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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Anthropophagus: The Beast (1980)

Anthropophagus: The Beast
(Aka, The Grim Reaper)

Joe D’Amato remains a personal favourite of mine, so this will be somewhat biased, as I’m apparently blind to the flaws within his productions. I wouldn’t class it as blindness, more so being ‘tuned in’ with the man’s style and approach. There’s something about this man’s work ethic and execution that I admire; the soft photography, the random interludes (some call it filler), hell; even his shoddy day-for-night shots all bring a smile to my face. It would appear that he’s Jess Franco with an added ‘Marmite’ factor, but damnit do I respect him.

Anthropophagus remains something of a cult favourite because of two scenes that feature pretty tasteless violence, but for me the overall execution of the film is what makes it a ‘cult’ film. The fact it was made by a holidaying film crew adds charm to the film that serious productions cannot capture. You get a ‘wish you were here’ feeling from the film as D’Amato treats us to gratuitous travelogue episodes throughout the film’s introduction; witness the Greek guards at the palace gates seemingly breaking for lunch in rather dramatic fashion or the semi-bustling streets with passers-by not expecting to be caught on camera and quickly removing themselves form the shot!

The film starts with the murder of two German tourists, after the woman discovers an abandoned rowboat just off the beach they are visiting; she is soon dragged underwater and dispatched, shortly after her boyfriend receives a meat clever to the face; presumably for the gigantic headphones he’s wearing, or the God awful music that’s coming from them? One thing’s certain - we’ll never know for sure. I personally pin it on those headphones. Once the story starts proper we are introduced to a band of merry tourists who have come to the Greek islands for some fun in the sun, and maybe even some romance.

What they do find when they arrive at their destination is a deserted island. No inhabitants, vacant property after vacant property. Upon investigation of house they find a blind girl hidden in a huge vat of wine, brandishing a large kitchen knife and clearly afraid for her life. Once calm she explains to the group that it was a man, a man who smells of blood, who did this to the island. It’s little too late though, as he’s found them first and proceeds to pick ‘em off one by one by one…
I have to admit, the premise of deserted island retreats really appeals to me. There’s something about the ‘holiday from hell’ set-up that really grabs hold of my attention and continuously intrigues me. Add in the beautiful, sun-drenched, coastal setting and you have me hooked for however long you want me, I’m like brainwashed infant for material like this. Meeting horror in paradise is hardly an original staple in the horror genre, but it remains underused in my opinion; last years A Perfect Getaway is a more recent example of an average movie made better by horrible shit happening in a beautiful part of the world.

The writer and co-star of the movie, George Eastman (Luigi Montefori), has gone on record and said this was a money making excursion; as was most of his work with D’Amato, but whatever the reasons behind the films genesis it doesn’t stop the film from being fun. All involved are clearly enjoying themselves, and who can blame them, which rubs off on the viewer; just so long as they don’t suffer from jealousy. As lazy as the production feels at times - new drinking game: spot the visible camera equipment - this never takes away from my enjoyment of the film, if anything it makes it endearing. I’m sure many will find these same elements infuriating or even mundane; but that’s beauty of Joe D’Amato, if movies are somehow beyond criticism in the traditional sense. He’s openly making product for the monetary gain and didn’t view himself as an artist, he’s a businessman at heart and what he’s done is incorporate all the staples he believes will create an entertaining horror film and bundled them together, as such, if you don’t find his effort bearable, it wasn’t marketed towards you. Just like Marmite.

And then there’s the controversy. Here in Britain the film was no stranger to the general public, footage appeared on news reports, its cover in newspapers and eventually earned itself a ‘Video Nasty’ credential for a scene in which Eastman’s character strangles a pregnant character and removes her foetus and proceeds to eat it raw. The scene is certainly in poor taste, that’s undeniable, but the lengths in which the moral brigade went to prove the film obscene is just as offensive, they believed that the filmmakers actually films the extraction of the foetus and claimed as such in their outcries to the media. I’m no surgeon, but with my limited knowledge of biology can tell that a developed human embryo does not look like a skinned rabbit covered in acrylic-red fake blood! The fact that politicians and government officials believed this is a truly depressing realisation of life in Britain during the 80’s.

As much as I want to hate the people who rallied for the films demise, I really need to be thankful for them. Had they not have created such furore over a small-time independent film from Italy, regardless if they genuinely thought that it threatened the minds and lives of the British public or not, would I be aware of its existence? If anything, all their hard work as cemented that the film lives on forever; waiting to be found by future cult film enthusiasts like myself for decades to come. The film may not be available uncut on British shores still, it’s been 30 years people; can we at least attempt to get his on retailers shelves once again… please? The world is aware that movies are movies and not demonic entities created by soulless devils with nothing but corruption of youth and general decency in their hearts, it was made by a couple of Italians out to make a buck, now who can begrudge that?

Purchase the DVD: Here

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