Director – Umberto Lenzi
Cast – Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Lorraine De Selle, Danilo Mattei, Zora Kerova, Walter Lucchini, Fiamma Maglione, Robert Kerman, John Bartha, Venantino Venantini
Release Year – 1981
Reviewed by John of the Dead
The third entry in his 3 film splurge of cannibal films from 1980-1981, Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox may be the most widely recognized of the three films, which also includes Eaten Alive! and Nightmare City, but in my own opinion this is the lesser of the three flicks. If you know your Italian cannibal flicks then you know how this one is going to go down, and while I normally love those films this one came with a plot so weak it made for a mediocre watch in the end.
Cannibal Ferox follows three friends: an anthropology student, her brother, and another friend, who make their way to the jungles of Columbia to disprove cannibalism. They come across two drug dealers on the run from the authorities back in the States, but it is not the authorities they should be worried about. The drug dealers enslaved a local tribe of cannibals in an attempt to extort them of valuable jewels they believed were in their possession, and they slaughtered most of the tribe when their extortion fell through. Little do the three friends know, the surviving cannibals are out for revenge against the drug dealers, which will leave them all within the thralls of a bloodthirsty tribe of vengeful cannibals.
If you’ve seen Eaten Alive! then you’ve seen this film, for the most part. We get the same look and feel, just with some different plot elements thrown in, and sadly, the plot elements in this film were just too silly for me to enjoy. Now, had this been a beer-n-wings event with my friends then that would be a different story, but for a legitimate horror review I must simply say it as it is.
Direction-wise you can expect the same cheeze and sleaze that we usually get with these Italian cannibal films, and for the most part I enjoyed Lenzi’s direction. The acting is bad, the editing is choppy, but the gore and shock-value are high, and that always makes for a fun watch, right? Those of you who know these films know the ever-important question, “Do they kill real animals in this film?”, and the answer is Yes, they do. While I do not condone the killing of live animals for non-sporting reasons, it does make this watch a true exploitation feast, so because I love exploitation I can live with the real-life horror that occurs in this film.
Story-wise is where the film really lost base with me, sadly. Much like Eaten Alive! and Cannibal Holocaust, I love these films that focus on a group of students or researchers heading to far away jungles and experiencing horrors they never thought imaginable. I also love revenge elements thrown into horror, so I dug the idea of the cannibals seeking revenge against the drug dealers who brutally tortured and massacred their people/family. While the overall plot was enjoyable to me, there were some ridiculous and needless elements thrown into the story that really turned me off to the film at times. Now, I know this is a cheezy 80s horror film, and normally they come with ridiculous storylines, so that just shows how bad this one gets. We get a useless sub-plot involving the drug ring the drug dealers were running back in the States, which did nothing to move the main story or directly tie in to what was going on. Simply put, it was a waste of screen time that should have never happened. The film also tends to drag for a while, with the main cannibal action not coming to screen until about halfway into the film. Now, if the material previous to this was interesting and kept me engaged then that would not be a problem, but sadly this included the majority of that useless sub-plot and other wastes of time thrown in.
Overall, this is a mediocre cannibal film that come with a cool plot overall but suffers from some truly needless events going on. The gore is good, and the exploitation is high, but this is definitely a film that should be reserved for a beer-n-wings night with your friends.