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In The Land Of The Cannibals
It seems wrong to call a simple, innocent film reprehensible, but there you go. Who is this Martin Miller, anyway? He's the credited director of this silly effort, but everyone and their grandmother knows the honors go to Bruno Mattei, Italian schlockmeister extraordinaire, who cranked this 2004 effort out while he was pretty much on his deathbed. Mattei's 'gut-muncher' was actually his 10th-from-last movie, but I'm sure he's probably still cranking them out post-mortem. For the record, Land of the Cannibals was D.O.A. anyway.
Give Mattei credit though, he was the only one still tilling the soil of the Italian Cannibal movie over 20 years after the heyday of that fine genre: therefore, the astounding awfulness of this movie can't be blamed for the demise of said films. It can, however, be blamed for the death of my brain, and I don't even know where to begin as far as eviscerating this movie is concerned, a movie so dunderheaded and inept you have to wonder if it wasn't calculated to be funny-bad and not meant to be taken seriously. In truth, I don't think Mattei had it in him.
Looking like an homage to Predator and Cannibal Holocaust, Land of the Cannibals borrows liberally from both better films (not to mention Aliens) to make something aggressively insulting to genre fans and other sentient mammals. In short, a group of commandos are airlifted into the jungle to save some people or something, but when 'mutilated corpses' start dropping upside-down from the trees, you just know that there are cannibals afoot. OK, so the corpses look like papier-mache sculptures spray-painted red and black, and the actors seem to be channeling other arts and crafts supplies to inform their performances. This isn't fun people! It hurts.
Our actors are dubbed. I won't name them, to save them the shame. It's remarkable, though, how Mattei managed to get really bad performances from both his actors and his voice talent. How can a person overact so poorly, and so unconvincingly, while not even using his or her own voice? And how can that poor fool sitting down in a dark room to record dialog abandon everything known about acting, nuance, and even proper enunciation? From the standpoint of the actor's craft, everything about this movie screams out 'college kids goofing around.' I suppose when you have commandos uttering entirely inappropriate lines such as "do you know your face is a powerful emetic" to rile each other up, that there is no hope anyway.
There is total lack of continuity within every scene. Medium shots are lit as though they were using stadium lights at a football game, while close ups and reactions shots have almost no lighting at all. Simple continuity goes by the wayside as well. Soldier opens maggoty skull jaw with a machete, then jaw is closed and intact a fraction of a second later. And so on. Special effects and gore are either non-existent or completely botched. There is a bold insistence on self-defeat: show an unconvincing severed leg, then let that shot go on so long that you can see the intact leg and prop-stump side-by-side. That is, if the opportunity for gore is even entertained. For the most part, Mattei sets things up for carnage, then delivers - tepidly - off-screen, at best. He even mostly ignores himself when about to assault us with real animal violence - a staple of serious cannibal films. I'm not faulting him for that, since such acts in a movie are indefensible, so it's kind of nice when he fakes us out. Except for killing that one snake.
I could go on, but I don't want to. There is a cannibal named Isaiah, for crying out loud. If you want a cannibal movie with almost no gore, terrible acting, terrible dubbing, horrible cinematography, lousy continuity, and not a character with which to even remotely identify, here you go. If you want a pastiche of better films, slipping in lines about an 'elevator to hell' as the commandos are about to go for the drop - "How many missions you been on?" "Two, including this one." - then here you go. Mattei was never much more than a journeyman genre director, but Land of the Cannibals finds him sinking to a new low. You might consider renting this extras-free mess with a bunch of drunken friends, but even at that, remember this movie is Spectacularly Awful ... I mean, Skip It.
In The Land of the Cannibals slinks your way in a 1.33:1 full frame transfer that simply adds insult to injury. It looks to have been shot on digital video, and it looks pretty awful. The colors are pretty good, but that's about it. Digital graininess abounds, and details have an unnatural sharpness to them that is not pleasing. Many shots are so wrong-headed that it looks as though the actors have been poorly superimposed in front of a jungle backdrop, though long shots then reveal that they really are in the jungle. How does that even happen?
Intervision brings us a solid stereo audio track. The dialog is there and you can hear it quite well. Front and center, even. There is some stereo action going on, to make a reasonably dynamic atmosphere, and dialog and music are mixed at good levels. As far as the music goes, it's pretty much a Casio keyboard riffing on pseudo-military motifs, and it kinda ruins the movie as well.
You get the Theatrical Trailer as the sole extra. (I would be surprised if this movie ever actually screened in a theater, however. I think the rioting audiences would have made the news.)
If you know the work of Bruno Mattei, then you know he was lovingly known as a hack. In The Land of the Cannibals gives new meaning to the word 'hack'. This movie is so bad it's difficult not to think it was meant as a joke. But somehow I'm guessing this horrible pastiche of Predator and Cannibal Holocaust was simply an attempt to get a punter-fleecing genre movie in the can in under three days. It shows. Poor gore, poor action, poor acting, poor dubbing; all of it adds up to a movie that's spectacularly awful. Skip It.