One of my favorite things about low budget horror movies is they’re often the purest distillation of the auteur theory. With little to no oversight from producers or studio executives, the low budget director was free to run wild. Anything was fair game as long as it delivered the goods in terms of violence and/or nudity. At their best, these movies, especially Italian horror, could evoke some genuine emotions. In the case of schlockmeister Joe D’Amato it was usually disgust, rather than something more sophisticated like suspense or horror, but emotions all the same. Depending on your tolerance for slow pacing and bland characters, Anthropophagus delivers on the disgust at least.
Famously banned in the early 1980s in the UK as part of the “Video Nasties” list, Anthropophagus tells the story of a group of tourists who visit a small Greek island and encounter a crazed cannibal named Klaus. Klaus, you see, previously had been adrift in a small boat with his wife and son. Hunger set in, he attempted to kill the son to eat him but accidentally killed the wife, so he ate them both. At some point he made it back to the island and has been snacking on visitors ever since.
One of the tourists is a pregnant woman, who’s maybe the most annoyingly helpless slasher movie victim since the wheelchair guy in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The big gross-out scene is when Klaus kills her, rips out the fetus and eats it. Apparently this badly done gore scene was enough to instigate an official investigation as to whether an actual fetus was killed and eaten for the movie. People were a lot less sophisticated back then, apparently.
The first hour or so of this movie is pretty much unwatchable without extensive use of the fast forward button. The last 20 minutes or so at least include some action and one genuine jump scare, followed by a nice juicy throat wound. There’s one last epic gross-out when Klaus takes a pick axe to the stomach, pulls out his intestines and eats them before keeling over dead.
I can’t really recommend Anthropophagus to anyone but hardcore cheese enthusiasts. The good news is the uncut version is available on YouTube so you can at least see what all the fuss was about. If you’re really into this sort of thing (and I worry about you if that’s the case), Amazon sells a DVD that is probably the best presentation we’ll ever see of a movie like this.
Amazon: Anthropophagus DVD