Saturday, 18 April 2009

Cannibal Apocalypse DVD review

I’ve been reading up on the greats (and the not-so-greats) of the cannibal and zombie subgenres of horror, and this film kept getting mentioned, so I thought I should check it out. Thank (Insert deity) here for HMV sales. The version I bought is the uncut edition of this insane 1981 film. The film was banned for a few years, and it is easy to see why when watching it. John Saxon takes the lead over a cast that has a couple of other decent performers in it, but Mr Saxon is far and away the best thing about the film. The idea of the movie is nice and different- cannibals let loose on city streets, instead of in the jungle. The cause of this cannibalism is a rabies-like virus that makes whoever is infected with it crave meat. A group of Vietnam veterans had brought the virus over from their ordeal in the war, and while John Saxon’s character is (almost) okay, his two buddies ended up locked up in an institution.

His former friends escape, and the mayhem begins. This is a very different approach to a horror film, and while there is gore galore, the film seems a whole lot more serious than its genre would normally allow. There are some interesting ideas on show here, handled pretty well by director Antonio Margheriti, but the film is let down by a number of atrocious actors delivering rather suspect dialogue. The action is nicely staged and well shot, and the splatter effects are suitably horrific, but it is the concept itself that raises this above your average horror fare. It’s just a shame the cast is so terrible aside from Saxon!

The most interesting scene, for me anyway, was the shootout in the deserted supermarket, between one demented cannibal and a group of bikers he has started offing following a chilling incident in a cinema. This scene alone was worth the paltry sum I paid for the film. The soundtrack is another matter. It is so utterly wrong for most of the film that it is almost comedic. Funky disco beats accompany extreme, brutal violence, resulting in a very odd viewing experience.

The transfer is crisp and clean considering the age of the film and the original materials it was created with. The sound is a dull mono mix but I couldn’t really expect anything else. There are some fascinating extras on offer though, with a 54 minute documentary on the movie, trailers, filmographies, a tour of the locations, and a short feature on the film’s notorious edits that were made in the era of the video nasty. It is nasty indeed, but it is the ideas that are more horrific than the action itself. Certainly a film that is probably only enjoyed by sadistic horror diehards, Cannibal Apocalypse (despite its misleading title- what apocalypse?) is an interesting entry in the horror pantheon that delivers on most of its hype.

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