Scream Horror Magazine


Posted on: July 25th, 2015
A group of tourists make their way to a Greek island for a holiday. Once there, they find their friends have vanished, and the whole island seems deserted, save for a strange woman dressed in black. Stranded, they fall one by one to a monstrous killer with a taste for human flesh…
Anthropophagus (aka The Savage Island, aka The Grim Reaper), a 1980 horror film directed by Joe D’Amato was one of the most reviled and ‘controversial’ of the Video Nasties scare of the early 1980s. Along with Cannibal Holocaust, the VHS cover for it was always one of the selected few to illustrate any Daily Mail type hysterical “Won’t someone please think of the children!!” article on the subject. Like most other Video Nasties, it is, at heart, a fairly entertaining grim little piece of schlock that would barely be remembered at all, if not for the whole mania surrounding the Nasties. The trouble with such films as being touted as ‘the most disturbing thing you will ever see’ and which then disappear from circulation for years is that when they are eventually released in an uncut format, to our cynical 2015 eyes, desensitised by years of being able to view such fare as Hostel and Human Centipede on demand means that Anthropophagus and its ilk are derided as being ‘boring’ and ‘rubbish’. Basically, its years of hype for very little reward. Which seems a little unfair on Anthropophagus, recently released uncut on Blu-Ray for the first time by 88 Films. Is it the pinnacle of horror and so grossly unpleasant that it caused sleepless nights and mental anguish? Of course not, but that doesn’t make it a bad film.

A young couple frolic on a beach on an idyllic looking Greek island. While the man relaxes on the beach the woman strips to her bikini and goes for a dip in the sea. They are both brutally murdered by an unseen assailant.  Their friend Julie (Tisa Farrow, of Zombie Flesh Eaters fame) is supposed to be meeting them and she hooks up with a group of friends to make their way to the island. When they get to the island they find no signs of Julie’s friends and set to look for them/explore the island, leaving behind Maggie (Serena Grandi), a heavily pregnant woman who twists her ankle. She is promptly kidnapped and the deck hand killed. The island is completely deserted except for a mysterious woman in black who tries to warn them away. Bad weather sweeps away their boat and forces them to spend the night on the island, where the unseen figure continues to stalk them. They discover a blind woman, Rita (Margaret Mazzantini ) who has managed to escape from the killer so far as she can sense when he is near. Eventually we are treated to our first sighting of the killer, a heavily made up George Eastman, a hulking zombie like cannibal, who has already munched his way through the island and has now set his dead eyes on the group of stranded heroes.  Since, in the grand tradition of all horror films ever, they are don’t seem blessed with an over-abundance of brains this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for him. And so it proves, as from then it is the standard fare of picking them off one by until we reach the two infamous scenes that everyone knows about, the most likely reasons for its inclusion on the DPP’s (Director of Public Prosecutions) list of 39 films that were successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act and the main reason people would want to watch this film in the first place. I won’t spoil them for anyone, save to say that if anyone genuinely thought what they were watching was real the fact that such people were supposed to be in charge of our ‘moral wellbeing’ and had actual power in the press and government is staggering beyond belief.

As stated above, Anthropophagus is indeed a fairly entertaining grim little piece of schlock. The acting is risible, the plot thin (although they do at least give the Eastman character a backstory, and flesh the story out beyond just “he’s a crazy cannibal”), the pace slow, and the gore scenes few and far between. I don’t consider myself a gore hound, but these films all advertised themselves by being chock stuff of blood and guts so I would have liked to have seen more. The deserted island setting was atmospheric, and put me in mind of the much superior film Who Can Kill A Child?, which I highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen it. D’Amoto’s direction is well intended, attempting to build atmosphere in the many scenes that just involve people wandering aimlessly around the island is a thankless task but he tackles it with aplomb. And yet, I enjoyed this film. I like grim little pieces of schlock and this is a fine example of it. Scary? No. Shocking? No. Depraved and liable to corrupt the great unwashed? Hell no. Entertaining and interesting as an insight as to just how ridiculous the whole Video Nasty farce was? Very much yes.

For the Blu-ray part of things, the film is now fully uncut and upgraded to HD. The picture is clear, as is the sound. Extras on the film itself are thin on the ground, with only the trailer. It does however include a full length documentary; 42nd Street Memories. An entertaining and interesting retrospective on New York’s famous Grindhouse cinema.

Words: Felicity Burton

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