Antropophagus, released in the UK as Anthropophagous: The Beast and in the US as Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper, is a 1980 Italian language horror film, directed by Joe D'Amato and co-written by D'Amato and George Eastman, who also starred in the film. The film also starred Tisa Farrow, Saverio Vallone, Margaret Donnelly, Vanessa Steiger, Mark Bodin, Bob Larsen, Simone Baker, Mark Logan, Rubina Rey and Zora Kerova. Anthropophagous: The Beast was released in the United Kingdom in 1980 uncut by VFP. It soon became one of the infamous titles to feature on the government's Department of Public Prosecutions list (DPP), better known to the tabloid press as the "Video Nasty" list. It was later successfully prosecuted under the obscene publications act in 1984. Anthropophagous: The Beast also saw another release in the UK, prior to its banning from a very small video company known as Videoshack. This release, although cut, is highly collectible among fans today due to its extremely scarce existence. A highly cut version was sold in the US as simply The Grim Reaper.
Notoriously brutal and frustratingly elusive, Joe D’Amato’s gut-wrenching slasher opus, Anthropophagus, was given a proper release in 2006 to the delight of gore addicts the world over, finally giving viewers a chance to discover if it was an over-hyped mess or the unbelievable blood bath they’d always dreamed of.
Well, after several viewings and much deliberation, it seems this “video nasty” may be a little bit of both; alternately endearing and tiresome. When it delivers, it’s a straight shot of unfettered grue; taking every step to offend and sicken the viewer. When it doesn’t, it’s nothing more than a mediocre Italo-horror entry that may not deserve the overwhelming amount of buzz it’s accrued.
Set in both Italy and the islands of Greece, Anthropophagus benefits heavily from its cinematography, which utilizes soft-focus to evoke both dread and awe and gives the film a striking, dream-like quality. This sleepy tone allows the leisurely opening to feel like an intended pace: a slow burn towards impending doom.
It also offers up an interesting Marcello Giombini score, which emotes mysteriously through a mix of echoed, oceanic tones; thundering drums; and disorienting, warped keys.
The plot revolves around six travelers lampooned on a deserted Greek island after their boat is set adrift. Could it be that the first mate took the ship to safer waters or have he and the injured pregnant woman still abound fallen to the hand of a crazed cannibal?
Thankfully, the latter is the correct answer, and our unfortunate protagonists (headed up by the queen of Italian shock cinema, Tisa Farrow) are left with only their wits to protect them against a man-beast who’s hunting to satisfy his unholy lust for blood.
Unfortunately, most of the film’s primal delights are sequestered to the last 40 minutes, leaving the opening scenes to much uncomfortable shuffling and anxious exasperation. However, the first glimpse of the monster (at the 50 minute mark) is well worth the wait and co-author George Eastman plays the character to the hilt, maniacally creeping in the shadows and vigorously devouring human flesh.
The murder sequences also live up to expectations and include, but are not limited to, an axe in the head, two ravaged throats, a near scalping and a cornucopia of internal organ evisceration. Yet, none of these live up to the infamous crypt scene, where our antagonist rips the fetus from the aforementioned pregnant woman’s womb and bites into it with his jagged teeth. It is truly a moment of shock and awe and the use of a real fetal rabbit makes the scene even more shamelessly brilliant.
Ultimately, this sleazy little number is fun in spurts and features some gratuitous scenes of splatter and a creepy performance by George Eastman. It’s a necessity for fans of Italian gore flicks, but all others may want to tread lightly, since it doesn’t always live up to its hefty reputation.
Reviewed by Mdeapo