Alain Deruelle/ France/ 1981/ 93 mins
On Blu-ray from Mon 11 Mar 2019
The infamous ‘Video Nasty‘ list of the early ’80s contains some legendary titles. However, for every Evil Dead, Driller Killer or Zombie Flesh Eaters, there are many whose sole point of interest is their inclusion on that often absurd list. Cannibal Terror is one such title. Made to ride the coattails of the cannibal exploitation boom, this French production is a cheap and witless cash-in that fails on every level. The new Blu-ray release is being marketed as a cannibal version of The Room, but it summarily lacks the charming earnestness that would place it in the ‘so bad it’s good’ bracket.
Two clueless criminal attempt to kidnap the daughter of wealthy tycoon. They botch the attempt and flee to the South American jungle to hide out with an associate. After one of them rapes the wife of their host, they are left to the mercy of a nearby tribe of cannibals.
A low budget is often a catalyst for creativity, yet in the case of Cannibal Terror every aspect is simply a substandard lift from the more lauded films in the sub-genre, such as those by Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi. The acting is uniformly terrible, the plotting nonsensical (the women who is raped returns to party with her attacker) and there are none of the murky ethical quandaries about unscrupulous journalism and colonial attitudes that make the likes of Cannibal Holocaust genuinely interesting films.
It’s true that Cannibal Terror sidesteps the issue of indigenous people being depicted as savages, and the exploitation of them being cast as such, but it arguably circles right round into cultural appropriation instead. As budget restrictions meant a trip to the Amazon was out of the question, the filming took place in the famously rain forest-free climes of Benidorm. The city is also notably free of South American tribes, so the the cannibals are all pasty white guys in dreadful wigs and face paint. The effect is not so much a feral pack of ravening brutes as that of a stag do that’s gone a little bit Lord of the Flies.
This is all initially amusing, but the novelty value quickly subsides as the same shots are repeated ad nauseam and the admittedly quite impressive gore effects are padded out with needless cuts to a plastic skull and stock footage of tropical birds.
A release purely for the most devoted connoisseurs of trash cinema, Cannibal Terror exists seemingly to demonstrate just how good Cannibal Holocaust is in comparison. There is no hint of a hidden gem gleaming beneath the micro budget. It’s just very cheap and very nasty.