Friday, October 03, 2008

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: The PLAN 9 of Cannibal Cinema?

The cannibal film is probably one of the more polarizing sub-genres of the horror world. I'm not even sure how it originated, though I tend to agree with author John Neely's suggestion that the genre is closely tied to the zombie films that got their start with George Romero's seminal NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Throw in a 70s survival plotline and some anthropologists looking to find undiscovered country and you've got a fair idea how flicks like Umberto Lenzi's MAN FROM DEEP RIVER or Ruggero Deodato's CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST might have come about.

Personally, I'm torn when it comes to such films, especially the ones that are packed with liberal doses of animal cruelty. Stuff like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST can be seat-squirmingly tough to watch and CANNIBAL FEROX aka MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY (whose radio ads still echo in my ears from its days playing at the Super 130 Drive-In) tends to entertain largely due to its over-the-top performance from John Morghen as coke-addeled Mike Logan, the Eurosleazebag to end all Eurosleazebags.

I'm pleased to report, though, that the cannibal genre finally has a flick that can be appreciated purely on its own terrible merits. 1981's CANNIBAL TERROR (or CANNIBAL ERROR as one friend suggested) might just be the Euro-gut-muncher answer to PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE... a flick so ghastly, so head-scratchingly inept on so many levels that I couldn't help but fall in love.

Tossing the survival/anthropology plot devices out the window, the writers (including Julio PĂ©rez Tabernero whose screenplay credits feature the likes of HOT PANTIES and the obscure comic-book gore flick SEXY CAT) offer up the kidnapping of a young girl who turns out to be the daughter of a Trump-like tycoon and his wife (Eurotrash mainstays Olivier Mathot and Silvia Solar). Abducted by a pair of idiot criminals and their busty moll, the girl is spirited away to a jungle/woods/forest crawling with cannibals.

After their guide goes off in search of water to fix the radiator – despite her own dire warnings that the area's resident flesh-eaters would "love to put you in a soup" – and is promptly snatched and eaten by the less-than-convincing natives (more on them later), the kidnappers and their clueless abductee end up at the home of Don Antonio and his young wife Manuela. The voluptuous hostess' nude bathing results in an assault at the hands of kidnapper Mario, which injects a revenge plotline into a movie that's already reaching beyond its meager abilities.

While this Spanish/French mess was once credited to Jess Franco its inability to follow even the most basic of logic reminds me of Jean Rollin's ZOMBIE LAKE, another candidate in the Eurotrash So-Bad-Its-Good Sweepstakes. While that film featured an obvious swimming pool doubling for a lake and the most inexplicable use of the passage of time in cinematic history, CANNIBAL TERROR's litany of witlessness includes: "cannibals" who look like they were picked up from the parking lot of a Giants game; a "jungle" setting that's obviously a forest; the requisite, laughable gore effects; a car driving in the background during the film's touching conclusion; the most annoying child "star" in Eurosleaze history; and enough perplexing scenes and plot "twists" that you'll wonder if the whole damn thing was actually improvised on the spot.

I'm almost afraid to recommend CANNIBAL TERROR (now available on DVD from the fine folks at Severin Films) to anybody I don't know personally. Friends and fellow trash fans know all too well that I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to this sort of junk cinema, so they've been forewarned. New readers may want to familiarize themselves with my love of other Z-grade cinema before taking the CANNIBAL TERROR plunge!


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