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Monday, 12 September 2011

ANTHROPOPHAGOUS: THE BEAST (1980)

One of the most notorious of all of the 'Video Nasty' titles that were dragged into a political nightmare during the 1980s, 'Anthrophoagous: The Beast'(aka just 'Anthropophagous' or once it was heavily cut as 'The Grim Reaper') still has the power to disturb thanks to its two most infamous scenes. I first saw this film uncut at the age of 15 on a pirate tape my cousin passed me, back to back with an uncut version of 'The Exorcist' (five years before the Exorcist was rereleased), and it freaked me out thanks to the two scenes I'll get to in a while.

The film is still banned in the UK in its uncut state, and thus I used the heavily cut version of the film, 'The Grim Reaper', and pieced the full version together with online videos of the uncut material. This Italian production would be largely forgotten by now were it not for the sheer extremity of certain parts. Right, let's get those two ultra-notorious scenes out of the way first, then I can talk about the film itself.
The two moments that will still make a lot of people squirm are the moment the villain pulls the foetus out of a pregnant woman and eats it on camera, and the other (and slightly less tasteless) is the ending, during which the titular psychotic cannibal eats his own innards as he dies. They are truly, unforgettably unpleasant shots, and it's easy to see why the film was banned in its uncut state over here, and why heavy cuts were made to subsequent releases.

Okay, onto the film itself. The movie was shot by a crew that was on holiday, and it shows in the relaxed and picturesque manner in which the footage of the gorgeous locale plays out. It's almost a travelogue for a while. Basically a group of tourists sail to a beautiful Greek island, which they discover to be almost completely deserted. It's empty for a reason. There's a demented, malformed cannibal on the loose! There's a back-story to the character of Nikos Karamanlis, aka the Anthropophagous beast, but it's not really of much consequence.
The performance of Luigi Montefiori (known to fans as George Eastman) as the cannibal madman is chilling in its lumbering menace, while Joe D'Amato's direction is much better than the script deserves. The story is lousy, basically a set-up for carnage, but there are some very memorable scenes and some genuine tension (especially in the catacomb scenes).

While not a very good film in itself, Anthopophagous: The Beast is essential viewing for those with a penchant for the real Video Nasties of the era, and horror completists in general. In the right mindset, it's an amazing piece of work, but don't expect pristine film-making. The VHS cover art was one of the most infamous images alongside Cannibal Holocaust's gaudy cover at the time, and it remains a harrowing and unsettling film, even if it's sometimes a chore to sit through more down to the cast than the gore (That said, Tisa Farrow is one of the few bright sparks in the whole bunch)! Just avoid the cut entitled 'The Grim Reaper' as it's trimmed so much that the film barely makes sense.

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