Cannibal Terror (1980)

Director: “Allan W. Steeve”

I’m sure I would never have watched this film had it not been part of the Drive-In Delirium project, indeed I may never have even heard of it otherwise. But THAT TRAILER! How could I not watch the film after seeing it! Lina the kind-hearted prostitute! The two small-time hoodlums! Those remarkably European-looking cannibals! “And it could have been an everyday story if it weren’t for… CANNIBAL TERROR”! There’s a shot in the trailer that’s UPSIDE DOWN, for fuck’s sake… if the trailer was pushing such boundaries of ineptitude, what must the film itself be like? And who do you blame for it? Apparently none other than Jess Franco was once thought to be the man behind the pseudonym, largely because a lot of it apparently reuses a stack of footage (and other resources; some DVD releases of this film, including the Severin issue I watched, even include artwork from the Franco film) from one of his own cannibal films of the same period (both films were produced by the Eurocine company), and IMDB actually gives him a co-writer credit. But “Steeve” seems to have really been one Alain Deruelle (who also has a small role in the film), whose probably mercifully short directorial career seems to have otherwise mainly consisted of porn; interestingly, the other “Allan W. Steeve” film Deruelle made was, according to IMDB, another Jess Franco job rehashed into a new film. But “Steeve” also seems to have been at least one of the actors in the film (Olivier Mathot), and one of the writers, Julio Perez Tabernero… regarding whom, this interview (in Spanish) seems to ascribe him pretty much full directorial credit (Chrome’s translate function is not terribly clear), and, as I once wrote of another film, I can’t imagine someone claiming credit for something this shit if, you know, they didn’t do it. (Odd how Tabernero isn’t listed as a writer on this print either, though…)

Anyway, SOMEBODY made this thing, and Jesus fuck what a piece of shit they made. Light on terror, and not much heavier on cannibals, this French review—or, rather, Chrome’s translation of same—sums it up quite beautifully: “Indeed, Cannibal Terror accumulates almost all the faults of the world” and “the scenario is to piss”. It surely is: our trio of not entirely capable crooks kidnap a child, for some reason things don’t quite go to plan and they wind up having to seek refuge with help from an associate, who finds them a safe haven on an island or something in a house remarkably close to cannibal country. Nothing can possibly go wrong in such a setting… Cannibal Terror is never quite berserk enough to achieve true transcendence, but it comes close at times, in the vigour with which it says “fuck you” to such niceties as decent dialogue, logic, editing (there’s an astounding violation of screen direction at one point that I had to rewatch just to prove I’d seen it), pacing, energy, all the stuff that usually goes into an actually good film; and it treads a fine line between “so bad it’s good” and “so bad it’s just awful”. However, I think it errs on the former side just enough to be watchable if you’re in the mood for a laugh at something terrible. And at least I never spotted any upside-down shots in the film, unlike the trailer…


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