Cannibal Apocalypse

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Four – 10/04/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Four – 10/04/18

10/04 – 1990: JACOB’S LADDER

 

I was a pretty big Adrian Lyne fan when JACOB’S LADDER came out. I mean, come on! FOXES, FLASHDANCE, FATAL ATTRACTION, NINE AND A HALF WEEKS.  If anyone had the kind of eccentric visual flair that would translate very well into horror, it would be him. Plus, the script was by BRUCE JOEL RUBIN (BRAINSTORM, GHOST, DEADLY FRIEND). How could I not anticipate this movie?

Well, anticipate it, I did.  And hate it, I did, too (sorry for the “Yoda-isms”). But the strong emotions that it evoked in me and the audience I saw it with – who were about as pissed-off as I was by the ending – may have been Lyne’s intention all along. It just took me a decade or two to realize that. And now I kind of see it in a different light than before, because…why? I can relate to it better, now that time has passed, and I have a bit more life experience under my belt? Maybe.  But enough about me. The movie is what’s important here, and if you’ve never seen it before, it’s one of those where you owe yourself the chance to start it at the very least.  As with any cinema, you can always bail if you’re not into it.

TIM ROBBINS plays Jacob Singer, a Vietnam vet affected by a pretty severe case of a kind of dissociative disorder. In English, that means he has an extreme problem keeping fantasies, nightmares and delusions separated from reality, and that’s if he can keep track of when and where they happened.  Or even if they happened to him at all.

He may be back ‘in country’, but it doesn’t appear that he came back alone, as he is constantly bombarded with horrific visions and images that only he is able to see. He literally brought his demons back from the war with him, and they seem ready to skin him alive…and do things much, much worse than that.

Only two seemingly bright spots in his life give him a reason not to go completely fucking looney tunes: his sympathetic girlfriend, Jezzie (ELIZABETH PENA) and a good friend who’s also his “doctor”, Louis (DANNY AIELLO.)

It seems that the harder Jacob tries to run from the apparitions pursuing him, (in a series of eerily shot, terrifying set-pieces), the more intense and terrifying his experiences become, leading to a climax where…well, I won’t say here, but I will give you a hint: think back to when you studied Ambrose Bierce in high school English. And for you more literate types, that is one helluva huge spoiler.

JACOB’S LADDER was, to my knowledge, my first exposure to the concept of an ‘unreliable narrator’, where the lead character you’re invested in either purposefully, or through no fault of his or her own, are caught up in circumstances that convince you that one thing is happening, until you find out at the end that everything you thought you knew was dead wrong.  Which explained the pissed-off audience.  And little did I know – it wouldn’t be the last time I encountered this kind of thing in a film, especially a horror film.

But overall, Lyne, the cheeky bastard, did a splendid job of mind-fucking his viewers, as he should have, following the Rubin script. And it is pretty much one of Tim Robbins’ best performances.  Not to mention that the striking and disorienting special visual FX were the kind of images that no one had really seen at that time – not outside of a weird MTV video, anyway. Now, it’s par for the course for many horror films, and usually considered “tried-and-true.” Whether or not I think it’s Lyne’s best work is irrelevant now.  When people ask about good horror films with a Vietnam theme, I always mention JACOB’S LADDER in the same breath as Bob Clark’s groundbreaking cult classic, DEATHDREAM, or even “ANTHONY M. DAWSON’S” CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

MOVIE REVIEW: Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

Cannibal Holocaust

By Dixielord

Cannibal Apocalypse

I have mentioned before that I am a big fan of horror movies of the 70s and 80s. I'm especially fond of those low budget schlockers from the period, and even more so those films branded as a Video Nasty. I have been a fan of the zombie films of the period for a long time and have recently started searching out the Italian cannibal movies from around the same time. This search lead me to Cannibal Apocalypse.

At first I thought this was going to be just another cannibal epic set deep in the jungles of New Guinea, or the Amazon, a la Cannibal Holocaust or Cannibal Ferox. However doing some research Cannibal Apocalypse turned out to be something entirely different.

Cannibal Apocalypse stars horror legend John Saxon as Gordon Hopper, a Viet Nam vet still haunted by a traumatic event during the war. In a dream we see him flash back to Viet Nam, where he is bitten by one of two captured service men, one of whom he knew from back home. He wakes up to get a call from one of the soldiers, Charlie Bukowski (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) who has just been released from a mental hospital.

Bukowski wants to meet up with his war buddy for coffee. However, Hopper, disturbed by the dream, and being hit on by his (possibly underage) neighbor Mary, refuses. Bukowski feeling abandoned and betrayed again, set off on his own. After attacking a woman in a movie theater, he goes on a rampage, killing several people and biting a police officer before being subdued and carted back to the mental hospital. Meanwhile, Hopper has been experiencing a desire for raw meat. He breaks out Bukowski and two other infected, Thompson (who bit Hopper) and an infected nurse. The four fugitives then lead police in a chase across Atlanta and into the cities sewers, spreading the cannibal contagion as they go.

Cannibal Apocalypse is a strange film on many fronts. While ostensibly it belongs to the European Cannibal sub genre, it many ways it's closer to the zombie movies of the same time period. It treats cannibalism similar to the zombie virus, as it can be transferred through a bite. However, it's set mostly in the city of Atlanta where most European zombie and cannibal films of the period were set deep in the jungle.

While Cannibal Apocalypse is far from bloodless, it is relatively tame in the gore department, especially for a video nasty. Honestly, watching it I never really understood why this film would be banned, other than the fact it dealt with cannibalism. Director Antonio Margheriti isn't so much known for gore but more for gothic horror, and it's believed producers pushed him to add gore just for commercial reasons. The gore that the film has is good, the bites are deep and bloody, and there is a shot gun killing that goes on forever with bloody consequence.

The film borrows heavily in some scenes from Dawn of the Dead, which is only fitting since Dawn was the founder of the Italian gore craze of the era. There is a shoot out with a gang in a flea market. In another nod to Dawn, a large part of the second half is a group of four people on the run, a group of one black man, two white men and a white woman, the same makeup as the main group in Dawn. Even the wardrobes of Saxon and Actress May Heatherly seem eerily similar to Gaylen Ross and David Emge of Dawn. There were times that looking at May, I thought, “Damn, she really looks a lot like Gaylen.”

You could even posit that Cannibal Apocalypse is a reverse copy of Dawn. In Dawn of the Dead we follow a group of uninfected as they flee, seeking shelter from the infected undead. In Apocalypse, it's reversed with a group of infected (soldiers versus police) fleeing from those not rabid for human flesh.

Even though technically this is a European Cannibal film borrowing heavily from the zombie genre, it's more than a horror film. Beyond all this Cannibal Apocalypse is a movie about the Vietnam War and its effects on the men who fought it.

John Saxon's Hopper is a vet who outwardly seems normal and healthy, but inside he's haunted by his time in the jungle. He dreams about it at night and in the day time struggles with the blood lust (represented by cannibalism), that he needed to survive the war. Fellow vets Bukowski and Thompson aren't as lucky. After being held prisoner by the Vietcong, their minds have broken, their blood lust is uncontrollable. Coming home, they are locked away and forgotten, even by their comrade Hopper.

After Bukowski is “cured” all it takes is a war movie and an act of sexuality to fully reawaken his rage and hunger. Being in the presence of his fellow vets causes Hopper's fragile, but well maintained control to break

You could make the case that Cannibal Apocalypse is a condemnation not only of the Vietnamese War but of war in general. War, where we take young men, teach them how to kill, but when the war's over we don’t teach them how to not kill anymore. We drop them into hell and force them to adapt, then expect them to adapt easily back into normal life. Those who can't end up locked away, or more so recently, living on the streets.

While Cannibal Apocalypse might not be great, high cinema, it is certainly a better film than many of the video nasties. That's not meant as a knock to those films, many of which I truly love, but a lot of them were made for purely shock value and to make a quick buck. There's a story to Cannibal Apocalypse, and it's a damn good story worth watching and worth talking about - especially today with our country involved in wars and rumors of war, with our streets, and hospitals overcrowded with wounded vets. Today, when soldiers are dying faster by their own hands than the hands of their enemies, and there's no answer for PTSD in sight.

Cannibal Apocalypse will never have the impact of films like Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, or Born on the Fourth of July, but for a gory horror film, it's pretty damn deep.

Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments