Growing up a horror fan in the 80s and into the early 90s, you’d be hard-pressed not to stumble upon the gore rotted gems and blood spattered monstrosities brought to us by those crazy Italians! Dario Argento was embellishing us with gorgeous eye candy throughout the 70s and into the 80s, Lucio Fulci was clambering aboard the Romero bandwagon and cranking out absurd but wholly loved gut munching zombie epics, Ruggero Deodato was non-conforming to cinema standards and brandishing his renegade filmmaking out in the wilds of Brazil's Green Inferno…you get the picture. Chances are that if you are reading this rant on this very film, you can add many more names to that list.
We all have our favorites when it comes down to bad voice-overs, over hysterical acting, and bush-league special effects. A few of my favorites include (but are definitely not limited to: Burial Ground: Nights of Terror, Apocalypse Domini and Dr. Butcher M.D. But one film, which I hold in very high regard, is often overlooked.
Joe D’Amato (born Aristide Massaccesi) brought us Emmanuel, Buio Omega, and Erotic Nights of the Living Dead. He has seasoned us with unrepentant hours of graphic pornography and a plethora of pseudonyms that could be used to rename an entire continent (and yes Joe D’Amato was his most publicized and used pseudonym).
The one film I am truly grateful for from the late D’Amato is his visceral and profoundly original Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper. Joe D’Amato lets loose his exploitation, world-wide banned masterpiece with comic book blood, shaky cameras, and a skinned rabbit along with one forced abortion you have to see to believe. Nothing can prepare you for a film this hard to pronounce!
My first exposure to Anthropophagus was one that could turn a normal blooming 10-year-old into a homicidal Fritz Haarman! Luckily my run in with the aforementioned film only saturated my lust for more of the films of Italia. By then I had already rented the entire horror section of my local VHS Rental Store and scored so many great Italian gems belonging to Fulci, Bava, and Mattei that my run in with D’Amato was extremely…well, disparate. Sure my rental past included munchy wunching tomticks of nipples (thank Italia for Peter Bark!!!) and eye-popping mannequin heads, but the eerie reminiscence of the Donner Party parable inherent within Anthropophagus shivered me timbers.
Most people could not (or were dimly aware) of the horrors George Eastman’s character had to face during the time stranded on the boat with his wife and child. That scene takes me back to the horrors of any number of zombie apocalypses posed on-screen or playfully with friends; heretics boasting of dispatching anyone and everyone to survive Armageddon. But could you really? Anyone can pretentiously boast of decapitating the nearest family member in order to survive the cannibal onslaught, but I doubt anyone really could do the deed. By placing myself within Eastman’s character, I was struck with an odd sense of pity for this illegal practitioner of gynecology. The sadness entwined with his character made the film that more important and that more inanely primeval.
As a life-long horror fan (albeit a VERY conservative one!), Anthropophagus has withstood the many atrocious onslaughts of crap cinema and bargain bin DVD-R's to reign as one of the more prominent and prolific horror films of the Italian made subgenre. D’Amato could have stopped making films after The Grim Reaper!