Saturday, 8 September 2012

Taking In The Trash #1: Cannibal Apocalypse

This is actually a shot from the film in question, but curiously enough is also the exact image I wanted to use of myself as a header. Consider it, then, a placeholder.

Taking In The Trash (note: this is a clever clever pun. Chortle) is a feature I plan on doing as often as possible on our to-be-weekly podcast but on account of me watching more than one trashy film a week I’m going to throw some of them on here as well. There shall be zero overlap in the written and recorded word save for directional mentions from one to the other. Guaranteed. 

This entry’s not written as a recommendation though. I just finished watching 1980’s confused shocker Cannibal Apocalypse and if I get this article out of it, then it’ll feel like it was worth my while. Imagine for me, though, an alternate world, an alternate September 7th 2012 where I watched Cannibal Apocalypse and didn't write about it. In this nightmarish pseudo-existence, where a man can watch a film and just not write about it, there and only there would watching Cannibal Apocalypse have been a pointless exercise. 

Commences the inquisition. Is it a good film? No. Is it a terrible film? Almost definitely yes.

Almost definitely?

Yeah. Just almost. Look, I’m getting to it guy, OK? If you view this movie as a horror film (starring John Saxon off of Nightmare On Elm Street and Enter The Dragon), it’s a bit of a failure. Scenariowise it presents Saxon (my number one Bond That Never Was) as a Vietnam vet struggling with nightmares about the time he rescued two of his captured men and was bitten by one. The implication – and I’ve either imagined this or read it on the box – is that the ‘Cong forced these cats to eat, I dunno, each other I guess, and they developed a taste for it. It’s never really dealt with. Anyway, the film presents these two guys, these prisoners, as suffering from PTSD and Saxon living a subdued private hell at home with his wife and worryingly interested teenie neighbour. After a long, long time spent setting up the whole, you know, they-were-in-Vietnam-and-share-a-bond-and-have-ended-up-a-little-up-the-left thing, these dudes start biting people who themselves start biting people and you’re left with a horror film that’s no longer a considered study on the effects of war but a parable about the effects of war. Side A of Cannibal Apocalypse documents three men who came back emotionally and somewhat physically scarred from their fruitless military venture. Side B suggests that war turned them into actual monsters, completely ruined them and by extension the lives of those they came into contact with.

It doesn’t wash. It’s too obvious, right, as obvious as a cat offering you a sign that reads “look, I don’t like water, I’m even less fond of dogs and milk? Yes to all the milk, ta”. Antonio Margheriti directs a film that works best when it’s at its worst. Refresher O’Clock – you need to approach Cannibal Apocalypse the wrong way to enjoy it, and you get the most from it when it fools you into thinking it’s not a horror film for the first 45 minutes, and the least when it becomes a horror film for the last 45 minutes at the expense of some restrained social commentary. You buy it because it’s in the horror section, dig? The first half of the movie is just the last ten minutes of First Blood (which, in an unplanned coincidence, I watched right before it and have fallen hard hard in love with all over again. YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE PUSHED HIM TEASLE!) You think “sugar, this isn’t the zombiefest it was sold to me as.” You settle in though, and even if you’re not coming off the back of Rambers, the plight of young men who were shipped to another country and made into figurative monsters should elicit sympathy, OK, you big bastard? And yeah, you come to terms with it as a kinda subtle reflection on alla that with added non-bonus teen pubage. Then it flips on you and becomes the horror film you were originally sold and can no longer welcome. “Hi, awkward allegory. You’re late, everyone’s left, the soup’s gone cold and yeah you can still eatdrink it but it tastes like shit now and you kinda ruined the night. You can have the sofa if you want to stay but I don’t want to see you here when I get home from work tomorrow.”

Neither of these kids are Saxon's, which is especially helpful when he bones one of them. Also though it's regrettable that that happens. Still, though, incest-free...
Saxon sports a good line in turtlenecks, chinos and lumberjack shirts throughout, though I was surprised to learn afterwards that he claims to have never watched the film, supported it being banned and generally regrets being involved. Seems he signed on without, um, maybe reading it or something. I mean, how else does that happen? I can only presume the title stems from the Apocalypse Now/ Vietnam connection. You wanna talk exploitation, there’s exploitation. Not a single sign of apocalypse otherwise. Another writer contested that the film's six cannibals better merits the title 'Cannibal Inconvenience'.

Also I just read a little about the film there and it pretty much confirmed for me that I may have had a little sleepy while it was on ‘cause several things were not seen by me. Go fig.

In short – watch it as a horror film and it’s pointless. Watch it as a film with something to say and it succeeds half in, half out and is still a little pointless. Watch it and write about it and it's dingdingdingdingding straight to the bank. At first we got a few laughs from it because of poor editing, a completely unsuitable score and one shot in particular where four drops of blood accompanied four plucks of a guitar, and the gore effects are definitely enough to have earned the film’s place on the original UK list of banned Video Nasties, but by the end of the film I was just willing it to end. As a B to the A of First Blood is was a cool curio, but like I said, I’m not recommending it. What I am recommending is The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue, part of the same Original Video Nasties label from Optimum and also the subject of this week’s Pod entry for Taking In The Trash. I’ll see you again next week. Suggestions for this sort of thing are welcome and encouraged, so comment away and I’ll see ya soon. 'Til then... pleasant SCREAMS.

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