Anthropophagous, which was released under a slew of alternate titles including The Savage Island and The Grim Reaper, is one of the most controversial Italian horror films of 1980. A slasher film at heart, Anthropophagous became the poster-boy of the 1984 Video Recordings Act, it became the most iconic Video Nasty, and it defined the careers of both director Joe D’Amato, and actor/writer George Eastman (Luigi Montefiori). Anthropopagous is a notorious legend of horror cinema, but, all things considered, the film isn’t as good as it’s hyped up to be from the horror community.
Anthropophagous was the first of two films that were made by the collaboration of Joe D’Amato and George Eastman – the other film being 1981’s Absurd – and, much like Absurd, Anthropopagous isn’t exactly a ‘good’ film, but then again, it isn’t a horrible film either, but neither is it middle of the road, Anthropophagous seems to stand on it’s own pedestal away from everything else. It appears that Joe D’Amato has a strange talent of making memorable films that stand out amongst the slew of 1980’s horror movies, but they aren’t the best films around, and Anthropophous is a clear example of that strange talent. Anthropophagous definitely stands out amongst other films of it’s era because of the film’s extreme content that is juxtaposed with slow-paced tension, an uncomfortable atmosphere, and the whole film is surrounded by beautiful Greek scenery which is stunning to witness.
That being said, however, Anthropophagous has a lot of flaws. First of all, the film progresses really slowly – George Eastman’s cannibal killer first appears 50 minutes into the film – and the first half of the movie can be quite boring at times because the characters of the film are very shallow and uninteresting. The actors playing the roles aren’t bad, but I feel that the uninteresting way the characters are written is what holds the actors back from giving good performances.
The special effects aren’t impressive either: scenes of brutal blood and gore look disgustingly cheap and nasty. However, the effects are surprisingly effective as the entire film has a real dirty feeling to it. It almost feels like I shouldn’t be watching the film in the first place because of how disgusting the film physically looks, but I can’t turn my attention away from it. Something grabs my attention and doesn’t let go.
However, what really stands out about Anthrophagous is George Eastman’s role as the cannibalistic killer: Klaus Wortmann. George Eastman may not be the greatest actor who has ever lived, but the man has an intimidating stature and a silent charisma that emanates from the screen. George Eastman makes Anthropophagous legendary by giving a performance that is truly terrifying whenever his character appears onscreen. The name may not be memorable as it is only spoken once, but Eastman’s performance of the character makes the film iconic, with theEastman’s face being plastered over every single poster for the film (including the one pictured above)
Anthropophagous is far from being one of the best films to come from 1980’s Italian cinema, nor is it even the best film to come from Joe D’Amato. However, Anthropophagous is a film which I couldn’t look away from. Despite the film’s negative qualities there’s always something that stopped me from pulling my eyes away from the screen, and I can’t really say what it was. Perhaps Anthropophagous is a film that’s greater than the sum of its individual parts. The closest thing I can equate the experience of watching Anthropophagous to is the experience of watching the aftermath of a car crash, you know you shouldn’t be fascinated by it, but it’s hard not to be fascinated by something so morbidly horrendous.