Groovy & Wild Films from Around the World

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Cannibal Double-Shot – Jess Franco-style.

Taking on Eurocine's cannibalistic double-feature initially seemed like a momentary impulse in midnight lunacy, however, I came away with the three-hour-and-ten-minute experience with a smile. Serevin Films brought the two Eurocine features, “Devil Hunter” (Jess Franco, 1980) and “Cannibal Terror” (Alain Deruelle, 1981) to a double-feature bu-ray for fans of the cannibals-in-the-jungle (or “gut-muncher”) Euro-horror subgenre. Of course, “Devil Hunter” has the added attractions of A) being a Jess Franco movie, and, B) being miles better than “Cannibal Terror”, although the latter does boast some entertaining exploitation aspects, as well as some familiar in-front-of-the-camera talent from Franco's movies – not surprising as both of these movies were produced by Eurocine in the same time period.

Franco's “Devil Hunter”, however, was also surprising in several regards: firstly through the clever and humourous use of match-cutting in opening sequence between a female victim of the head cannibal in the jungle with the introduction of a young movie starlet somewhere off the jungle island. Of course, very quickly the starlet finds herself on the island and embroiled in danger from the cannibals and a group of kidnappers. But soon, a pair of fellas get themselves to the island via a helicopter and armed with guns and a bag of fake money (the ransom fake-out) in order to lure out the kidnappers and rescue the starlet. And of course, everything goes totally wrong. The second surprise here being that this is the second Jess Franco film in a row that I've had the good pleasure of experiencing that features a helicopter action set-piece and a resulting shoot-out. Once the helicopter goes down in a ball of flames, the two fellas get back to the island only to leave again, get to a boat manned only by one topless woman, knock her out, then enlist her (naked) help, get back to the island once again and re-attempt the initial (and hitherto unsuccessful) rescue mission. By this time, of course, our starlet has had several opportunities to appear is many states of undress, from a torn pink dress to full-out nudity as she's continually attacked and dragged across the jungle island in order to fulfill a final cannibalistic ceremony held by the island natives to appease the bizarre devil-cannibal. Franco criss-crosses these crazy genre plots with stunning ease in his own special exploitation style, making for one of his far more entertaining efforts, especially from this post-seventies time period.

The second feature, “Cannibal Terror” appears to somewhat lack its own panache, and with the handful of slightly despicable and slightly annoying characters presented to us in the first half hour, I found myself hoping for a good, decent cannibal attack after a slightly meandering and somewhat lengthy set-up centered around some failed attempt at financial extortion. At any rate, our protagonists aren't exactly the types of characters we'd find ourselves rooting for. Almost more annoyingly, it's the least-annoying character that is the fist victim of the movie's cannibals. Following this there is (thankfully) more lurid exploitation, which goes on for a little while before starting to peter out past the halfway mark, until the film brings us back into its promised cannibal territory, and things gleefully proceed into some downright weird mayhem. Director Alain Deruelle and the entire cast made the film with such a charming exuberance that it's nearly impossible to dislike this almost inept exercise in low-budget exploitation, which keeps the film trucking right along. The plots of both “Cannibal Terror” and Franco's “Devil Hunter” are essentially the same thing, and when it was all over it occurred to me that Eurocine may have actually hired Franco just to remake Deruelle's slightly flaccid cannibal flick in his own style, which definitely turned out to be wildly better.

At the end of the night, even the more-than-three-hour session of the bizarre flesh-eating double feature, the films never actually left me worn out at any point in time, their zeal and energy more than enough to keep my eyes stuck on the screen and they unfurled before me, releasing their own special kind of cinematic insanity and charm. 



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