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Cannibal Ferox

Year: 1981
Production Co: Dania Film
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Writer: Umberto Lenzi
Cast: John Morghen

One of the most interesting things about any video nasty is the time that's passed between when I first noticed them as a kid and when I finally got around to watching them.

Whether they came out at the movies or on video or not at all because of the many moral panics and bannings they suffered, titles like Woman From Deep River and Zombie Flesh Eaters had an irresistibly terrifying air of mystique. I assumed they'd be the scariest movies I'd ever see in my entire life (if I ever saw them).

And as always, what a difference a few decades makes, both in my life and in the advancement of film styles and techniques. There was a whole cannibal genre among video nasties and like most, this one is laughably cheap and tatty.

Gloria, Rudy and Meg go travelling into the Amazon jungle. Gloria is an academic writing a book debunking cannibalism myths, her faux-macho brother Rudy is the expedition's guide, and for some reason party girl Meg – who has a propensity to bang any man at the drop of a hat but has nothing to do with the trip – tags along.

They come across Mike and his injured friend, terrified and apparently on the run from the bloodthirsty and – yes – flesh-eating natives. But Mike seems to be a loon, drunk on some sort of power trip, and when the trio go back to the village they learn the truth. Mike and his friend have been brutalising the natives to force them to help find precious stones in the area, raping and murdering them in his reign of terror.

The men of the tribe take Gloria, Rudy and Meg prisoner and the real horror starts. Pick your favourite extreme and grotesque scene from the annals of horror and it might be in here, whether it's the knife gouging an eye from a native man, the woman hung up by her breasts on hooks or the infamous hole in the table, custom rigged to present a very iconic dinner for the tribe.

If it wasn't for the graphic gore this movie would have been long forgotten, the camp dialogue and acting (especially the hilariously over the top John Morghen as Mike) a hoot all the way through. It even has the simplistic but eerily haunting soundtrack riff you'll recognise instantly if you watched a grainy VHS copy 20 years ago. It also has one of the other common hallmarks of the time, that of multiple names across territories and rightsholders. It's been released as Cannibal Ferox and Woman From Deep River (there's no single woman and the river is never named) as well as it's original intended title, Make Them Die Slowly.

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