The Video Nasties #98 – Savage Terror (1980, Sisworo Guatama)

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‘We could make ethnological history!’

The opening title card of Savage Terror says – THIS IS A TRUE ADVENTURE and thanks the Indonesian government for allowing the story to be told. They should probably be thanking Umberto Lenzi, seeing as how this useless garbage is a straight up Indonesian rip-off of Deep River Savages, Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive. It’s an adventure the same way that waking up and discovering you’ve been kidnapped by a maniac is an adventure.

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Why is it so hard to make a good cannibal film? The elements are all there – the jungle setting is creepy and everything in it wants to kill you, be it man or animal. The cannibals themselves cannot be reasoned with and know the terrain so well that they should be nigh well unstoppable killing machines in the context of the movie. Think the last ten minutes of Cannibal Holocaust for how intense and disturbing a cannibal movie should be. So why has no other director ever been able to come close? Why do they insist on lengthy scenes in which the cannibals capture people and tie them up and then do nothing, precisely nothing for ages until their prisoner escapes? At least no one falls in love in this one.

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The cannibals themselves here are very much of the ‘oogah-boogah’ variety, the kind you’d see in a Saturday morning kids show. With their ludicrous fright wigs they look like KISS without the makeup and communicate solely in grunts and screams. It’s no exaggeration to say that the entire middle 50 minutes of the movie contains no dialogue whatsoever, which is hard work – if you’re going to effectively have a silent movie, you’d damn well better make sure that what’s happening onscreen is fucking fascinating. Sadly, no one told Sisworo Gautama this, so instead we get people on their own wandering around the jungle intercut with cannibals grunting at each other and wandering around a cave. Apart from dreck like Faces of Death and Brutes and Savages, this middle portion is as bad as the Nasties get. It’s completely unwatchable and impossible to fully pay attention to.

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But it’s not all bad. The first 20 minutes led me to believe Savage Terror would at least be mildly entertaining. For a start, they misspell their star Barry Prima’s name as Berry Prima in the credits, which is always a good sign. I’m not being facetious when I say the credits are the best part of the film – along with the true story disclaimer and the spelling mistakes, they are soundtracked by…Kraftwerk’s We Are the Robots! I genuinely can’t think of a less appropriate song for a film about primitive tribes, so kudos to whichever psychotic maniac selected that one for the opening number.

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Kraftwerk songs pop up intermittently, and you can make your own fun by imagining an alternate reality where Kraftwerk made music videos packed with cheesy footage of Indonesian cannibals performing voodoo rituals. Pay attention for Luke and Leia’s theme from Star Wars playing over a scene later on too.

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There’s a crocodile attack that might raise a chuckle or two, and then the ending where the action finally kicks in and we get StrawBerry Prima kung-fu fighting the cannibal chief who’s armed with a boomerang axe, perhaps the most useless weapon in the history of warfare. It’s too little, too late. In the words of one character, ‘This is one experience I hope I never have to repeat.’

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