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Tourists take a boat to a remote island, where they find that most of the people have disappeared, and something is stalking them. They find a hidden room in the big mansion on a hill, and an ancient diary, which gives them clues to the source of the terror. Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
There's evil on this island. An evil that won't let us get away. An evil that sends out an inhuman, diabolic power. I sense its vibrations now. The vibrations are an intense horror. It will destroy us! The very same way it did all the others!
Shut up, Carol!
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Being a rather jaded horror/exploitation fan, rarely do I find anything that actually shocks me or scares me to the core (although there are some D'Amato films I refuse to ever watch!). I was rather disappointed with his "masterpiece" Buio Omega, so I didn't have high hopes for this one, either. But when I found a copy of Anthropophagus, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I popped it in not expecting to be all too wowed by it, and boy, was I surprised. This is the first movie in a long time that I can honestly say scared the life out of me. Most D'Amato sleaze isn't worth a second thought, but I found myself engulfed by Anthropophagus. Not very often do you find exploitation films that are actually scary, as they're usually just shocking and grotesque. This makes D'Amato's film very unique to me. What I think he did better than most schlock was that he used actual tricks of the scary movie trade, rather than just thinking of the most vomit worthy ideas imaginable (which are still present here). He uses horror techniques such as great cinematography, character development, and perhaps the best part, one hell of a fear inspiring monster.
The horror starts in the opening scene, when two teenagers on a beach are killed in a very gory fashion. We learn more of these two later. It cuts to the main characters, a group of family and friends: Andy, Maggie, Daniel, Arnold, Carol, and a kind stranger, Julie, who they decide to let come along. They're all heading for a small island in the Mediterranean for some vacation time, except for Julie, who's there to meet up with those two killed on the beach. They arrive to a mysteriously deserted town, save one woman who disappears from sight often. As night falls, the group soon fears that something horrible is happening, and they begin to panic when a pregnant Maggie goes missing. They decide to search the house they're staying in when they find Rita, a blind girl who is a friend of Julie's. She says something has killed everyone on the island except her, because she is the only one who can sense when the killer is coming and is able to hide. Later, when Carol finds Julie and Daniel kissing, she runs off and locks Julie in a cemetery, while all but Rita and Daniel go to find her. Unfortunately for those two, Rita senses the killer later that night, and Danny is butchered. The terrified survivors then set out to unravel the mystery, rescue the still missing Maggie, and find the strange disappearing woman. One by one, the victims fall to the Grim Reaper, leaving Julie and Rita alone with the slowly approaching monster. Can they escape?
Anthropophagus manages to be a very effective scary movie without any flash or special effects by going back to the basics. Simple techniques like creaking steps or strange sounds in the basement helps build tension, and the release is some of the scariest jump moments I've ever experienced. The scene where the group is searching the basement is one of the most eerie in the movie, and then, completely unexpectedly, Rita jumps out of casket with a knife in her hand. I literally jumped from my chair. After these scares, it manages to keep the atmosphere, because whatever is stalking them, whatever this monster is trying to kill them is still an unknown to the audience. When he's finally revealed in the bedroom, my stomach dropped out. His appearance is so strange, so grotesque, that it makes him one of the most fear inspiring creatures ever in movies. What makes him scary is that you can see that he's still just a man. He's not some strange sea creature or alien. He's an insane, disfigured, and emotionally tormented human being running rampant (he's actually a very sad character). Instead of having him kill everyone in an insane, bloody onslaught, he chooses his victims carefully, stalks them, and dispatches them in unexpected and disgusting turns of events. Included are some of the most appalling scenes ever thought of, most notably the bite out of the fetus. Displays such as this not only make Anthropophagus a legitimate scare fest, but keeps it as hardcore horror. D'Amato really works his magic with this one.
Of course, nothing's perfect. A big problem with Anthropophagous is long, drawn out scenes of characters slowing walking around the island, either doing nothing or searching for survivors. These scenes are extended within an inch of their lives, and are meant only to pad running time. That's what I found wrong with Buio Omega: too much filler, not enough action. When you get to the last half hour, then the movie flies into gear and knocks you out with a punch, but other than that, there are some notable events here and there, but it's mostly rather dull. Still, just that last half hour makes it one of my favorite thrillers of all-time, and personally, one of the scariest movies ever. Of course, this is unusual, because not only is D'Amato not known for thrillers, but this movie is usually considered simply dull, gross, and an over-the-top video nasty. Too often are movies cast aside simply because of grotesque content, with no other aspects considered. This is never included in lists of actually good movies, so most people are probably going to disagree with my review. I'll say it boldly and proudly; Anthropophagus is one hell of a horror movie, and is one of the scariest movies ever made.
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