From it release back in 1981, Cannibal Ferox, aka Make Them Die Slowly (US), aka Woman From Deep River (Australia), was instantly destined for the Video Nasties list for its brutal depiction of cannibalism and animal cruelty on-screen.
Much like the probably more well-known feature released the year prior, Cannibal Holocaust, the visual aim of hyper violence and bloody torturous designs were made to schock the audience. In places this is still the case with some scenes hard to bear as we bear witness to the slow and meticulaous torture of the central characters.
By today’s standards Cannibal Ferox struggles under the weight of a misogynistic gaze, which is doubled by the main antagonist, Mike (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), a drug dealer who not is not only driven by his own selfish means, but his actions draw the main group deeper into anarchy and the cannibals domain.
The film itself holds an interesting message beneath the surface of stupefaction and glorious sensationalism, following two siblings Rudy (Danilo Mattei) and Gloria (Lorraine De Selle), who are accompanied by their friend Pat (Zora Kerova) as they journey through the Colombian rainforest, ironically to disprove the existence of cannibals.
Director Umberto Lenzi (Eaten Alive!) then subjects these characters to all manner of horrors as they attempt to escape from their tormentors, the rainforest, and some sense of freedom. But you can’t help but feel that they deserve their comeuppance because if you go around poking a bear with a stick, you’re eventually going to get mauled, or have your male appendage severed, and then cauterised, so that you can later get scalped alive and have your brains consumed by said bear analogy.
It is Lenzi’s choice of ending that perhaps is the most numbing of all, when our sole survivor Gloria returns to western civilisation to launch her book, based on her theories, Cannibalism: End of a Myth, which essentially turns a blind eye to her ordeals and pushes down any indication that cannibalism exists. The social commentary seems to suggest that we as a human race continue to shut down or deny any deep issues.
- Saul Muerte