Cannibal Ferox (1981) Review

When I was younger and far less experienced in the realms of horror there were certain films that I heard secretly spoken about that always sparked my morbid adolescent interest. Of all the genres of movies though it seemed the cannibal films where the most strange and disturbing and therefore the ones I want to see.

With the majority made during the late 70’s and early 80’s and then banned in the UK the names alone from The Mountain of the Cannibal Gods to Cannibal Terror sounded exotic and exciting and the whispered descriptions of some of the scenes they contained, all of which I was assured where real, made me even more frightened and even more intrigued.

I heard that a friend of a friend of a friends cousin had seen one of these movies and it featured a scene where they cut off someone’s head and immediately ate their brains, another movie someone’s nephews brothers sister saw had a woman hoisted up by hooks through her bare naked breasts and a third friend swore he had seen a man have his penis cut off and the crazy cannibals eat it and all of them I heard were real.

It turns out that all of these scenes are in one movie and that movie is Cannibal Ferox the tale of a trio of New Yorkers who go to the Amazon to prove there is no such thing as cannibalism only to become the main meal for some terrible tribe’s people with a taste for people.

Written and directed by Umberto Lenzi who in fact initiated the genre with Man From Deep River in 1972, Cannibal Ferox appeared one year after the masterpiece that is Ruggero Deodato Cannibal Holocaust and capitalized on the continuing cannibal exploitation genre like many other Italian movie makers of the time.

Although initially released on VHS in the UK uncut in 1982 the picture soon found itself falling foul of the Obscene Publications Act ending up on the Video Nasties list and gaining more notoriety because of it hence the playground rumors that got my interest all those years ago.

Still shocking today primarily because of the scenes of animal violence that include a turtle and a crocodile being killed and eaten the over the top scenes of mutilation and mastication although dated effects wise work wonderfully well primarily because they happen quickly and brutally before you can even see what is going on.

The ironic plotline that anthropological student Gloria (Lorraine De Selle) is searching the Amazon to disprove the existence of cannibalism only to be captured by real life tribes people who still practice the primitive practice is solid enough but handled far less intelligently and interestingly than in Cannibal Holocaust.

Gloria insists that the terrible acts of sadistic cocaine cowboy Mike (City of the Living Dead’s Giovanni Lombardo Radice) are to blame and that it is the civilized westerner that drove these peaceful people to transform into flesh eating savages but this doesn’t exactly track seeing as they have a ton of devices ready and waiting just to torture and terrorize the unfortunate tourists.

Although the plot is paper thin the gore is great and what Ferox lacks in storytelling it makes up for in bloodletting so anyone who likes gross out and horror films more over the top than most will be very happy indeed.

Shameless Films tantalising 2K restoration, which features new grading and revives for the first time the original look of the 16mm film stock it was shot on, has some excellent extras and if you like me heard about this film and it’s most disgusting moments long ago you should treat yourself to Cannibal Ferox to witness the controversy first hand.

My only advice is to make sure you don’t eat before you watch it!

Movie Rating: ★

★ ★ ☆ ☆ 



Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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