9 October 2011 | tomgillespie2002
Ugly and terrible entry into the cannibal sub-genre
The film begins with the murder of a drug addict in an unknown apartment by some gangsters looking for a man named Mike Logan. As the police begin their investigation into the shooting, the action relocates to the Paraguayan jungle, where two students, Gloria (Lorraine De Selle) and Rudy (Danilo Mattei), and one tag-along Pat (Zora Kerova) are making their way into the heart of the jungle looking for native tribes who have been accused of cannibalism. Gloria is out to disprove the claims of cannibalism for her dissertation, and after they come across two mangled bodies of tribesmen, they also come across Mike Logan carrying his injured partner Joe (Walter Lucchini), who both claim to have been attacked by savage cannibals.
Between 1977 and 1981 there was a huge boom in cannibal films. They boasted exotic locations, horrific gore, real animal killings, and the threat of the unknown in the primitive tribes. It was Ferox's director Umberto Lenzi who kick-started the sub-genre with Deep River Savages in 1972, but they only really hit their stride in 1977, when the Grindhouse theatres were at their most popular. The cannibal genre died out pretty quickly, thankfully, as they represent everything that is ugly about the horror genre, and Cannibal Ferox, possibly the second most notorious after Cannibal Holocaust, is no exception.
The gore and violence is by no means convincing, or even disturbing, but it is clear from the off that the film's sole purpose is to be more repulsive than anything else before it. Multiple cocks are hacked off (and one is eaten - yummy), a woman is lifted into the air with fish- hooks through the breasts, there is an eye-gouging, and of course, no cannibal film would be complete without a bit of the ol' brain eating. This is all well and good and what can be expected from an Italian exploitation film at the height of the nasties era, but the animal killings are simply needless.
I always found myself defending Cannibal Holocaust for the animal cruelty, as that is a genuinely good film, and the horrific animal scenes really do add to the horrible and deeply unsettling atmosphere. But after seeing Ferox, I realised there is really no excuse for it. Regardless of the film's quality, there is no place for the pointless killing of animals. Radice refused to wield the knife during the pig- killing scene, and in the DVD commentary, director Lenzi said 'Robert De Niro would have done it!', to which Radice replied 'Robert De Niro would have told you to f**k off!'
Anyway, the film really is pretty damn awful. Why the action keeps shifting back to New York is anyone's guess. Mike is a wanted drug pusher that legged it off to Paraguay in search of cocaine and a fortune in gemstones, but surely knowing this is enough? There is a rescue attempt near the end that looks like joining the two stems together, but nothing comes of it. It seems to be there only to add a few more minutes onto the running time, allowing the film to render itself a feature. As you would expect, the acting/script/story is guff, but the strange thing is the moral message it seems to be putting out. When it revealed that Mike was lying and it was in fact him that attacked the tribe (shock horror), it seems to be a 'don't judge a book by it's cover' type message. But when the tribe acts out their revenge, they revel in the torturing.
Well anyway, the real torture victim was me, who had to sit through this. There's a few more cannibal films to get through for the nasties project (maybe I'll leave them to Marc), and although I'll welcome (if that's the right word) another viewing of Cannibal Holocaust, I have to say that I would be happy not to have to sit through another cannibal film. And there's always the Mondo sub-genre I suppose!