think it was one of the many bootlegs my mates and I got hold of when we were teenagers. Thanks for the cool review!

  2. Saw it 2 months ago after wanting to for a while,since its one of those films that no ones heard of but when anyone accidently rents it have a good time with it...pretty much like you did.
    Theoretically its bad,but its fun.I like the documentary where John Saxon barely recollects anything about the shoot except being really depressed that there was so much gore.Usually people "develop" photographic memories and recall all sorts of stuff from 25 years ago,but just this once its a real interview where a guy hasn't been prepped and shown a copy of the film beforehand.
    I like the way the underage/barely legal girl is already up for whatever with whomever...I sort of wanted that bit to go a bit more overboard.But John Saxons character ends up being Mr nice guy.
    And what is with the sudden total change of heart for the cannibal woman who helps them escape the mental unit?
    Although it makes 10000 times more sense than House by the Cemetary,although its not hilarious like that is.City of the Living dead is the funniest Italian horror film I've seen.It almost makes sense and has total gore overload,but is let down by the abysmal acting and dialogue.

  3. It's funny how we apply different standards for Italian movies... if this was a movie made by like, i dunno, Steve Miner, it would be unforgivable. But because it's Italian, the nonsensical plot, awful dialogue, etc, are all not only OK, but sort of a requirement.

    I also wanted Saxon and the nextdoor whore to screw around. Oh well.

  4. I've found that while reviewing these movies - a lot that should be barely watchable come off as being quite good, and the ones that should be unbearably awful at least come off as a decent way to kill a couple of hours.

    I've been working through the "Video Nasties" list alphabetically (and you thought you had horror induced OCD) so this was the first "Cannibal ___________" movie I came to - oddly, despite the man-eating, it doesn't really come across as a cannibal film and , despite the 'virus' element, it doesn't come off as a zombie movie at all either.

    A tough nut to classify...


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