Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mondo cannibale (2003)

... aka: Cannibal Holocaust 2
... aka: Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Beginning
... aka: Cannibal Holocaust: The Beginning
... aka: Cannibal World
... aka: Horror Cannibal 2

Directed by:
"Vincent Dawn" (Bruno Mattei)

If you've already exhausted the entire series of Italian cannibal films from the 70s and 80s and are hoping this 2003 effort from Euro-schlock director Bruno Mattei might breath new life into the subgenre, think again! Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Beginning, the title I saw this under, is actually less a sequel to the first film than an almost scene-for-scene remake of it. Unfortunately, it has almost none of the impact of the original film, which makes it a bit pointless. The print I saw was dubbed into English. I would have preferred subs because the dubbing here is beyond awful. I don't expect the dialogue to match the lips or anything, but most of the voice actors sucked and the dialogue itself was so awful and unnatural-sounding (especially the lead actress' to-camera monologues) it was a constant annoyance. Furthermore, literally everything about this effort is toned down from the original. There's less gore, less nudity, fewer shocks and much less technical competence on display here. While the original had a haunting soundtrack and some fantastic grainy camera-work, this has a generic score and a very flat TV-movie look. They didn't even bother sticking with the "found footage" concept either, as many of the camera shots are obviously not taken from the perspective of the characters. One plus, at least from my perspective, is that there's far less actual violence directed toward animals. This being from 2003 and with certain laws now in place, I actually didn't expect to see ANY real animal violence, so I was surprised to see one scene here where a lizard has its throat cut and is gutted. I suppose they felt compelled to do that to somehow tie this in to the original, but I thought it was unnecessary.

The plot is almost identical to the original film, with a group of five people (the original had four, but they added a big-breasted blonde to the proceedings) setting out deep into the jungle to do a documentary on cannibal tribes. Led by ruthless, fame-hungry female reporter Grace Forsythe (Helena Wagner) and her reluctant-at-first former lover Bob Manson (Claudio Morales), also a reporter, the crew and a guide eventually resort to violence to spurn a reaction from the docile natives. Just like in the original, they push around, shoot, burn and rape the poor natives to try to get some "good" footage. Of course this ends up backfiring in a big way and one-by-one they're hunted down and killed off by a tribe that the dubbed dialogue refers to as "The Invisible People." The framework is about the same as in the first film, with the footage being intercut with people at a TV station viewing it all. One slight difference is that the footage is coming in via a live satellite feed instead of someone finding film cannisters and viewing them later. The material, and the format, actually could make a perfect comment on the sudden boom in "Reality TV" and how desperate it is becoming to try to shock viewers, but this film isn't ambitious enough to even attempt to exploit the obvious possibilities there. It's much too busy trying to poorly clone its source material.

Now the film does have some blood and some nudity, I'll give it that much. The two leading ladies appear topless one time apiece, but the men don't even remove their pants during a gang rape scene. The gore isn't nearly as effective as most other films in this genre either, though there's plenty of blood being flung around. Remember that female shish-ka-bob from the original CH? Here it's replaced by a woman merely tied to a pole, which isn't too shocking, though the film crew acts as if it is. The cannibal feasts look a bit ridiculous here, with the tribesmen behaving like mindless zombies who make sloppy messes of themselves as they chow down on guts and brains. They did manage to one-up the "abortion" scene by having the freshly removed fetus getting stomped on by the ladies who cut it out. The ending is a carbon copy of the ending of CH, though not nearly as effective.

Philippines shooting locations were acceptable, as were the native villages and costumes, which might make this best watched with liberal use of the mute button. It was filmed back-to-back with LAND OF DEATH (2003), another videotaped cannibal film which lifted wholesale from Holocaust.


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