Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

I was unsure earlier tonight whether I wanted to watch something kind of respectable or something kind of trashy. The fact that I watched an Argento film and then followed it with this probably indicates what side of the equation I landed on… and there’s a connection between them that I didn’t realise until after the fact: both films feature Cinzia de Carolis, as Karl Malden’s little girl in the other film and the horny teenage neighbour in this. Cannibal Apocalypse‘s title, rather titles, tell you what you need to know about its recent influences; the Italian title translates as “Apocalypse Tomorrow”, while the “cannibal” obviously references a certain Ruggero Deodato film that had appeared a few months earlier. And the scene of a man holed up in an indoor mall by bikers, well, where might audiences have seen that idea before… So not the most startlingly original film ever made, obviously, and certainly no masterpiece of the seventh art; star John Saxon so loathed the experience he still hadn’t watched the film 20 years later when the DVD extras were made, and I daresay he still hasn’t (though someone who—I presume willingly—directed a film called Zombie Death House probably shouldn’t talk too much about others). But there’s something about its combination of Vietnam veteran action and gut-muncher that’s intriguing; placing his cannibals in urban America makes them somewhat more interesting than if they were some Amazonian tribe. And Saxon’s palpable loathing for the film he’s in actually kind of serves it well; his grim demeanour behind the scenes spills effectively onto the screen. I also like Wallace Wilkinson as the foul-tempered police chief who gets some choice lines (“ashes to ashes, shit to shit” in particular). No masterpiece, as I said, but sometimes crudely vigorous cheese is just what you need at this time of night…

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