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Saturday, October 31, 2009

22 Cannibal Apocalypse




Apocalypse Domani (Cannibal Apocalypse) 1980
**
Dir. Antonio Margheriti
Fright Level 4.5/10
Scare Type: horror of personality, gore

I really am curious as to why, in a three or four year period at the end of the 70's, Italy went into a "cannibal fever" producing a prolific number of cannibal films and raising the bar for film gore. Margheriti is one of the second-tier Italian horror figures, he made a lot of decent films, but didn't really make a great film to put him into the same league as Bava, Fuli, or Argento.

Cannibal Apocalypse is interesting because it turns the genre on its head. Instead of a wreckless Europeans getting their just deserts (ba dum chk) for trampling over the sacred or traditional lands of an exotic tribe, this is a film where cannibalism is brought home.

It could be seen that these are fitful films about the end of colonialism, but they come so late and Italy really doesn't seem as tied to colonial guilt or a loss of colonial pride as would the UK or France. What's also interesting is that in a good number of these cannibal films, Vietnam is alluded to. Here, its front and center. John Saxon, one of the great b-horror actors, plays Sgt. Norman Hopper, a Vietnam vet who has returned to his Atlanta home, haunted by the image of rescuing two of his men, who had resorted to cannibalism in a POW camp. When one of those soldiers is seen fit for release, he is set off, by a war film no less, and goes on a rampage.

The film associates the war experience with cannibalism, suggesting that the brutality of war is such that it takes men back to their basest pre-"civilized" levels. The problem is that the film undermines that, or dilutes it by suddenly turning into a bad knock-off of Cronenberg's Rabid, where cannbialism is a disease spread through biting. When the film works, its quite interesting, when its a poor man's zombie film, it neither interesting nor does it make sense. The film has some good ideas, but they aren't realized, and while Saxon gives a good performance, he really can't escape such a sub-par script. It's a nice try, and leagues above some of the Italian cannibal films. But for a better version of this film see Bob Clark's Deathdream.

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