John’s Horror Corner: Cannibal Ferox (1981), just another Italian exploitation film mimicking Cannibal Holocaust too close for comfort.
MY CALL: I always used to think that Ferox and Holocaust were the two formative extreme cannibal exploitation films. The truth is that Holocaust is, and Ferox just retraces its brutal steps. Fun for exploitation fans, but a major bummer for film fans. MOVIES LIKE Cannibal Ferox: Cannibal Holocaust (1980) above all other cannibal movies. I’d warn you to skip Green Inferno (2013), but if you’re like me you’ll watch anyway… and then regret it since it’s just another cheap knockoff masquerading as something original since it came out over 30 years later.
In Cannibal Holocaust (1980) we were graced with an excellent introduction to our characters, their motivation, and why we’re all here. But as if in a rush, we now find ourselves in the Amazon almost immediately as our three protagonists begin their search for a jungle village which, by all local accounts, doesn’t seem to exist.
Rudy (Danilo Mattei; Ironmaster), Gloria (Lorraine De Selle; House on the Edge of the Park, Wild Beasts) and Pat (Zora Kerova; The New York Ripper, Anthropophagous) venture into the Amazon so that Gloria may gather the information she needs to “prove” her dissertation’s thesis that “cannibalism as an organized practice in society” does not exist, nor has it ever. You’d think Gloria would be intelligent, working on her PhD in anthropology and all, but she can’t be that smart… since these three American buffoons drive into the jungle without a guide, breakdown, and then travel aimlessly on foot and off-trail in hopes of basically “bumping into” Gloria’s alleged village of cannibals. But they sure do seem to get lucky—or unlucky.
During their adventure hey bump into Mike (Giovanni Lombardo Radice; The Omen, City of the Living Dead) and Joe (Walter Lucchini; Ironmaster), who claim to have escaped cannibals!
Written and directed by Umberto Lenzi (Nightmare City, Ghosthouse), this film follows close in the footsteps of its predecessor Cannibal Holocaust (1980). The tortuous use of a coatimundi (that narrow-snouted muskrat looking critter) echoes Holocaust’s influence—when we saw one stabbed in the neck and killed on film. Keeping in the spirit of animal cruelty, we watch a coatimundi die to an anaconda (for real, on film) while yelping its last breaths, a jaguar kills a small monkey (for no good reason), Mike stabs a young pig to death (again, for no reason), an iguana ravages a boa, and an alligator is gutted. Probably considered avant-garde filmmaking by some, this needless “real” gore contributes no more value to the film than the completely forced nudity. Throw in a lot of violence against women, some genital mutilation, bloody eye gauging, child nudity (a la National Geographic), dismemberment and sloppy disembowelment and I guess we’ve got ourselves an exploitation film.
Overall the gore and violence aren’t very effective, but anyone would wince at the castration scene—we see quite a bit. I was particularly surprised by the meat hooks through the breast! It was also somewhat unexpected (or more hilariously unreasonable) that the natives had a special table designed just for skull-capping victims to expose and eat their brains. But hey, that’s the kind of thing we signed up for with this film, right?
The grossest thing about this movie was when they found a native eating big fat beetle grubs alive. You saw its guts as he bit into it and chewed with his mouth open. Yuck!
A lot of things happen but they never coalesce into a reasonable story. Our trio encounters natives who had gorily died to booby traps, it’s explained that they had helped Mike and Joe escape, and when they all later return to the village together the natives sit quietly together as if scared of their white visitors (who do as they wish in the village like pale rulers).
“White Devil, White Devil.”
There seems to be no inspiration behind this stale film. It just rides the coattails of Cannibal Holocaust (1980) with no more rhyme or reason than chasing a paycheck. Holocaust was avant-garde extreme filmmaking, but Ferox is just one of the many random exploitation films inevitably to be found in its wake. Don’t think I’m being fair to this film? They even decapitate a large turtle and then butcher it while it’s still twitching… just because Holocaust did it. We flip-flop scenes between New York and the Amazon, just because it worked for Holocaust, and New York’s Lt. Rizzo is played by the star of Holocaust (Robert Kerman; Night of the Creeps, Cannibal Holocaust). As the story unfolds, a great deal more of the Ferox story (and the cast) mirrors Holocaust but continues to offer little in its honor in the process.
Everything that made Holocaust work is absent here, unless you count “real gore” from animal cruelty and a few boobs as highlights. This is a cheap, uninspired knock-off and, while admittedly quite entertaining to a fan of the occasional extreme or exploitation film, it completely fails as a “film.” This is an exploitation “flick” that has nothing original to say, and says nothing at all well outside of step-by-step instructions for field-dressing a turtle or pushing natives to cannibalism.