Anthropophagus (1980)

It's not fear that tears you apart... It's HIM!
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Anthropophagus - It's not fear that tears you apart... It's HIM!

Between directing Blue Erotic Climax and Porno Esotic Love, prolific filmmaker Joe D'Amato took a break from his sleazy pornographic exploits and directed his first non-erotic horror Anthropophagus. Also known as Grim Reaper, Man-Eater and The Beast among a multitude of other names (as is quite common for cheap Italian horror), Anthropophagus was destined to make it onto the UK's notorious video nasty list. Anthropophagus even managed to jump on the Zombie sequel bandwagon (which seemed like the one marketing idea that the releasers of Italian horror always fell back on in tough times) with the alternative title of Zombie 7: Grim Reaper.

Filled with irrationally behaving characters seeming to struggle to tie together a number of scenes that feel preconceived before the story was stuffed in between, Anthropophagus fits in nicely with the similar budget Italian movies of the time such as the works of Fulci and Lenzi. The production values are low and seemingly irrelevant to D'Amato and it can be assumed that Coca-Cola financed the majority of the work with the cool, crisp and refreshing product placement within the first 15 minutes. A character exchange along the lines of "The boat's over there, let's split up, I'll go to the castle" seems completely in place with regards to the story and no one even questions how tourists on a month long boat trip will suffice with an overnight bag each.

A group of tourists who plan to take a boat tour of a number of small Greek islands meet a woman who wants to tag along to meet up with some of her friends who left for a remote island a few days previously. Although the remote island in question is not in the original plan the young(ish) and reckless party people decide that they will go anyway.

On arriving at the island, it seems deserted except for a blood splattered blind woman and apparently (according to the blind woman) a deranged weirdo that smells of blood. Rather than getting the fuck away, the party decide that it would be a good idea to explore the island and soon encounter the blood odoured inhabitant, some intriguing clues to his origins and obviously their demise. Curiosity killed the twat.

Director D'Amato (who also takes a large chunk of the writing credit) does well at delivering a horror that brings nothing new to the genre and his skills of darkening a situation fits well with the material provided. The antagonist is revealed fairly late on. The suspense is adequately maintained until then by various "out of the box" methods. This works well as a prolonged stalking would soon become tedious in the island setting and this theory has been proved in similar movies where directors have needed to throw threatening wildlife into the mix to maintain the momentum.

The killer is no more than a demented tourist shipwrecked on the island after a rather troubling family meal who now has a taste for human flesh, so keeping his appearances to a minimum works well to maintain a small amount of mystery which is another ingredient in the movie recipe to add a few new flavours.

Anthropophagus ticks most of the boxes for the slow stalk and slash genre defined by Italy with the only exception being a naked shower scene at a most inappropriate time. There is a brief and irrelevant journey into the occult, a random cat jumping onto a piano and the bipolar keyboard music jumping from "calming yet eerie organs" to "mime with tourettes in a Casio warehouse" every few minutes. Also, as with most video nasties, there is THAT scene which freaked out the censors. In this case it involves some freshly plucked foetus eating which caused a fair amount of controversy which is always good advertising. Combined with the added marketing impact of being on the video nasty list, Anthropophagus is another unexceptional movie raised to cult status by negative advertising, but despite being unexceptional there are numerous things to love about this film, especially if Italian trash is what floats and un-anchors your boat.

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