Cannibal films are mostly guilty pleasures unless dealt in a profound manner like in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991) or ‘Raw’ (2016). The ‘70s-‘80s witnessed a “cannibal boom” where the popularity of cannibal films reached an all-time high. Here is a list of cannibal films that are bound to please the gore-hound within you:
- Man from Deep River (1972) – Let us begin the list with the film that is often held responsible for kick-starting the cannibal genre in the country of Italy. Umberto Lenzi wanted to capitalize on the widespread following for Mondo films which laid focus on remote, eye-catching locations, the seemingly awkward traditions and rituals followed by tribal communities, brutal violence and cruelty to animals. Inspired from ‘A Man Called Horse’, the film follows British photographer John Bradley (Ivan Rassimov) who is sent into a dense rain-forest in Thailand to capture offbeat snaps of wild fauna and flora. He is eventually captured by tribal natives who subject him to a series of barbaric rituals, all the while attracting the native-chief’s gorgeous (and naked) daughter. What ensues forms the crux of the film. There’s plenty of shock value added in the form of graphic violence and gore, apart from on-screen murder of animals which has seen admonition from censor boards all over the world.
- Last Cannibal World (1977) – Even though ‘Man from Deep River’ got the ball rolling for the cannibal genre, it is not until Ruggero Deodato released ‘Last Cannibal World’ in 1977 that the industry saw a “boom”. A cluster of oil prospectors undertake a journey to an outpost in the Mindanao Island in Philippines with disastrous consequences. The last remaining two (played by Massimo Foschi and Ivan Rassimov) in the group are captured by a stone-age cannibal tribe, who put them through physical and psychological violence. The film, although relatively on the lower side in its depiction of violence against humans, is infamous for its full-frontal nudity in a large number of scenes (with close-ups of genitals), apart from the skinning and evisceration of live animals (which the director claims, were added later on by the producer).
- The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978) – Directed by Sergio Martino, ‘La montagna del dio cannibale’ was banned in the U.K until 2011 for its gratuitous violence and labelled a ‘video-nasty’. Following the quest of Susan Stevenson (Ursula Andress) in search for her missing husband, in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. The film however, was shot entirely in Sri Lanka. Circumstances get out of hand as Susan and her acquaintances, each with their own deceitful intentions are taken captives by a cannibal tribe living in the hills. How Susan and the remaining survivors plot their escape is what the film is all about. The unrated European print displays several scenes of animal violence, including a monitor lizard being disembowelled, and a live monkey being gobbled by a python. The “private collection of the director” features blunt shots of a masturbating native-girl, and a simulated sex scene between a tribesman and a wild pig.
- Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – Nearly two decades before ‘The Blair Witch Project’, Ruggero Deodato’s cult-cannibal-film revolved around a documentary crew that apparently went missing while recording on film the lives of cannibal tribes in the Amazon. An anthropologist is sent to study why they never returned and he manages to recover video-footage that depicts the crew as more vile and immoral than the tribes themselves. They are shown set fire to some of the tribe members’ huts in order to stage a massacre for their documentary, a vivid contemplation on the theme of the media taking advantage of tragic situations for personal gain. They even resort to raping and impaling a young native girl on a wooden pole, later proclaiming that the natives did it. ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ was way ahead of its time (the found-footage genre later found plenty of takers) and mired itself in controversy for the graphic gutting of as many as six animals. At the time of its release, the director was arrested as the scenes of human-killing looked ‘too genuine’ and the actors were told to be in hiding post-shoot to create a ‘real vibe’ that they had actually been killed off. The crew brought the cast to court and recreated one of the traps used in the film to exhibit its easy execution without harming anyone.
- Eaten Alive (1980) – Again from the twisted mind of Umberto Lenzi, the film follows the ‘adventure’ template: Sheila (Janet Agren) searches for her sister who has gotten lost in the jungles of south-east Asia. The film is marked by a series of disconcerting scenes such as the one where Sheila gets raped by the cult-leader (played by Ivan Rassimov, who by then, had become a prominent name among actors in the cannibal genre) using a dildo covered in snake-blood. Much to the surprise of the viewers, the going only gets worse when they encounter a real group of cannibals. Rendering complete justice to the title, scenes of dismemberment and skin being peeled off fill the eyes of viewers, generating a sickening feel overall. For true gore-hounds though, this would be a complete feast.
- Zombi Holocaust (1980) – Director Mario Girolami blended concepts from ‘Zombi 2’ and ‘Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals’ to create a cross-over between zombies and cannibals – the title a clear indication. The gore-effects were highly praised but the storyline was criticized by many a reviewer. An expedition crew gets divided when an anthropologist is deemed the leader of a cannibal cult while a doctor revives corpses as part of an experiment to build an army of zombies pitting them against each other in a visceral battle. Scenes of throat-gashing, dismemberment and skull-autopsy abound.
- Cannibal Ferox (1981) – This cannibal-exploitation flick was said to be the ‘most violent film ever made’ by its U.S distributor at the time of its release. It was also claimed to be banned in as many as 31 countries, with the bans subsequently lifted after removal of scenes featuring cruelty and slaughter of actual animals. ‘Cannibal Ferox’ found itself mouldering for decades in the list of ‘video-nasties’ released around the same time. Eventually finding takers with the ascent of DVD and Bluray, the film drew criticism for its unabashed portrayal of sadism and vulgarity. Castration, impaling, organs and limbs being consumed, eyes popping out, piranha’s ripping someone’s legs apart – the film covers it all! No wonder why the uncensored version is still not available in plenty of countries.
- White Slave (1985) – When an 18 year old Catherine Miles travels to the Amazon to visit her parents, things do not go as per plan. Her parents are brutally killed and she ends up a prisoner of a native flesh-eating tribe. She is forced to adopt the customs of the tribe merely for survival. While not a path-breaking entry in the cannibal genre, ‘White Slave’ boasts of enough sleaze, gore and full-frontal nudity to recommend a watch. The (rather atrocious) acting by Elvire Audray at times imparts an ‘unintentionally funny’ vibe to the film. Certain scenes are a direct inspiration from Ruggero Deodato’s ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ (the opening scene especially, bears a striking resemblance).
- Cut and Run (1985) – Originally titled ‘Inferno in diretta’, the producers of this venture in fact, wanted Deodato himself to direct a proper sequel to his ‘Cannibal Holocaust’. Starting off from an uncredited Wes Craven screenplay, Deodato soon employed the services of Cesare Frugoni, Dardano Sacchetti and Luciano Vincenzoni to revamp the script to suit his vision and making-style. Reckoned gruesomely satisfying for gore-hounds, the film featured a bloody-violent scene of a man being split in half, which Deodato attributes to the war images he’d seen from Vietnam. The music, as with Deodato’s other ventures, drew praise.
- The Green Inferno (1988) – Known widely as ‘Natura Contro’ and often referred to as ‘Cannibal Holocaust II’ (although there is absolutely no connection with ‘Cannibal Holocaust’), it is regarded among fans as the film that brought the cannibal-genre to a sordid conclusion. This was also the final directorial venture of Antonio Climati, who had by then, gained his fair share of notoriety through his Mondo films. A surprising aspect to note is the film’s empathetic approach to animals as opposed to their usual depiction of horrendous violence. While the amount of gore in this film is pretty low, it still needs to be watched to understand how the genre came to its ultimate demise.
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Writer by Profession, Wanderer by Passion.