In the Land of the Cannibals (2004)
Release date: November 11th, 2014
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
It sort of boggles the mind that Bruno Mattei was still up to no good as recently as a decade ago, long after the Italian horror boom had sounded its death rattle. Having apparently learned very little from the derivative films (including some of his own) that contributed to its decline, he set out to raise more hell in the jungle with In the Land of the Cannibals, a film that obviously rips off one of his homelandís most notorious efforts. But what if I told you that the 70-year-old Mattei wasnít content to just recycle Cannibal Holocaust and lustily eyed Predator for his cinematic chop shop? The only proper response is to smile, nod, and be grateful that the mad genius behind Cruel Jaws refused to yield to tact, grace, or intellectual property laws.
Whatever it is, In the Land of the Cannibals doesn't respect any of thatósomehow, itís a raging howl and a bumbling, tone-deaf yawp all at once. Centered on a group of commandos sent into a South American jungle to rescue a senatorís daughter, the film aggressively retreads the two films that obviously inspired it. Familiar beats from both Cannibal Holocaust and Predator unfold in almost surreal fashion, from the infamous vaginal bludgeoning scene in the former to the discovery of skinned corpses in the latter. While the two actually work rather seamlessly from a narrative standpoint (as it turns out, substituting bloodthirsty natives for the Predator works to a point), tonal coherence is an afterthought at best. At worst, the notion has been gutted, napalmed, and then nuked for good measure.
Upon introducing the marines, the film takes on a swaggering, cocksure tone, complete with an overbearingly macho 80s scoreóitís Predator and Rambo resurrected two decades later by a director with the faintest notion of what those films were like, so they're re-injected with maximum testosterone here. But as the crew moves deeper into the jungle, In the Land of the Cannibals is progressively disturbing, as Mattei often employs unflinching close-ups to capture the unbridled savagery of the wilderness. Blending these tones has the same effect as any memorable mash-up: itís sort of uncanny but effectively offbeat, and, even though itís merely retracing Ruggero Deodatoís mud-and-blood-caked steps, Matteiís take is no less brutal or stark.
In fact, the crude, lo-fi aesthetic of In the Land of the Cannibals is its most effective departure. Cannibal Holocaust is a forerunner to mockumentary and found footage, of course, but Matteiís film is arguably even more raw. At times (read: when itís not aping 80s action movies), it feels like an actual travelogue into the heart of the Amazon, with scenes of unfettered animal cruelty and authentic native rituals. This brief stretch of the film is easily mistaken for a long lost Mondo movieóat least until the white intruders brandish their semi-automatic weapons and start blowing everything away. Itís a galling sequence of events--the climax of Predator isnít as thrilling when it exchanges an alien for indigenous natives, especially when itís played with the same sort of bombast as John McTiernanís film. One wonders how anyone could have considered this to be a good idea, but itís absolutely amazing to see unfold. The scene where Arnold sucker-bombs the Predator? Recreated here with a wild-eyed soldier, a few natives, and chunks of viscera. Itís insane.
In the Land of the Cannibals is unhinged in the most oblivious way possible. Mattei goes so such ridiculous lengths that youíre compelled to find some sense of irony or parody in the proceedingsóis this somehow a sneaky indictment of American imperialism? After all, Cannibal Holocaust went out of its way to italicize and underline its message, so youíd expect this imitator to possible follow suit, right? To make an expected paraphrase, this movie ainít got time to think: itís just a primal wail of lunacy, especially during its climax, where the Eurohorror trademarks (stilted acting, bizarre dubbing, clumsy translations, obvious, yellowed stock footage, etc.) become grace notes among the hail of gunfire and shredded limbs.
This is the sort of mean-spirited film where a guy is bitten by a poisonous snake and has the infected limb hacked off to no avail whatsoever. To look into its eyes is to plunge into a heart so dark that the only recourse is to laugh. Whether thatís the intent or not is debatable; that youíre compelled to howl for one reason or another isnít. You ask how this movie could exist, and it is only bemused by such concerns. Meanwhile, itís just razed an entire South American village to the ground and expects you to find it awesome.
Youíll find precious little answers on Intervisionís DVD release, which only features a trailer. What it lacks in extras it makes up for with a fine presentation: the full frame transfer renders the crude source material about as well as can be expected (I canít be sure, but it doesnít look like Mattei actually shot on film). The sparse supplements can also be forgiven in light of the film at hand: In the Land of the Cannibals is a deep, deep cut, one thatís only fit to be consumed after feasting on similar cannibal offerings. This is less a DVD release and more anthropological work: yes, In the Land of the Cannibals is a movie that exists, and hereís the proof. comments powered by Disqus Ratings: