‘I hate the jungle, and its humidity,
and these shadows, and this heat.’
Oh, another Jess Franco cannibal film. This time he seems to have a slightly higher budget than was the norm for his 80s work – there are even some actual tracking shots! I know, I know, we’ve really hit the big time now. But even for me, an unashamed Franco celebrant, this one is pretty hard going.
It’s a shame, as we get off to a cracking start with one of the most bizarre openings to any movie ever made – a woman being chased through the jungle by cannibals, intercut with a model in a swimsuit waving to people from an open top car by the beach, while a melancholy acoustic track plays. The woman turns out to be Laura Crawford, who is some sort of star of stage/screen/modelling/whatever. At her press conference, she states, ‘I have no opinion of men – I just love them,’ while intrigued looking pedestrians stare right at the camera. Sadly, as played by charisma vacuum Ursula Fellner, Laura is one of Franco’s most uninteresting heroines, although she’s required to do little more than run around screaming in the buff, which she certainly does with aplomb.
She’s soon kidnapped by a pair of men wearing stockings on their heads who do the only smart thing and take her to a remote jungle inhabited by deranged natives who sacrifice beautiful women to their Devil God. Research, guys. Research. Did we learn nothing from Cannibal Terror?
And much like Cannibal Terror, this film does not know when to stop. Rituals go on for what feels like days, with every second shot being a close up of the eyes on that damn totem pole. People walk and walk and walk some more. Honestly, there’s more walking in this film than the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Franco, who usually has a good eye for locations, seems as lost as his characters in this jungle setting, failing to find any interesting shots or compositions. It doesn’t help that the man sent in to rescue Laura is the blank slate Al Cliver (which arguably makes him The Model Hunter rather than The Devil Hunter, but I suppose we shouldn’t quibble). I guess Franco wanted someone just as dull as his heroine. No one is helped by the lackadaisical dubbing, particularly Cliver’s ‘nam vet friend, who sounds like he’s been dubbed by the village idiot (just wait for his delivery of the line, ‘Ouch.’)
Things pick up slightly when the horror element of The Devil is introduced, at least until we see him and discover it’s a naked black man with papier maché eyes. The eyes clearly make it impossible for the poor actor to see, so he walks very slowly, gingerly stepping through the undergrowth and grabbing onto tree trunks to avoid falling. Later, Franco has him walk up a hill while carrying a nude Laura, which just seems cruel.
While The Devil Hunter lacks the atmosphere and strange beauty of Franco’s best films (or even his mediocre ones), it does sometimes deliver a good solid laugh. There’s a scene where Cliver punches a topless woman and knocks her out cold; when she wakes, he tells her to rest, to which she gratefully replies, ‘Thank you.’
There’s also the world’s most tepid fist fight, and a staggering scene where Franco films Cliver climbing up a hill by turning the camera on it’s side and having Al crawl along the ground like in the 1960s Batman tv series.
There’s a smattering of gore (the usual animal intestines type gags) and an almost nonstop barrage of bare flesh, both male and female. At 80 minutes it might have been a fun party movie, but running over one hundred minutes renders it more of an endurance test. The whole lazy endeavour is best summed up with this piece of dialogue, which shows the complete lack of effort that went into the script –
‘Tell your friend that if he doesn’t reply within 30 seconds, I’ll blow your head right off.’
‘And if I don’t do it?’
‘I’ll blow your head off right now.’