‘You can say that again.’
The above excerpt from Cannibal Terror neatly sums up the entire half-assed endeavor perfectly. Rarely have I seen such a total nonentity of a film play out over the course of 90 endless minutes, particularly the second half which is surely some kind of tortuous endurance test.
Alarm bells start ringing the moment you find out that the production company is Eurociné. Around the same time, Eurociné was also responsible for one of Jess Franco’s worst movies, Oasis Of The Zombies and also one of Jean Rollin’s worst movies, Zombie Lake. Don’t worry, we’ll be covering both of those soon.
But at least those two movies occasionally rose above their low budget ineptitude. Cannibal Terror can only look on in awe at how professionally made those two bits of silly schlock are.
The film actually opens exactly like a Jess Franco film of the era, with a cheery version of La Bamba playing over footage of a European seaside town. The film shares actors, locations and even footage with the Eurociné/Franco film Cannibal, but Cannibal Terror lacks the eccentricity that Franco usually brings. Instead we get Alain Deruelle, here hiding behind the pseudonym A.W. Steeve, a man who clearly takes the pronunciation of Steve very seriously indeed.
The film is about three incompetent gangsters, two men and a woman who walks like a puppet with its strings cut, who are looking for a big score. After some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard –
‘You mind your own ass.’
‘My ass says go fuck yourself.’
– they decide to kidnap the daughter of some wealthy asshole. The lady gangster, Lina, isn’t sure until one of them says, ‘Maybe you wanna get those flippity-floppity titties lifted? That costs dough,’ which obviously changes her mind.
In a peculiarly Franco-esque touch, the kidnapping takes place offscreen and we learn that they’ve taken the girl to a hotel room. The little girl is dubbed by an adult woman, a ghastly practice that would soon reach its nightmarish apotheosis in the following year’s The House By The Cemetery. But don’t worry guys, we’ll get there. We’ll get there.
The gangsters are waiting for the fourth member to arrive, but as he is crossing the road he is hit by a car and taken to hospital. For some reason this causes the crooks to panic and flee to, err, the jungle, which seems like a bit of an overreaction.
After some nonsense with border control, our intrepid idiots find themselves in cannibal country, which looks suspiciously like rural France. In a ridiculous scene, their car breaks down and their guide goes to get some water to cool the engine with. When she is attacked by cannibals, the gangsters get back in the car and drive away.
But I thought it had broken down?
Here we finally meet the cannibals, and what a sad and sorry bunch they are. Clearly white Frenchmen with sideburns and fashionable haircuts, they look totally embarrassed to be participating in these rituals, hopping back and forth from foot to foot like they’re standing on hot coals. Then the Chief appears, his own hair peeking out from underneath his Gene Simmons fright wig. Later, the same actor appears – minus the wig – as a different character.
When the gut-munching finally begins, it’s super gross and bloody due to the use of a real pig carcass being torn open, with the poor extras grabbing offal right out and gingerly chewing on it. The problem is, like everything else in the movie, it goes on far too long.
Director Deruelle can’t seem to even master the basics of exploitation filmmaking. When the sexy Manuela is dancing and announces, ‘Let’s strip!’, he cuts to a still frame of one of the gangsters sitting with a parrot and holds it for several seconds before the scene abruptly ends.
After this, my notes completely dry up, because – and I’m honestly not exaggerating – the remaining 40 minutes of the film are people walking through the woods. First the gangsters walk, then the kidnapped girl’s parents walk, then some cannibals walk, then back to the gangsters and repeat until credits. There’s almost no dialogue, just walking, walking, walking. It’s broken up by one stunning moment where the girl’s mother mistakes a heron sitting on a tiny branch at the top of a very tall tree for her daughter, but apart from that it’s walking until the gangsters finally get caught and eaten, while the dubbers go absolutely apeshit with their ‘eating’ noises, which sound more like the cannibals are suffering from severe flatulence. And who knows, maybe they are? I’ve never eaten human flesh, maybe it’ll do that to you?