Time for some film history, kids! In the early 1980’s, regulation on films released on video cassette in the United Kingdom was fairly lax. This led to the release of many controversial and violent films on video, especially those of the 70’s grindhouse era, causing moral outrage amongst those who deemed the films offensive as well as various religious groups. These films became known as “Video Nasties,” and in 1984 the United Kingdom passed the “Video Recordings Act” which upped the regulation and censorship of films released on video, resulting in the banning of many films from release and causing certain videos to be pulled from shelves. Around 72 films were on a list at some point, 39 of which were prosecuted and subsequently banned in the United Kingdom. I’ll be reviewing some of these films, both banned and permitted, as my first series of reviews here on Film’s Okay (I Guess). Most, if not all, of these films are known for their violence, crudeness, and generally sleazy content, which makes for great review content.
First up is the legendary Anthropophagus (also known as Anthropophagous, Anthropophagous: The Beast and Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper). Anthropophagus opens with a couple taking a stroll on the beach, followed by a meat cleaver to the head. This is a pretty good indication of the tone and pace of the following events: slow, bland content followed by sudden brutality.
We meet a group of young people on vacation in Athens, one of whom is pregnant. On a lift through the mountains, the group meets Julie (Tisa Farrow, of Zombie (1979) fame), and after some brief chitchat invite her to join them on their tour of Greece. She mentions that she is headed to an island where a friend of hers has a house, and they all decide to head there together.
Upon arrival at the island, the pregnant girl sprains her ankle, and she and her boyfriend stay behind with the boat. As they walk through the small coastal town, it becomes apparent that it’s been largely abandoned further supported by a log in a building whose last entry was months ago. Eventually, they notice a woman in a window. Efforts to track her down yield nothing more than a dried out corpse and the words “GO AWAY” scrawled on a window. While all this is going on the pregnant girl’s boyfriend gets pulled overboard by an unseen assailant and his head ends up in a bucket, much to her horror. When the rest of the group return to the dock, they discover the boat is miles out at sea, and assume that Maggie and her boyfriend have left for some reason, and decide they’ll simply have to wait for someone to come back.
They summarily hole up in a small house, which naturally sets the stage for candlelit wanderings through darkened halls as lighting and thunder rage outside, and eventually we finally see the killer, a deformed, insane man named Nikos (George Eastman) who is also a cannibal, and he proceeds to hunt down the remaining tourists one by one as Julie attempts to escape his sadistic wrath. The most talked-about scene in the movie, the one that gave the film such notoriety and doubtless its ban, involves the pregnant woman having her unborn fetus pulled out by Nikos and devoured. This scene was repugnant and effective enough that people at the time questioned if the director, Joe D’Amato, had acquired an actual fetus for the scene (it’s actually a skinned rabbit). The second-most talked about scene, which I’ll abbreviate here, simply involves Nikos eating his own intestines (giving context to the wonderful poster you see above).
Ultimately, Anthropophagus does exactly what it sets out to do, that is, nothing more than shock and titillate. While I won’t say that these kinds of movies are without a certain charm (I think there’s at least something to be said for doing work that’s controversial, even if it’s only just to push the envelope), more often than not they tend to be lacking in substantial content, which results in the worst thing a movie can be – boring.
I’m not trying to bash on the film too hard here, as Anthropophagus certainly delivers what you would expect, and even has some nice atmosphere in the way of creepy, eerie vibe that builds up despite plenty of scenes that disrupt this flow early on. Despite this, there are long stretches of the movie that really just feel like padding between the various slayings, and the acting (and dubbing) are all fairly poor. The soundtrack is terrible, akin to low-budget carnival or church music, and honestly tends to detract from the proceedings rather than enhancing it.
If you’re looking for an example of the kind of film that’s considered a “Video Nasty,” there aren’t many that are quite as violent as Anthropophagus. While not a good film, it’s worth checking out for its legendary status, assuming of course, you’re looking to view this kind of thing.
*Oh, and in case you were wondering, Anthropophagus means: •(n) a person who eats human flesh. Appropriate.