Despite having virtually no free time, I decided to celebrate the best month of the year by watching one of the most notorious horror/exploitation films in history. I particularly chose this film having enjoyed The Forest, a game heavily inspired by the film, and in the wake of the renewed “cannibal jungle” craze that seems to be sweeping the net (likely thanks to Eli Roth’s Green Inferno). Since this film essentially birthed the genre, is still highly controversial (notorious), and is considered the best the genre has to offer, I figured it was appropriate, even though I am not a fan of cannibal films (unless it’s the original TCM, of course).

So what was my verdict on this film?

It was….alright. In fact, I sort of liked it. True, it’s every bit as trashy as works by Folci and his ilk, but I will give this film credit for having better acting and some resemblence of a plot. Actually, compaired to the absolute dumb trash that is Italian slasher horror, particularly in the cannibal genre, it’s a damn masterpiece. It’s certainly better then the rest of the crap it’s director, Ruggero Deodato, farted out. Let me be blunt, I’ve seen about seven or eight “classic” Italian slasher films, and they are all garbage. They have just the thinnest sliver of a plot, ridiculous dialogue, horrible direction, atrocious acting and dubbing, all because the director wants to rush through to get to the gore. All those “great” effects these films are known for are a thin disguise for the fact that the director is a mindless hack who likely slept his way into the business. I try not to judge people based on their film tastes, but…seriously…. In terms of brutality and gratuitous rape scenes, this film is right up there. Five rapes, real animal slaughter (no really, they actually killed real animals on camera for a bunch of throw-away scenes), and several grisly deaths with the typical money shots into the guts. Having seen several of these films before hand, you can imagine the feelings I had going in to watch this. However, this film is surprisingly watchable, as in I didn’t want to stab my eye balls out after the first twenty minutes.

First, the music is absolutely superb. The opening theme, which is used throughout the film, is very memorable and used well as a great piece of irony. There’s also a more dramatic score that sets up the tension well. Likewise there’s some great cinematography here, several great shots are utilized to optimal dramatic effect (key word here: drama, there’s actually some tense scenes).

Second, the plot premise is decent. A professor journeys to an isolated jungle in search of a missing film crew. After befriending the locals, he finds the remains of the crew along with the crews last piece of footage, which records their travels and eventual fate. The primary actor, Robert Kerman, whose better known for his pelvic girth, gives a surprisingly solid performance as the films protagonist and voice of reason. In fact, all the primary actors gave credible performances. Of course, it helps that the dialogue doesn’t sound like a bunch of incoherant dribble put together in five minutes by a wino on a bender. Having sat through several bad such genre films with actors that all look as though they were drugged, drunk, or held at gun point, believe me this was well appreciated.

In any event, I actually cared about Kerman’s character and was interested enough to see what the outcome would be. That’s right, a Italian cannibal horror film actually impressed me enough to keep watching. Maybe it’s because the genre is so heavily plagued with such trash that anything that has some obvious ounce of effort put into it seems like a Coppola production.

To be fair, there are Italian horror films deemed classics that I actually love. Suspiria is such an incredibly stellar visual/atmospheric masterpiece it overshadows a muddled crap plot. Phenomena (Creepers) is interesting and surprisingly engaging with a surreal storyline and an ending that makes the viewer forget about the idiotic, bipolar dialogue. And let’s not forget the first three Dead films. Those films I can understand having high ratings on IMDB.

What would I rate this film?

Well, considering the death scenes were impactful enough that the director had to prove in court that he didn’t kill any of the actors. Considering the fact that I actually liked the main protagonist and felt that all the actors put some effort into their performances. Let’s also bear in mind that I liked the plot and was satisfied with the outcome. Just the fact that this was an exploitation film with all the crappy gratuitous junk that I hate in this genre but the script and visuals were good enough to get me through that boring cliched nonsense….I would give it a 4.5/10, though as far as cannibal/Italian-slasher genres go, it gets an 11/10.

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