Anthropophagus: The Beast
Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper
The Grim Reaper
The Savage Island
This excruciatingly dull exercise in cinematic mediocrity achieved an unlikely prominence in the United Kingdom when it found itself a part of the ‘Video Nasty’ hysteria. An uncut video of this film was released in 1980 by VFP in the days before certification, and this grubby item can now fetch very large sums amongst idiots who have too much money and too much time on their hands. It should be remembered that thirty-nine videos were successfully prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Anthropophagus was one of them, so this is definitely one of the big boys that rubs shoulders with the likes of Cannibal Holocaust (1980), I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and Faces of Death (1978). The vast majority of the titles on this final list of thirty-nine have been released in the UK uncut (some of them on blu-ray!), but Anthropophagus has remained a persistently troubling title for the BBFC. This is almost entirely due to a ridiculous scene towards the end of the film when George Eastman’s cannibalistic psychopath removes a foetus from a heavily pregnant woman and proceeds to eat it. It would seem that the BBFC do not have a healthy appetite for this type of material, even armed with the knowledge that the foetus is merely a skinned rabbit. The upshot of this controversy of course is that when small distributors put films like this forward for certification they take the decision to pre-cut the film and Anthropophagus exists in this form (shorn of two minutes) and is available on DVD under the title The Grim Reaper.
On two occasions D’Amato offers a tantalising hint of genuine filmmaking aptitude. The first is when a hysterical girl leaps out of a wine barrel brandishing a knife, and the second is a night time sequence in which the crazed killer is briefly illuminated in a superbly timed flash of lightning. Aside from these brief moments of tension Anthropophagus is slack and sluggish, though it has to be noted that reasonable mileage is made out of the isolated and inescapable island setting, and throughout D’Amato maintains a sense of doom, though at times it is merely a faint echo. This perhaps reaches its apex in the minutes leading up to the infamous foetus scene; here D’Amato makes impressive use of labyrinthine catacombs replete with mouldering corpses. Less effective are the pointless flashbacks which attempt to explain away how Eastman’s crazed killer came to appreciate the taste of human flesh. The unprofessional sloppiness of the film is extended to the tired synth score provided by Marcello Giombini, which is not only repetitious and uninspired, but at times incredibly clumsy. Anthropophagus is ultimately a very frustrating viewing experience, not only because it is dreadfully boring, but because somewhere within the layers of tedium there is something half decent trying to get out.
© Shaun Anderson 2012