Directed by Jess Franco
Distributed by Blue Underground
In an attempt to cash-in on the Cannibal Craze of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, smut director Jess Franco set out to prove that he could make a better movie about flesh eaters than Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust. Franco gathered together a group of cheap/hard working gypsies, handed them Peter Criss’ solo album, some clown paint and let them loose in the jungle. What followed was one of the oddest entries in the cannibal sub-genre.
Jess Franco can make a good exploitation film when he feels like it, but this just wasn’t one of those times. The plot for Cannibals is a good one; a father loses his arm, wife and his daughter to a vicious tribe of cannibals who look like they got lost on their way to a KISS concert. Many years later he returns to the area believing his daughter may still be alive. Hooray! She is still with the living, but the local flesh eaters have named her their god and she can’t remember anything about her previous life. Can daddy save his little girl from running around nude and having awkward sex with the tribes champion? Or will he and his crew of no-name adventurers end up staying for dinner?
The cannibals are the most distracting thing about this movie. That is never a good sign when your title characters draw in all the laughs instead of frights. Sure, the plot is a bit thin, the actors are drab, the English dub is worse than most anime, but the make-up applied to the natives is just insane. It’s tough to be afraid of anyone in this movie when each person who craves human flesh looks like a clone of Peter Criss. I’m not just talking about one or two, all of the baddies have this problem. Each time one pops up and starts to eat some young naked chick the laughs come rolling out and last almost as long as each of the 20 minute cannibal scenes.
20 minutes? Yes, each time a person is eaten in this film the camera slows down and Franco makes sure that we see the red meat being ripped from some woman’s body. Too bad 90% of the footage is reused each time for a total of three or four meal scenes. Amazing there was actually a plot shoehorned in between all this silliness. Was Jess Franco trying to scare or bore us?
He may have known things were getting boring and that is why we see so much of the beautiful Sabrina Siani as the long lost daughter. For as pretty as Sabrina is, she had to lose something to account for that beauty. According to Franco, it was the brains she had to give up. Sabrina is not capable of more than one emotion throughout the entire film. She stares like a zombie during each scene and only at the very end does she manage to belt out an expression that somewhat resembles the way she should be feeling at that time. But hey, she’s mostly naked all the time so I really cannot complain.
What we can’t complain about either is the interview found on this DVD featuring Jess Franco. He’s never one for pulling punches and that makes for an entertaining sit down. Jess informs us about Sabrina’s stupidity, her mother’s obsession with her ass and the fact that he did indeed hire a bunch of gypsies to make the film. Borat would not be amused by this, but it does explain why everyone seemed so out of place.
The ultimate downfall of the interview is when Jess insults Cannibal Holocaust. While that film may not be gold on any level, it did manage to cause a big stir and still holds a high place in cult horror and is by comparison contains far more entertainment value, quality gore and scares. Nice try, Mr. Franco.
If nothing else, Cannibals makes for one of those great WTF movies you can sit down with, have a beer and laugh each time you see a flesh eating tribesman come on screen with face paint rivaling that of any member of The Baseball Furies. Tune in and zone out, just don’t expect much.
2 out of 5
4 out of 5