Severin Films // 1981 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // September 19th, 2008
Deep In The Jungle The Flesheaters Are Waiting
Cannibal Terror touts itself as one of the original "video nasties" from the 1980s. For those who don't recall, the "video nasties" controversy occurred (primarily in Britain) as home video machines became a fixture in consumers' homes. Because large studios were initially reluctant to release their features on home video for fear of piracy, smaller studios stepped in to fill the demand for home entertainment. Many of these small studios had small budgets, and horror was a popular genre to release in those early days. However, public outcry accompanied the release of certain "shocking" films (including The Driller Killer). As with Salem's witch problem, hysteria ensued: government committees were formed, video shops were raided, and a host of films were banned. As I'm sure that the Salem Witch Trials uncovered some nefarious deeds (even if they weren't witchcraft), I'm also sure that the British Board of Film Classification banned some truly disturbing films (including I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left. However, it's now the 21st century, and many of the previously banned films have seen release (some of them even uncut). The BBFC passed Cannibal Terror with no cuts in 2003; watching the film now, it's hard to see how anyone could be threatened by such a sad and inept film.
Cannibal Terror, a Spanish/French co-production, is obviously trying to cash in on the Italian cannibal film boom of the '70s/'80s. The plot follows two poor criminals who kidnap the daughter of a rich industrialist to ransom her. To better effect their plan they decide to hide out in a safe house in some woods that border cannibal territory. Naturally this is a very bad idea and everybody meets a grisly fate. In my experience, fans turn to cannibal movies for one (or more) of the following: excessive cheese, gratuitous nudity, and creative gore. Cannibal Terror fails on all counts.
Many Italian films are filmed without sound and dubbed later for the release market. This gives many low-budget Italian films a surreal quality, as even the Italian soundtrack doesn't quite match up to the actors' mouths. Although not made in Italy, Cannibal Terror follows in that grand tradition. The acting is wooden, and the dub is just off enough to be noticeable. However, those who hope to enjoy Cannibal Terror as a "bad" movie are in for a chore. I too enjoy a good "bad" movie, but Cannibal Terror wore out its welcome inside of 15 minutes. The movie has about 30 minutes of plot stretched out to 90 minutes. In between the scenes of actual plot we find sub-par stock footage, interminable scenes of people wandering around, and lots of cutaways to detail shots, like cigarettes being smoked. All this makes the film pretty boring.
Nudity is usually a good reason for fans to watch a cannibal film. Whether it's busty natives or the typical white heroine/victim, nudity tends to vacillate between National Geographic prudery and exploitation prurience. Again, Cannibal Terror disappoints. Yes, there is some nudity in the film, but far less than is typical for the genre. In fact, it seems like the majority of the nudity ended up on the cutting room floor and can be seen in the "spicy" deleted scene. This scene is basically a woman dancing topless for a minute and a half. There is a rather prolonged rape scene (probably one of the reasons the film was banned initially), but it features two clothed individuals. So Cannibal Terror is also lackluster in the titillation department.
Gorehounds tend to be a picky breed, and Cannibal Terror is sure to disappoint. I will give the film credit for the realism of its gore. It really looks like the "cannibals" (I use quotes because this ragtag bunch of extras looks like they were picked out of the dole queue) are chowing down on actual intestines and flesh. However, the gore scenes are not deployed strategically or effectively. We get an early banquet scene that includes lots of lingering shots of intestines and blood, but after the first 30 seconds, the gore loses its impact. By the time the film reaches its bloody climax, the sausage casings no longer hold any horror. A trip to the local butcher would be more engrossing.
I will, however, give credit to Severin for providing a decent transfer of the film. All of the problems (and there are many) seem to stem from the source rather than the compression. These problems include a headache-inducing out-of-focus credit scene as well as horribly mangled stock footage rife with scratches, blowouts, and desaturation. Aside from the aforementioned "spicy" deleted scene, Severin gives viewers the theatrical trailer for Cannibal Terror.
Cannibal Terror is guilty of failing in pretty much every major category of concern for genre viewers. Even diehard cannibal fans will want to watch this one with a finger on the fast-forward button.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Spicy" Deleted Scene
* Theatrical Trailer