France / Spain, 1980
Dir: “Allan W. Steeve”/Alain Deruelle
Review by Steve Fenton
EL LAGO DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTES / a.k.a. ZOMBIE’S LAKE and L’ABIME DES MORTS-VIVANTS / a.k.a. OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES were the worst two Eurociné horror flicks ever unleashed, right? Wrong! Being of the ever-optimistic opinion that even the very worst Continental cannibal gutmunchers have at least one thing going for them somewhere – heck, even Joe D’Amato’s awful DEMONIA / a.k.a. EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD had a couple of good scenes, dammit! – I decided to give CANNIBAL TERROR a friendly spin. A former associate of mine had challenged me to watch this film (“film” is a tenuous description at best): despite fair prior warnings that it was an unmitigated piece of merde that made even those aforementioned examples of sub-cinematic pond-slime look like daisies by comparison. At the very least, my ex-associate assured me, “It’s gory as hell!” Oh well, here goes nothing, I guess…
|Step Aside it's time to make El Sabroso Human cracklins|
The opening theme is an ear-itatin’ salsa / big band variation of “La Bamba.” This is repeated later on as an end-theme, but initially accompanies familiar tourist board-approved travelogue footage (presumably shot somewhere in either the south of France or further south down in Almería, Spain?) and an excess of actors wandering idly about or participating in mundane non-action: which includes chattering on phones, manicuring their nails and mixing cocktails ad nauseam. A ‘major’ early scene that introduces our main if positively motley cast is set in a sleazy bar where a sub-psychedelic instrumental ditty drones from a jukebox like an agitated, over-amped mosquito. The same whining chord is repeated over and over (and over and over) again, as if running on a tape-loop.
|At least melt some cheese on it first, then roll it up in a burrito shell|
At last, a bunch of scratchy, dog-eared stock aerial footage of jungle-heavy tropical islands (no doubt these same inserts were also borrowed by Umberto Lenzi’s cannibal opuses too) announce a jumpily edited segue into some no doubt cannibal-infested ‘exotic’ clime. Exactly where is tough to deduce. Anyway, our little heroic family of mighty whiteys drive their jimmy well off the beaten track into the wilderness. From what is presumably the closest thing to a bona fide ‘rain forest’ that CANNIBAL TERROR’s producers could scout for a stand-in jungle location on the French Riviera, ‘savage cannibals’ (note quotes) emerge, evidently hungering for human meat (or perhaps just some take-out escargot?). Basically, this film’s backdrop is a rather sparsely-wooded area – peppered with fir trees, no less – and a bargain-basement tribal village set whose anthropological authenticity wouldn’t fool a four-year-old, even if their parents didn’t have a subscription to National Geographic. The cannibal clan itself is an unlikely conglomeration of multiracial (and almost exclusively male) extras. These are usually heavily made-up with facial greasepaint, as if in hopes of obscuring the fact that Orientals and Hispanics, blacks and whites are all represented in their numbers (perhaps there may have been some details buried in the untranslated French dialogue which I may have missed). In several shots, a scrawny looking Caucasian spear-chucker sports sideburns that would have rivalled those worn by Elvis during his Vegas period. Another guy in heavy warpaint and a drop-handlebar mustache seen peeking from the vegetation looks a lot like Tom Savini!
|Or Peter Criss|
In spite of their unabashedly unconvincing appearance, these cannibal terrorists cart off our heroes’ native woman guide, whom they then disembowel and devour in short order without even so much as a garnish or finger-bowl in sight. Adding to this unrepentant addition to the ranks – accent on the rank – of grungy gutcruncher exploitation, we have one girl’s purely gratuitous nudie scrubdown in an outdoor washtub (a similar scene occurred in ZOMBIE’S LAKE, so you might say some sort of Eurociné oeuvre was developing; then again, you might not). After rinsing off, the starlet is dragged off kicking and screaming to be roped and raped by a degenerate scumbag in the bush. This scene is accomplished with such ludicrous phoniness that it’s hardly very offensive, as it should be, but instead is only embarrassingly inept. More so due to the actress’ dogged insistence on sobbing and wailing oh-so-professionally, as if convinced she was actually involved in a real film (presumably this starlet was ‘giving it her all’ for what she hopefully assumed would be her ‘breakout role’ or something).
|have you got any floss?|
Pacing (Hah!) descends to new lows of sluggishness, heavily dependent on meaningless filler. 52 minutes and counting… when oh when are those Heinz 57 cannibals gonna chow down on this uncharismatic, unlikable cast and put both them and us out of our misery? Remains of chomped-up victims are found in the ‘jungle’ as our heroes and a safari of white hunters and military types dressed in mix’n’match hand-me-down bush fatigues hunt the lost cannibals. While we are on the topic of forest fashion here, it should perhaps be mentioned that leading lady Silvia Solar opts for the more practical cotton summer dress and matching high-heeled pumps ensemble for her taxing excursion beyond the fringes of civilization.
|Oh good it's time for my self immolation C-section|
CANNIBAL TERROR’s nonexistent effort to convincingly create the illusion of a dense tropical locale might be considered audacious, if it wasn’t so utterly pathetic. Badly spliced antique inserts of mismatched crocodiles and other wildlife, as well as pudgy or anorexic extras who often appear painfully self-conscious in their loincloths (and so would you if you were in their sandals). Seldom has European trash cinema looked so cheap.
I know this is an overused cliché, but CANNIBAL TERROR is assuredly one of the all-time WORST movies (n)ever made. It was fun to write about though, and sometimes that helps one to endure a film.