Cannibal ferox [1981]

Italian exploitation legend Umberto Lenzi birthed the cannibal subgenre of Italian horror with Deep River Savages, but he turned out one of the so-called classics of the genre with this 1981 effort, a blunt, brutal story of five New Yorkers who face the wrath of angry Amazon cannibals. Three completely clueless would-be anthropologists set out to disprove the racist myth of tribal cannibalism perpetuated by colonial Europeans. Turning a blind eye to danger at every turn, they join up with a pair of drug-crazed psychos on the run from supposed cannibals (in truth, the reign of terror has been perpetrated solely by greedy Americans) and then wait patiently for the bloody vengeance of the tribal survivors. Lenzi is no stylist, and his attempts at irony are crude at best, but he delivers all he promises (or threatens): evisceration, emasculation, gouged eyeballs, and a sick twist on the initiation scene from A Man Called Horse. His generous budget allowed him to shoot on location in South America and New York (where a police detective searches for the homicidal drug dealer in a subplot) and lavish attention on his carnage, elevating it to near cult status. More than simply gory, this is a sadistic, cynical, mean-spirited film, for hardcore fans of the genre only. Lenzi and star John Morghen (the only animated actor in the otherwise flat cast) offer commentary on an alternate track, but Lenzi is all but unintelligible through his thick accent at times. A supplemental interview with Lenzi is helpfully translated by his interviewer. --Sean Axmaker

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