Anthropophagous: the Grim Reaper (1980)


What can be written about Joe D’Amato’s Anthropophagous: the Grim Reaper that already hasn’t been said? It’s famous for its gore, its abortion eating scene, both of which caused it to be edited just about everywhere it was released. D’Amato was an Italian filmmaker, which should explain all of the above to fans of cult/exploitation cinema. A fact that also means it has fantastic Goblin-inspired music, and that beautiful late ’70s film stock that I love the look of so much.

It also opens with a two deaths (take that Blood Feast!), one involving an axe to the head, immediately followed by a scene shot on a mountain tram. Which, in case you don’t know, is a surefire way to make me fall in love with your film. There’s also a Volkswagen van and a dog that looks suspiciously similar to my family’s dear old Dixie. No joke, after reading about this film for years, it’s as if D’Amato made it for me to love.

Another unintentional bonus to filming in Italy are the architectural changes. The alleys are small, the walls high, and everything is white; it’s a subtle difference, but one that works well in alienating a US audience. We’re not used to seeing towns with history screaming from their walls. So seeing one, even through the lens of a film camera, is unsettling enough.

Anthropophagous - Anthropophagous2

Populate said town with a bunch of clawed up, mummified skeletons and the unsettling’s complete. You’re at once unsure about the safety of the location (in the US, anything old is treated as a deathtrap), as well as the protagonists. My suspension of disbelief is going haywire trying to figure out whether these tourists are just stupid, or are being irrationally foolhardy. I don’t know, but if I showed up to a town that appears to have been abandoned by everyone except the corpses left dry-rotting in random living rooms, I probably wouldn’t spend the night.

Said architecture also adds considerably to the film’s production values; a point that still holds true to this day. (Just watch Full Moons’ Subspecies series to see how far an American dollar can stretch in Europe, or Eli Roth’s Hostel.

Anthropophagous - Italy!

Anthropophagous - Italy2!

Anthropophagous - Staircase

Imagine the Texas Chainsaw Massacre centered around a town, instead of a backwoods farm. All this, and the anthropophagi (George Eastman) has barely showed up; picking victims off on the beach instead of the town proper.

Don’t ever go on vacation with an amateur psychic. At best they’ll tell you that you and your significant other is meant to be. At worst, they’ll tell you that your destination is haunted, two of your party members are going to die, and their deaths will be your fault for not listening. In other words, said psychics will be total buzz kills.

Anthropophagous - Henrietta

The lighting here is top notch too. When Julie (Tisa Farrow) and Daniel (Mark Bodin) go exploring her friend’s abandoned estate in the middle of the night, the candlelight illumination looks real. Just small points are illuminated, and you feel as blind as the characters. So that when Julie’s friend Henriette (Margaret Mazzantini) pops out of the wine barrel and starts randomly stabbing; the shock is stronger then it rightfully should be.

Anthropophagous - Anthropophagous

D’Amato’s master shot: A recuperating Henriette can smell the Anthropophagi nearby. (Yes, he reeks of blood!) Daniel goes downstairs to investigate, finds nothing, and returns. He checks on Henriette through the doorway, the hallway light providing the only illumination. When he closes the door, lightning crashes showing us the Anthropophagous lurking behind the door. Better yet, he was watching Daniel through the door, waiting for him to make a move. A moment later, after Daniel re-enters upon hearing Henriette’s shrieks, Daniel’s throat is chewed open.

Henriette is left in bed, alive, along with Daniel’s bleeding out corpse on the floor, to tell her friends what happened. Brilliantly horrifying.

Anthropophagous - Head Ripped Through Roof

Adding to the horror, and the general European flavor is the utter lack of firearms. I’m not sure if gun ownership is either a.) legal in Italy, or b.) just very unpopular, but our tourists are armed with nothing but hand-to-hand weapons; specifically two knives. Making the preternaturally tall Anthropophagous even more intimidating.

The final piece in the Italian trifecta? Having a character explore a charnel house! What’s down here? Oh, nothing but all the bones of everyone who’s ever died on the island. What better place to one-up Cannibal Corpse’s “Entrails Ripped From a Virgin’s Cunt” by ripping a fetus from a mother’s cunt, and then eating it?

Anthropophagous - Together Forever

This might be the only entry into Italy’s ultra-exploitative horror genre that doesn’t feature the slaughter of real animals. Which, in a sense, I guess actually makes us lucky with Anthropophagous.


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