Cannibal Ferox (1981) (dir. Umberto Lenzi) ****1/2
CANNIBAL FEROX (aka Make Them Die Slowly) is a typical Italian cannibal picture, but what makes it interesting and seperates it from the pack is the sense of humor - whether intentional or unintentional - that it carries.  Around all the explicit gore and real animal violence that seems to be requisite for any film in this genre, there are scenes that will have you nearly bust a gut.  I'm not totally sure if this is mostly because of the horrendous dubbing (though it has to be a large part of it) or because director Umberto Lenzi wanted to relieve some of the tension within the audience, but it works.  You may be laughing one minute, but I can assure you that the next minute you'll be reaching for your barf bag.
What are you mad about?
I wonder if the worm is enjoying that...
The storyline is the same old thing: a group of kids wander into the jungle for one reason or another (this time it's to prove cannibalism doesn't exist - ha!) and meet up with a bunch of... ahem... cannibals intent on having them for lunch.  However, the filmmakers add a little more depth to this story by having the kids run into two dope dealers, Mike and Joe, who say they've just been attacked by the cannibals (but, as we soon find out, are lying - the crooks are probably sicker than the cannibals themselves!).  There's also a subplot in New York, where the cops and the drug lords are looking for Mike.
The only really bad thing about CANNIBAL FEROX (and any cannibal film in general) is the real animal violence.  No one really knows why they wish to include such scenes,  but the only reason I can come up with is to make the jungle surroundings look more realistic.  Wanting it to look real is fine and dandy, but there's no reason at all to have the camera linger on a poor little animal being killed.  And no, this isn't just stock footage as you would find on the Discovery Channel; these gruesome moments were filmed specifically for the movie.  All I can tell you is that when you have a feeling one of these scenes is going to come up, turn away.
That's gotta hurt!
Other than that, I love everything else about CANNIBAL FEROX.  The dubbing leaves much to be desired (after all, this is an Italian film), but the acting is quite good for the most part, in particular Giovanni Lombardo Radice (aka John Morghen) as Mike, who never misses an opportunity to chew the scenery.  The direction is good and the film has one of the best soundtracks ever on display in a motion picture.  Oh and did I mention the gore?  Yes folks, this is the stuff you've heard about - two castrations, hooks through a pair of breasts; and one guy even has the top of his head chopped off, the natives happily munching on his brains.  If there is only one reason to see this film, the gore is it.
What's the matter Mike?  Don't like being castrated?  :(
CANNIBAL FEROX might not be as disturbing as something like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST or JUNGLE HOLOCAUST, but it's certainly the most entertaining of the bunch - highly recommended.
- Ryan Clark
All review copyright Xploitation Update, 2004.