Cult Movies 101-Episode 16: Cannibal Apocalypse
To some, that concept may come off like an oxymoron.
Its concept handles cannibalism in an inventive way, by making it contagious and not a life choice. The people never turn into zombies, but are so hungry for flesh.
Then it infuses a bit of the popular Vietnam War flicks of that time. The “disease” of cannibalism was caught while the film’s hero was overseas in Vietnam.
Antonio Margheriti (“Yor, The Hunter from the Future”) does a fine job of combining these genres and directing this horror picture. He even manages to get some exceptional actors for an exploitation piece.
The cast is led by B-movie icon John Saxon (“Enter the Ninja”) who plays Norman Hopper. He comes home from Vietnam with more than post-traumatic stress disorder and a hunger that he can’t quite feed.
His performance livens it up providing a touch of class to the exploitative fun. He gives an understated and authoritative performance despite the fact he openly objected to the level of violence in the movie.
Being the consummate professional that he is, that never really comes across in the performance.
Hopper is able to manage his condition until the day he gets a call from his old army buddy, Charlie Bukowski (Giovanni Lombardo Radice, “Cannibal Ferox”). Radice provides a natural creepy charm that works perfectly in this genre. His character has been institutionalized for his “disease” and has a one-day pass from the hospital when we are first introduced to him.
Not a smart move.
Radice never received notoriety for his work because the genre he most worked in was often dismissed. Here he creates a character that is frightening and mentally disturbed but one off of whom you can’t take your eyes. He is a man of mystery we want to know more about.
Then you add a dash of Tony King (“Bucktown”) to the mix as the third buddy with the cannibal disease from Vietnam. He is also institutionalized and we learn more about him as the film progresses.
Will Hooper hook up with his old army buddies for a good old-fashioned, gut munching time?
The movie’s tension is built on that question.
It also handles the horror in an admirably real way by not making the characters zombies, but real people. You don’t see the terror coming at you, even when you’re staring right at it.
The gore is a horror fan’s delight; your screen will be drenched in the red stuff.
Another major highlight is the use of the sewer for a great horrifying chase sequence because, in theory, it is the scariest and dirtiest place. You have rats, roaches, the smell of raw sewerage and now cannibals to create the ultimate experience in creepy atmosphere.
Because of that, those who love gut-munching and sewer dwelling are in for a good time.