The newly-made follow-up – in name only – to the notorious Video Nasty is not an enjoyable viewing experience.
If I had to make a list of films that probably don’t need a 2022 sequel, then Joe D’Amato’s 1980 movie Anthropophagous – also known as Anthropophagous the Beast, The Anthropophagous Beast or The Grim Reaper, depending on where you live in the world – would certainly be on it, if for no other reason than the fact that it already had an unnecessary sequel, the on-the-nose-titled Absurd that at least was a direct follow-up even if the two films have little in common beyond the star and director. Anthropophagous is a film that has been seen by – relatively speaking – very few people and enjoyed by even fewer, and had it not had the misfortune (or good fortune, depending on how you look at it) of not just winding up on the British Video Nasties list but also later being singled out by Channel 4 News as being a ‘real snuff movie’ that showed actual footage of a foetus being eaten (yeah, reliable news source my ass) it might have wallowed at the bottom end of D’Amato’s filmography, ignored by all but the most fanatical completist. Instead, its undeserved notoriety and the constant bigging up by people desperate to pretend that the film isn’t like watching paint dry with the odd gore scene thrown in not only has made it one of D’Amato’s best-known movies – arguably diminishing his reputation with people who don’t know better – but has now seen a new sequel produced.
Hell, I could even understand a remake of Anthropophagous (we already had one of those with Anthropophagous 2000 back in 1999), but a new sequel? Absurd indeed. Still, let no one call me closed-minded. Let’s investigate this unlikely follow-up and see if it somehow defies the odds.
If you have any self-respect, your heart will immediately sink as Anthropophagous II opens with a clumsy and desperately gross recreation of the original movie’s most infamous moment, the forced and bloody removal of a baby from a pregnant woman – don’t expect this to ever be mistaken for a real murder scene by news broadcasters though. It’s a determinedly offensive opening scene that, of course, won’t actually offend the half dozen or so people likely to actually pay money to see this, and which then leads to a carload of unpleasant and interchangeable female stereotypes furiously spewing exposition as if their lives depended on it – apparently, we have to be told immediately why no one will have a cell phone with them and actually setting the film in a pre-mobile period would probably be too much work. Three immediate points struck me here:
1. This will be a badly acted and badly dubbed film that wallows in clichés and the wildly mistaken idea that we will be remotely interested in this one-dimensional bunch of characters.
2. It’s going to look fucking dreadful, having that muted, straight-out-of-the box video colour filtering so beloved of modern unambitious horror.
3. This is going to be very hard work.
Anyway, as I reach for a beer to steady my nerves, Bitchy Girl and Nerdy Girl exchange insults with voices that clearly are not their own but instead seem to be provided by very bored women as they explain to the viewer in great detail that they are out in the middle of nowhere with no phones and no one knowing where they are as a condition of passing some sort of college class. Now, I’m not au fait with the Italian college system but this seems like a rather lax approach to student safety by the standards of any educational body – if this exposition is supposed to answer our questions (“why don’t they phone for help?”) before we ask them, it’s not successful because it all seems so unlikely that it immediately feels like a massive plot hole.
Bear in mind that we’re only three and a half minutes into the film at this point.
Anyway, it’s back to more shoddily-staged torture scenes as the opening titles play, and… wait a minute? Torture scenes? I don’t recall the original Anthropophagous having torture scenes that seem lifted from Hostel or one of its imitators. Is it possible that this film actually has no connection to the original film and is just opportunistically cashing in on the title? Surely not.
The students and their teacher wander through the countryside until they reach a nuclear bunker that is off-limits to the public, but which they have unexplained access to and which they will be locked in for the weekend by the not-at-all-shady looking man with the keys because, why not? Again, we get more exposition that raises more questions than it answers: apparently, lots of people have entered this bunker and none have ever come out, something that you think might have alerted the authorities at some point. At least the motivation for making the film becomes clear – the producers had access to the location and decided to make use of it. Very enterprising of them. It’s an impressive building and hopefully, someone with actual filmmaking ability will get to use it one day.
Do I need to tell you that our collection of bickering, identikit students is not alone? Of course not. As the continual cuts to scenes of people being tortured and the foreboding music (mostly echoey bass thuds of the sort you often hear in films like this) tell us, Something Else is with them.
The modern Anthropophagous looks more like Lord of the Rings‘ Gollum than George Eastman’s imposing figure from the original film(s) – he was the best thing about those movies but the monster here, while more authentically monstrous, is a lot less impressive. Eastman’s make-up in the original film admittedly looked like flakey skin but here it’s a very run-of-the-mill monster look that you’ve seen a hundred times before. Do I need to point out that he has no connection to the character in the original film? No, thought not.
It’s the curse of much modern horror that large chunks of the movie will be taken up with badly-drawn characters who we are somehow supposed to like arguing in some remote location while we wait impatiently for something to actually happen, and that’s very much the case here. The performances are not impressive: most of the actors here have done very little before and on the basis of this, I can’t see them doing much afterwards either. Naming them feels like it would be an act of cruelty and their characters are so anonymous there is no point anyway. I’d like to say that both the drama and the acting improve once the killings begin, but that would be an exaggeration. Yes, the film livens up slightly but never to the point of being ‘good’ by any sensible definition of the word. At one point, a girl walks into his killing room and sees her dead classmate lying on a slab, her head cut open and her brains torn out. You might expect some sort of emotional reaction to this, but no – she might as well have wandered into a cafeteria and found her friend eating a sandwich for all the reaction we get. This deadened, one-note performance is typical of the film, I’m afraid. When the cast does get hysterical, it’s actually worse because no one can act and it all feels rather laughable.
Are there any redeeming features? Well, the music isn’t terrible, even if it is a tad generic. As clichéd elements go, this is one of the less egregious aspects and it probably deserves a better film. I suppose that if you judge the worth of a horror film solely on the gore content, then this will certainly deliver, especially in the more inventively sadistic moments that go out of their way to be offensive. In a sense, you might argue that it’s a sequel very much in the tradition of the original – large chunks of nothing happening with boring characters, interspersed with a handful of impressively excessive and ludicrous moments of gore. They are less impressive here, of course, because (a) we’re now more used to that level of extremity and (b) like many modern low budget (and high budget) horror films, someone has decided that blue-tinged murkiness equals atmospherics. But narratively, there is little here – a girl who can smell the killer, some entrail munching, the aforementioned baby removal – to connect the film to its alleged predecessor. If this was released under a different title, viewers might recognise the odd nod to Italy’s glorious exploitation movie past without seeing it as a sequel, remake or anything else. I’m not necessarily saying that the film is made worse by its title, but… no, no, that’s exactly what I’m saying. The title makes a throwaway, dull and otherwise entirely anonymous film an additional slap in the face for the handful of people who actually think that Anthropophagous is a good movie. Yes, that dubious legacy had already been shat on by Anthropophagous 2000, but still…
By the half-hour point in the film, when the killing of the main characters starts, I realised that not only could I still not tell any of the main characters apart, but also that I had no idea of any of their names. If horror films work by making us care about the characters who will fall victim to monstrous killers, then I think we can safely say that Anthropophagous II doesn’t work. Even the twist ending that we all know is coming – because of course it is – doesn’t improve things because we simply don’t care about the fate of the final girl. None of the characters or their actions has seemed remotely real or sympathetic at any point in the movie, so why would we be involved enough to give a damn about what happens to them?
Pretty much every aspect of the film is so remarkably bad that it’s hard to fathom just how it ever got made. This isn’t outsider cinema, disregarding the rules of how films are made in the way that so many interestingly ‘bad’ films are – this is just flat, unambitious, pointless filmmaking that wallows in cliché after cliché without displaying any love or understanding of the genre. I initially assumed that director Dario Germani and all those involved must be misguided, amateur-level fans of horror films, but seemingly not. A look at his filmography reveals a lot of work as a cinematographer – making the flat look of this all the more baffling because someone has kept hiring him over the years so he surely can’t be that dreadful – and a few films as director, none of which were horror movies until this. He currently has several horror films in post-production, suggesting both a sudden shift of interest and the threat of more rubbish to come. Producer Giovanni Paolucci certainly has a track record of awfulness that includes several of Bruno Mattei’s shot-on-video atrocities (Zombies: The Beginning, Mondo Cannibal) and Dracula 3D. He certainly seems a name to watch out for – and avoid. It’s fascinating to realise that there are seasoned film professionals behind this. Perhaps there is money in these zero-budget efforts after all.
Watching this reminded me of the recent remake of Vampyres: the flat visuals, the bad everything, the fatuous connection with an old ‘classic’ while seemingly missing the whole point. Vampyres, though, seemed to come from a place of genuine love for the original film, however badly that love was expressed. Watching this, I’m not sure that anyone involved has even seen Anthropophagous. I really tried to find something – anything – of value here but no – Anthropophagous II is entirely worthless.
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