There's something horribly undeniable about cannibal movies. If you're unfortunate to have developed a taste for them, you'll know it's hard to quit them, too. They're like the Microwave Burrito of genre cinema, awful, and loaded with cheese. Cannibal Terror is that convenience store burrito that you bite into and feel something hard, crunchy, and not quite right. You just don't want to know.
If that description seems distasteful, wait until you get a load of Terror, an exploitation flick so bad it utterly fails to pass the test, a test with already alarmingly low standards. In crafting this mess screenwriter H.L. Rostaine and director Allan W. Steeve (er ... yeah) overturned the barrel to better scrape its bottom.
Over an endless 90+ minutes we learn the sad tale of two hapless, lackluster kidnappers who take their hostage into the jungle - the best place they can think of to await their ransom, get into all sorts of raping, and be eaten by cannibals. It seems an especially thin plot for a genre not known for exceptionally involving stories, and not the greatest foundation even for an exploitation movie. However, nobody watches these movies for plot. So, after a slow and stylish opening set in the city - where the entire production clearly longed to be - we move into the 'jungle' to deliver the gore goods for your pleasure.
Crouching amongst the pine trees, our anti-heroes observe the crazed native tribesmen perform a frenzied ritual consisting of hopping up and down in a circle, grinning, and sticking their tongues out at the camera for about five minutes of screen time. Then a couple of them eat guts for a while. Duly moved by this display they get around to raping and hectoring each other, leading to the inevitable conclusion: that of the viewer shoving this DVD into the garbage disposal.
Where does it go so wrong? Start with bad acting, maybe? Atrocious dubbing is a given, of course, I mean really bad stuff; why dub with a man's bad falsetto the sounds of a little girl singing to herself as she plays, for instance? The fact that you can see bad acting through the dubbing is the real corker - awkward timing, weird grimaces and a general air of lazy contempt permeates nearly every acting turn. Cannibals, especially, barely seem able to contain snide glee concerning the obviously foundering production. Leaden pacing just sweetens the deal. Generally, the set-up seems grindingly slow, and such niceties as minute-long reaction shots - like one guy says something and the other looks at him dully for a full minute, saying nothing - form a bond of strength with lengthy close-ups of various cheap, useless props or stock footage of turtles and birds.
Abysmal production values further cement Cannibal Terror's contempt for the viewer. Gut munching is limited mostly to a pair of lame, gnarly instances, and sets (especially the sacrificial tent and its one plastic skull on the wall) are literally public-access cable-TV-worthy. Eco-friendly recycling is a true bummer, though. Much has been made of the rag-tag, oddly coifed cannibal tribe, looking to consist of a group of vaguely swarthy French drunks, faces painted by sleepy little girls at the county fair. That one cannibal's muttonchops, and the other cannibal's comb-over, (not to mention their potbellies) are so grating because the same hopping-ritual shots of those unsavory or odd features are used over and over and over. Even intestine scoffing gets massive redux. I'll bet they scored 15 extra minutes of runtime just from Muttonchops alone.
But what really steams my buns are the awful scenes of offal chomping. Low-rent and laughable to the extreme, they consist of two laughing, hopping acolytes, one longhaired idiot drenched in boozy flop-sweat, and a pig carcass. It's not to say they aren't disgusting displays, just low and contemptuous, like everything else in this mess. Something about those dudes laughing as they fondle the spleen, and gleefully shred with their bare hands the pig carcass that subs for a human torso, is just so wrong. And then they do it again at movie's end, using much of the same footage. Bad, evil, organ slurping, photocopied. To wash down your soul, one of the often-nude chickees takes the most bizarre, spastic and disturbing bath ever committed to celluloid. You'll need to be committed, too, after watching Cannibal Terror.
This 'first time in America' uncut, uncensored and mastered in Hi-Definition presentation (don't do us any favors, Severin) looks like it was sourced from a few places. A somewhat blurry credits sequence segues into a quite decent opening act, and then flips back and forth, with occasional outdoor sequences again losing a little definition. On the whole, things are pretty sharp, with good levels of detail. Colors are on the drab side (except those guts) but look natural. Darkness is not a player in this movie, but what black areas that crop up seem adequately inky. Occasional print damage also occurs. For a should-have-stayed-lost, almost thirty-year-old cheese bomb, Cannibal Terror, in 1.85:1 widescreen enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs, looks much better than it deserves to.
Dolby 2.1 Surround Sound Audio is fine, highlighting an unusual score for a cannibal movie. In addition to the usual (repetitive tribal drumming and stuff - probably from old field recordings) we get some very weird, atmospheric stuff with unusual instrumentation, like psycho-harmonica for instance. It's the sole standout in a movie full of bad. Dynamic range isn't very broad, and that awful looping/ dubbing is just clear enough, but not great.
Two scanty extras for you; the Theatrical Trailer and one Spicy Deleted Scene consisting of a terrifying, frenzied, minute-and-a-half-long nude dance by one of the lusty ladies.
Cannibal Terror is not 'so bad it's good.' It's just bad, and here's why: it hates its audience. Yes, overuse of shot-recycling, inappropriate padding with stock nature footage, reels of film spent on watching people wander aimlessly around a stream, ugly, flabby cannibals who laugh at the camera, and viscera slurping that's disgusting and gratuitous even by cannibal movie standards make for contemptuous viewing that frequently slaps you in the face. Worse still, I'll probably watch it again. But basically, I don't advocate the type of liver damage it would take to eke some pleasure out of watching this hunk of crud, so I'll say Skip It anyway.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com