October 11, 2014

Movie Review: Cannibals

Italian filmmakers in the 1970s and 1980s would see something becoming popular in another country and then attempt to replicate it by jumping on the bandwagon and then making some absolutely insane movie that is somewhat but not really related and make it quite entertaining. Think about what Fulci did with Zombie (or rather, Zombi 2). It seems that at this time there were other countries looking to get in on the fun as well. The Italians hit it big with cannibal movies like Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, and Last Cannibal World that others wanted in on the fun. Enter French producers who enlisted Jess Franco to make his mark on the flesh eaters. The result was the lackluster Cannibals.

You may know the movie under one of its other titles, Mondo Cannibale, White Goddess, or White Barbarian Queen. It is certainly lackluster, but then again it is Jess Franco, and he is rather hit or miss, and I have read that even he doesn't really care for it either. To be honest, it isn't terrible, but it doesn't really do anything special, although it does have the opportunity. The stretching of the suspension of disbelief does reach the breaking point, but fortunately I like movies that make little sense, sometimes.

Al Cliver stars as Dr. Jeremy Taylor, you might remember him from Lucio Fulci's Zombie and The Beyond. Taylor is disease expert on an excursion into the jungle. On the way they are forced to stop because the boat captain does not feel it is safe to travel at night. This proves to be their undoing, a local cannibal tribe swims over to the boat (without getting wet, mind you) and chows down on those on board, including Taylor’s wife. It is a slow motion chomp, with plenty of reverb laden eating sounds and close ups of people chewing.

As the chewing ends, we find Taylor tied up and his daughter kidnapped. Not to mention being surround by what looks like a failed attempt at a gang for The Warriors (plus, they are not exactly authentic looking like in Cannibal Holocaust, they are of a variety of races and look like they were picked up off the streets). Taylor’s arm is cut off, but manages to escape.

Well, what makes the movie interesting, and terribly unbelievable, is Taylor trying to come to grips with the loss of his arm and what happened to the expedition. It takes him years to come around, but then he decides to mount another expedition to try and rescue his daughter (ten years later!!). What makes him think she would even be alive? (well, she is and she is the tribe’s white goddess, which also happen to be the only English words they say).

It is slow and unbelievable, but the idea of using therapy to get over a cannibal attack before diving back in is a pretty novel idea. I quite like that. Sure, I would have liked it to be in a better movie, with a lead that is more than just a lump. Also, maybe a different gimmick than a cut off arm, or better effects as this is the least convincing I have ever seen. To break it down, Cliver simply tucks his arm behind his back the whole time.

Jess Franco films are an acquired taste, and I do not think cannibals are really in his wheelhouse. He gives it a go, but it never really gels, and while it is not completely terrible and certainly watchable, Cannibals is not one that needs to be on the must see list.

Mildly Recommended.

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