Throwback Review - Cannibal Apocalypse
Antonio Margheriti's 1980 movie, Cannibal Apocalypse, straddles the line between an Italian zombie film and a cannibal film. Featuring a somewhat confused take on both genres and an incredibly subdued performance from lead actor, John Saxon, the film is fairly enjoyable, despite it's flaws. The first of which is the title itself. The film also goes by the names Apolalypse Domani and Invasion of the Flesh Hunters, and to me the use of the word cannibal is misleading to an extent. Because to categorize this film with the likes of Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox would be a mistake, not only due to the fact that both of those films are highly superior, but because the subject matter is vastly different. In fact the film belongs closer to Fulci's Zombi 2.
During a rescue mission in the Vietnam War, Norman Hopper finds two American POWs trapped in a pit. When he extends his arm into the pit to help them out he is bitten by one of them. The soldiers are both committed to an institution. Some years later, Hopper has a nightmare about the incident. When he awakes the next day he receives a call from the soldier that bit him, who has just been released from the hospital, and declines an offer to go out for a drink. Partially because he doesn't want to face his past, but as time goes on, Hopper can no longer deny the fact that he too has an urge to taste human flesh.
It is rumored that John Saxon signed on to the film because he found the script to have an interesting twist. It was not until later when he learned it was an Italian Exploitation Film about cannibalism, that he lost interest. By then, though, it was too late. Couple his apprehension with the fact that he was going through a divorce at the time, and you have possibly the most subtle performance of his career. It is also rumored that he has never watched the film to this day.
Perhaps the main issue I have with this film is it's failure to commit to either genre. It ends up muddying the two together in a way that never makes complete sense. There seems to be very little consistency when it comes to the infection and how it effects each individual. For example, why does the 'hunger' take effect immediately in almost everyone who is attacked by the infected, except in John Saxon it takes years to kick in? The film feels haphazard and poorly planned because of it.
Despite the fact that the film is lopsided and rife with plot holes, it is not without merit. Because the film does have some good scenes of gore and a nice twist ending to send you off with a smile. Overall, a mediocre entry into either of the genres it attempts to fit into, but still a pretty fun watch if you just enjoy a good 80's Italian film now and then.
- Leo Francis