Friday, 12 February 2016

WATCHING: ANTHROPOPHAGOUS (1980)

AKA Anthropophagus: The Beast, AKA The Grim Reaper, AKA Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper, AKA Man Eater, AKA The Savage Island, AKA Zombi 7: Grim Reaper

In 1998 Ring was released, the popular Japanese film about a video cassette that curses everyone who watches it. Through the static, Ring provides us with a disturbing horror, only blighted by its now out of date technology. You'd have to wonder if the so-called moral guardians in '80s UK had a similar feeling to watching cassettes as the protagonists does in Ring, in short, a feeling that what they were watching was indeed real and sent to punish them.

Prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, and a member of the notorious Video Nasties list, Joe D'Amato's Anthropophagous has become a standout example of how ludicrous some of the reasons these politicians gave for censoring these films. Finally being released uncut in June 2015, for a while this film was accused of being a snuff film, mainly due to the fetus-eating scene, which was actually a rabbit.


Set on a Greek island, the story basically concerns the discovery that this island is being terrorised by a cannibal (George Eastman, also the screenwriter), and we watch as most of the members of our cast are picked off. From the onset, with an electronic score that sounds like your soul draining away, you know this is going to be a terrible film. The film is subsumed by a nonsensical plot and awful acting (and awful dubbing), and aside from a few scenes, is quite boring. While there is points where suspense is built up nicely, the film knows we are all sticking around just to see the gore.

The most notorious is the aforementioned fetus-eating scene, which is, as you can imagine, pretty gruesome. However, once again, it is the bad acting that perturbed me more. The husband, recently stabbed by the cannibal, just watches on as our man-eater strangles to death his wife and eats his unborn child. I found myself saying out-loud, what are you doing man! At no point does he attempt to save his family. Consequently, the husband goes on to be one of two survivors, and this heartless wimp goes on to stab the cannibal (a bit too late) with a pick-axe, becoming the hero. The cannibal, still with an insatiable hunger for human flesh, goes on to eat his own intestines before keeling over dead.


In our high definition, CGI age, Anthropophagous is completely laughable. While it is sometimes grim, the blood is so red as to look like poster paint, and eating humans apparently gives you the complexion of wheatpaste. Still, if you was to watch this on an unrated video cassette, whose tracking had been destroyed by multiple viewings by a ton of different people, I guess the lo-fi imagery would be hard to make out, and, maybe, it could look real. But you would have to ask yourself, who would be sophisticated enough to record a snuff film and then edit it like a movie, and put it on public release?

Like the famous myth about people running away at the viewing of the 1895 Lumiere Brothers film L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat, D'Amato's Anthropophagus is classic case of people not understanding the medium and being scared by what they see. Anthropophagus has secured its place in the history of film, and is well worth a view for those interested in social history, but as a film to be enjoyed? Ergh, maybe not.

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