Cannibal Apocalypse

Like a zombie movie, but with living people
★★★
☆☆
Released: 
1980
Director: 
Antonio Margheriti
Starring: 
John Saxon, Giovanni Lombardo Radice
The Setup: 
Three guys come back from Vietnam infected with a virus that turns them into deranged cannibals.
Discussion: 

This is a movie that follows a lot of the conventions of a zombie movie, the main difference being that instead of being dead, these flesh-eaters are alive, just taken over by a virus that turns them into deranged cannibals. It’s an interesting concept, and this film features a lot of interesting scenes that you just don’t see portrayed too often, such as a bizarre molestation in a film theater, and a long, tense standoff with a crazed gunman in a resale store.

This movie shows the influence of Dawn of the Dead all over it, from the resale store biker rampage and standoff to the final scenes, in which a group of four with the exact same gender/ethnic makeup as in DotD hole up against outside invaders. The interesting twist this time is that THEY are the pursued flesh-eaters, rather than the other way around.

This movie, while having rich and deep cheese deposits, also actually has some quality to it. It sustains a creepy and tense tone tied around John Saxon’s growing obsession with consuming human flesh, and his struggle and fear about giving into those impulses. Saxon carries off his ‘upright soldier’ persona so well that one both empathizes with his struggle, and fears what will happen once his intensity is channeled into being evil. The direction is actually very good, with many shots carefully [but not ostentatiously] composed to create and sustain a great deal of tension and menace. And then there’s just the story, which covers the first days of a viral outbreak as it begins to spread and people begin to wake up to what is going on, which is also pretty fascinating.

There’s also an additional layer of tension to the movie [compared to a traditional zombie movie] in that after someone’s been bitten, you aren’t sure WHEN they will start turning into a crazed flesh-eater. In a regular zombie movie, they’re dead until they wake up again, here they’re a normal person until suddenly they just snap, which is cool.

Also in the plus column is that fact that John Saxon is FUCKING HANDSOME and has a great body which is frequently on display.

Though this is supposed to be an ‘extreme gore classic,’ it’s pretty tame by today’s standards. When your big gore payoff shot has been done to comic effect in Death Becomes Her, the edge is pretty much gone.

Okay, now onto the individually delightful cheese elements:

Stock helicopter footage opens the picture. There should be some kind of film festival of movies that incorporate unrelated stock footage, the supreme champion obviously being Hell of the Living Dead.

A guy pets a dog with an obvious explosive around its neck. He explodes—and then the funky disco music begins! What’s more, the music was actually pretty good!

Please note: potential cannibals should not keep huge slabs of unwrapped bloody meat in their fridge. I mean, obviously everyone does, but if you suffer from cannibalistic tendencies…

A young girl comes onto John Saxon [who wouldn’t?] by wanting to borrow a hair dryer. Her hair is not wet. She then reveals herself as an unhinged psychotic while blowing him [um, with the dryer] while he’s trying to have an important phone conversation [with another unhinged psychotic], which would earn a punch in the mouth from me [but I am not susceptible to nubile tits]. John gets off the phone and proceeds to bite her twat.

Motorcycle chase in warehouse/resale store!

Hard-bitten detective asks about mad gunman: “Is he subversive? Queer? Black? Commie?”

Uptight mother advises daughter [the one with who rightly threw herself at John Saxon] to stop “acting like a hussy!”

Misogynist fantasy alert: Cannibal eats woman’s breast!

They set real rats on fire! That’s not nice.

There are EXTENSIVE background materials on the DVD, one of which tells two interesting stories: 1) That John Saxon couldn’t understand enough of the script [badly translated from Italian] to know that he was in an extreme gore flick, and 2) Radice tells an incredible story about refusing to kill a real pig, leading to his “accidentally” almost severing an assistant’s hand with a meat cleaver. Oops. But the docs get boring pretty quickly.

Should you watch it: 

Yeah!