Back in the early 1980s, when home video was still a fairly new technology, there was a group of movies collectively known in the United Kingdom as “video nasties.” To make a long story short, these were violent, often gory movies that were released on home video but had managed to bypass the nation’s classification and censorship board. Over 70 movies were compiled onto a list, many of which were prosecuted for violating obscenity laws. The movies on that list became the video nasties. Most of the movies were heavily edited before they could be released in the UK, but some were banned completely. Even to this day, a few video nasties have never seen an official UK release.
Antropophagus is a video nasty. It is an Italian horror movie originally released in 1980 and has been known by many different names over the years. I was most familiar with the VHS release in the United States titled The Grim Reaper, but I’ve since learned that the version I was most familiar with was censored. I remember watching the video was younger and liking it, but now that I’ve seen the uncensored version I like it even more.
Antropophagus stars Tisa Farrow (whom I know best from Lucio Fulci’s Zombie) in what would be her last acting role to date. She plays Julie, a woman who hitches a ride with a group of young travelers on a boat set for the Greek islands. Julie is supposed to meet her friends on one of the islands, but when they arrive they find the place seemingly deserted. The streets and all the houses are devoid of people. To make matters worse, their boat has drifted away from the dock. With no way off the island, the group has no choice but to spend the night, but they soon find out that they might not be as alone as they think they are. Whoever (or whatever) caused the island’s inhabitants to disappear is still present, and it soon makes itself known.
In its edited version, Antropophagus plays kind of like a murder mystery more than a horror movie, especially for the first two-thirds of the film. There’s something mysterious watching the group and taking them out one by one as they try to figure out what happened on the island and how to escape. Some people might find the movie a bit slow at times because it does take a while for the action to really pick up, but these quieter times do a good job of building tension and mystery. Plus, even in the quiet times there are a few good scares scattered throughout.
The time taken to develop the story also allows for some decent character building, so even when certain member of the group act irrationally, you understand why they acted that way. All of the tension built in the first part of the movie serves as a good contrast to the action in the latter part which becomes somewhat frantic at times. Because of this, I think even the edited version of Antropophagus is enjoyable. Still, I would suggest seeking out the uncut version of the movie.
The uncut version of Antropophagus doesn’t really change the story, but it definitely changes the tone. Most of the cuts were of additional blood and gore effects. Some of the cuts are of just a few seconds here and there when the camera lingered too long on the blood of a victim, but other effects were cut entirely.
There are some pretty brutal murders in this movie, but the edited version doesn’t really give the audience the full sense of the violence being perpetrated. The thing hunting the group has lost all sense of its humanity. This is downplayed somewhat in the edited version because the audience doesn’t get to see all of what it’s doing to people. I think that’s a very important part of the story. This is especially true in the final scene where the edited version ends very abruptly and completely changes the impact of the movie’s climax.
As much as I think the gore is important to the story, there’s really not a ton of it in the movie. Italian horror from that era was known for its gory special effects, but I’ve seen way more violent and bloody movies than Antropophagus, at least in terms of volume. There aren’t as many gory scenes as you might expect from a movie called a video nasty, but the ones that are there make quite an impact. Such as the finale that I’ve already mentioned and another specific scene that I don’t want to spoil here. I’ll just say that it takes place in a crypt towards the end of the movie. I probably won’t forget that one any time soon. It was probably one of the main reasons why Antropophagus found itself on the video nasty list.
I’ve seen some of the other video nasties, and Antropophagus isn’t my favorite even among those, but it’s a movie I’ll go back to and watch again every once in a while. Like many Italian horror movies, its combination of graphic violence and tension work well to create some memorable moments.
6 – Pretty Good
I would suggest any fan of Italian horror movies to check out Antropophagus. It’s not the best of breed, but it’s definitely worth a watch. Take the extra effort to make sure you watch the uncut version though. It’s a few minutes longer and really gives the movie more of an impact.
RECOMMENDATION FOR FURTHER WATCHING
Absurd is another Italian horror that made it onto the video nasty list. It’s written and directed by the same two men as Antropophagus (George Eastman and Joe D’Amato respectively) and is kind of a companion movie to it. The stories have nothing to do with each other, but the villain in Absurd is again played by the same man (writer George Eastman) and the two monsters share some striking similarities. As with other video nasties, there is a fair amount of blood and gore in Absurd.
Watch the Absurd trailer.
(The trailer credits Peter Newton as the director, but that’s a pseudonym used by Joe D’Amato.)
Some Alternate Titles: Anthropophagous: The Beast, The Grim Reaper, The Savage Island, Zombie 7: Grim Reaper (even though it has nothing to do with the Zombie movies)
Director: Joe D’Amato
Writer: Joe D’Amato, George Eastman
Featured Cast: Tisa Farrow, George Eastman, Saverio Vallone, Zora Kerova, Mark Bodin, Margaret Mazzantini, Bob Larson, Serena Grandi
Run Time: 87 minutes (cut), 90 minutes (uncut)
Availability: Available on DVD