Thursday, 17 September 2009

Cannibal Apocalypse

Director: Antonio Margheriti
Writers: Antonio Margheriti and Dardano Sacchetti
USA/Italy 1980

A fun film with above-average production values that nevertheless isn't scared to use stock footage in proper exploitation fashion, Cannibal Apocalypse sees cannibalism brought to America by Vietnam vets in the form of a virus which then spreads, nicely merging the cannibal and zombie genres. Furthermore the sexualised nature of the cannibal attacks, usually carried out Dracula-style as the cannibal goes in for a kiss only to bite off a breast or a chunk of neck, brings in a bit of sexy vampirism as well - so what we have are essentially vampire zombie cannibals, breeds that aren't that far apart anyway when you think about it.

Cannibal Apocalypse's main drawback is the (relative) lack of gore and scares, but despite a bit of a lull in the middle it's a fast-paced, action filled movie with some good location work. The inevitable anti-climax as we move from the exciting "Delta Force"-style opening scenes in Vietnam to boring American suburbia is familiar in Italian exploitation horror, but a later supermarket siege and the film's climax in the city sewers are more imaginative than I've come to expect from the Video Nasties. It's home to some of the best unintended humour I've come across in the genre as well, a psychiatrist telling a woman concerned about her husband: "I always said you should have married me instead. But anyway, speaking professionally..." being one of the gems in a line-up that includes weeing on tear gas cannisters to put them out, a cannibal called Charles Bukowski and a romantic paedophile sub-plot for our main hero, played by B-movie legend John Saxon.

Most importantly the ingenious crossing of cannibals, zombies and vampires remains, as far as I know, unique in horror cinema - though god knows why, given how tired contemporary zombie films are becoming. The present paucity of imagination is underlined by the way this cheap exploitation film casually tosses it in as if coming up with new ideas isn't actually that difficult. The baffling failure of modern identikit zombie films to even copy this suggests that maybe it isn't.


Anonymous said...

I saw a film whilst in Germany in the early 80s about a group of POWs in Vietnam that were being used to clear minefields. One of them is blown up and left for dead. The others finally manage to escape (cue lots of gore as they escape the jungle trying to avoid the mantraps. There's an excellent scene where one gets hit with this ball of bamboo spikes). Once back on American soil they start getting bumped off by a mysterious stranger who turns out to be the guy they thought had died in the minefield at the beginning. I remember the final scene set on a barge full of garbage, where a sniper takes out the bad guy by blowing his spine out. Anyway. I'd love to know the title of this movie so I can relive my disturbed childhood!!

Any Ideas?


Ben said...

No but it sounds awesome!

Anyone else out there know?

I might put a request out on Twitter...

Ben said...

From LeftTurnClyde on Twitter. Could it be this? -

Anonymous said...


I checked out "Thou Shall Not Kill" and it's not the one (Sounds interesting though) This film was made pre 1983 I'd say. I'm not even sure if it was a German film or not (which would make identification a bit more difficult). Thanks for the help.

Ben said...

I'm intrigued and will keep looking :)

Derek said...

John Saxon is at "Collectormania London" in November. Go get his autogtaph Ben!

Ben said...

I wouldn't know what to say to him! What do you think he'd do if I said "I loved your creepy paedophile in Cannibal Apocalypse"?

Derek said...

haha, dunno! But I'm sure he wouldn't mind talking about any of his films! Most of the guests at the shows are enthusiastic towards the fans. :)