Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cannibals: Laughable and Unmotivated

Perspective is important. Often times it seems like the lowest rung of the genre foodchain is Jesús Franco. What happens when more ripping off occurs even after a genre has been bled dry by the likes of Franco. If I had been asked to think up a movie even worse than Cannibals, I guess the hypothetical film I would have dreamt up would have been something like Alain Deruelle's Cannibal Terror. This film was a lot of fun to watch because it can be seen as either the single dumbest cannibal film ever made or a parody of the cannibal film genre. It's not a parody but that's just how clueless Deruelle was and how desperate the producers were.

Cannibal Terror
by Alain Deruelle
We join our movie already in progress. Two jackass thieves called Mario and Roberto are in the middle of botching a boat robbery; when that stupid bit of business, some of this film's insufferable latin music starts up as we watch the thieves' female accomplice Lina walking with the widest and most absurd hip-swinging gait I've ever seen. She stops and chats up a six year old girl dubbed insidiously by a woman easily in her thirties. She's the daughter of a car manufacturer which I guess makes her worthy of kidnapping, cause that's what the three morons plan to do. Things go from bad to worse once they've got her; their getaway driver runs a guy down just as they're about to make their escape; Mario goes looking for another way out. He calls somebody (a kidnapper's resource hotline, maybe? Seriously, they kidnapped this girl on their own, who are they reporting back to? Cause if they're getting paid to be this stupid, imagine how dumb their boss is...) who lets them know about his friend Don Antonio who owns a house they can hide out in (they never come out and say it, but my guess is that whatever European city this film was shot in is supposed to be someplace else - maybe African as in Devil Hunter, maybe Latin American like Cannibal Holocaust, maybe Asian like Mountain of the Cannibal God, maybe the moon, but whatever it is, there's no way that it's supposed to be whatever Spanish city this filmed this in).

The three crooks and their young captive meet Mickey, the driver who's going to drive them across the border to Don Antonio's house. Mickey is a girl and I guess Mario thought she'd be a boy and decides to piss and moan about being wrong. They drive the car past the border guards (if these guys let every girl through who chats them up, the whole country must be just as stupid as Roberto and Mario). Mickey has just enough to tell these morons that they'll be driving through cannibal country before her car overheats and she decides to go out and get water AS IF SHE'D NEVER SAID ANYTHING AT ALL!!!! They capture her instantly and drag her back to their village (though the cannibals aren't quite as laughable as those in Franco's film, their village most certainly is). Mario starts the car up AS IF THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH IT IN THE FIRST PLACE and they arrive at their destination.

Don Antonio, for whatever reason, has no idea who these guys are or why they were told to come to his house. They complain a lot and throw their connections name around and finally Antonio lets them stay. A word about their host - the man is this side of 70 and looks like he's going blind, his wife Manuela is no older than 30. Perhaps that's why Roberto thinks the best thing to do when the don goes to 'town' the next day is to rape his wife and leave her tied up in the woods. Then he just hangs around at Antonio's house AS IF HE'D DONE NOTHING AT ALL!!!! When Don Antonio finds Manuela tied up, he goes back and just watches the would-be gangsters dancing like morons while some guy called Alan plays the guitar. Then both he and his wife, independently of one another, take revenge. Manuela asks someone we've never met before (played by the director) to get his gang together to hunt them down and talk to the authorities (he cocks the gun he's holding and accidentally fires off one of the blank rounds its loaded with). Antonio takes Roberto out hunting, gets the drop on him, ties him to a tree and whistles for the cannibals to eat him (we get deprived of seeing him eaten, my guess is the budget only covered two dismemberings). So when the parents of the little girl show up, dressed like guerillas, with armed soldiers, Mario, Alan and Lina run for it and take the little girl with them for some reason. Before long they've got to dodge the parents, the military, the director and his hippie guerilla friends and the cannibals, whose territory they wander into.

Producer Daniel Lesoeur was if nothing else, a family man. His brother Marius helped him on most films, he put his daughter Anoushka in Franco’s Cannibals, and stole handfuls of footage from his earlier films. Much of the stock footage and native village stuff in this film was twice recycled after having already been in Cannibals, not to mention that the story is really just a slight alteration of Devil Hunter's already tired and silly plot. Much of the cast of Franco's two films are here in some form or other, whether recycled or not. Antonio Mayans, Burt Altman, Olivier Mathot, and Pamela Stanford were in either Cannibals or Devil Hunter. And half of the actors that weren't Lesoeur's stock players were people who never acted before or again; my guess is they were just friends of the director. So what effect does that have on the production? Have you or your friends ever tried making a movie when you were teenagers? Just got a camera, some buddies, and shot a movie in your backyard? That's what this movie is most like. The make-up, acting, dubbing, plotting, directing, editing - in fact, everything but the cannibal attacks which are still better than those in Cannibals, is blundering and amateurish to the utmost. Hence why when Lina and Mario get captured, we only see Mario get eaten; its implied that Lina has also been eaten, but it feels more like the director forgot she was in the movie. Everything that happens seems to happen for no reason other than it struck the director as something cool to film. With that in mind, it seems unfair to hold it up to the standards of regular filmmaking. That said, man oh man, is this some funny shit and because of the great transfer by the guys at Severin, all of its lunacy shows up loud and clear. If for no other reason than to hear Lina's first exchange with Roberto and Mario, you ought to seek this out.

My only real question is were the people at Eurociné that desperate to squeeze another dime out of the cannibal genre? Why else would you ask some spanish kids to make a movie for less money than it would take to fly some place that could pass for the jungle? And still, it was banned by the British Board of Film Classifications along with all its mean older brothers. That means that it took absolutely nothing to wind up on the banned list. This is why Make Them Die Slowly feels like such an empty gesture; what could you say about the cannibal genre now that films like this were being made, especially when you created it? What legs could you possibly have to stand on? So I say Brava, Alain Deruelle! Your incompetence is a greater victory than you know.

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