Director – Gary Sherman
Cast -Donald Pleasence, David Ladd, Sharon Gurney, Hugh Armstrong, Norman Rossington, Jane Turner, Clive Swift
Release Year – 1972
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This is a film I was excited to view given it stars Donald Pleasence(Dr. Loomis of the original Halloween franchise), has a cool plot, and lastly…comes directed by Gary Sherman, director of the sweet and very original undead film Dead and Buried. While the look and feel of the film is great, and Pleasence delivers a performance that fans of his will LOVE, I feel that sadly this flick did not fully capitalize on all of the sweet elements it contained, and managed to be a borderline positive film instead of the awesome film it could have been.
Raw Meat follows an American college student, Alex, and his European girlfriend Patricia after they one day come across a mysterious man collapsed on a staircase within the subway they use to commute everyday. After getting the police involved they suffer interrogations from the comically zealous Inspector Calhoun(Donald Pleasence), who has taken a strong and secretive concern over identifying the collapsed man Alex and Patricia came across. Little do any of them know, they are stumbling upon a dark secret hidden within the subway, often thrown out of conversations as merely a rumor. Years ago a group of miners were trapped in the subway due to a collapse, and the miners were forced to eat each other to stay alive. One descendant of the cannibals has managed to survive down in the depths of the sewer, but when his food source begins to slow down he takes to the main lines of the sewer to bring home the very food he was raised on…humans.
The look and feel of Raw Meat is dead on with what I love most about 70s horror films. I am a huge fan of dark and grainy cinematography, and the musical score for the film is a positive one(although I have heard better for its time period). Director Gary Sherman’s execution is good, and he focuses heavily on visuals and atmosphere, perfectly provided by some very cool and sweet looking sets. His cinematography reminded me a lot of Argento, in which he takes his sweet time panning about his wonderful and gruesome sets, with little to no dialogue. I find this tactic highly amusing and quite captivating, so I will applaud Mr. Sherman for going the direction of great cinematography. Thankfully, unlike some other 70s horror films we do get some good gore in this one, including many well-decorated decaying bodies lying about the lair of our antagonist.
Story-wise I really liked the overall plot of the film, mainly because it dealt with a dark past. I enjoyed the background information regarding the trapped miners who were forced to cannibalism, and the idea of one of them surviving and coming to the main subway tunnel to find fresh prey is a sweet one. I must commend Gary Sherman for coming up with this sweet story, however I do unfortunately have some big gripes against the actual screenplay. Writer Ceri Jones’ only credit whatsoever is for this film, and it really shows. Time and time again the film loses itself and heads in almost no direction at all, which at times left me wishing the film would skip entire sequences and get on with the main story. While I really enjoyed seeing Donald Pleasence throw down a great performance as a true arsehole, I felt his character was underused and was merely thrown on screen to amuse the audience, not to improve or compliment the story. We do get fair character play from our lead Alex, although our other lead protagonist Patricia merely amounted to eye candy even during the most tense scenes involving her. However, I must admit that we do have one excellently used character in this film…the “man”(antagonist). Fans of psychologically traumatized antagonists will enjoy this character due to him not only coming off as a brutal killer, but a killer with a sensitive and tormented soul who avidly displays his despair when he is faced with some very disheartening ordeals.
Overall, this is a mostly positive film that comes with much potential in its excellent atmosphere and plot, but in the end much potential is wasted story-wise on some elements that were good but just improperly used. Good gore and a sweet killer make for some good horror, and while I will recommend this to those who want to see Donald Pleasence portray non-Loomis-esque character just be wary of the film’s many slow and dull scenes.