of the Flesh Hunters (Italian-Spanish, 1980, aka: Apocalisse
Domani, Apocalypse Domani, Virus, Cannibal Apocalipsis, Cannibal Apocalypse,
Apocalipse Cannibal, Cannibals in the Streets, The Cannibals Are in the
Streets, Savage Apocalypse, The Slaughterers, Cannibals in the City, The
Last Hunter, Cannibal Massacre; dir: Anthony M. Dawson (aka Antonio Margheriti),
cast: John Saxon, Elizabeth Turner, John Morghen, Cindy Hamilton)
cannibal film can be divided into two categories: zombies (Zombi 2, Hell of the Living Dead -- the latter not to be confused with the Nazi zombie
film of the same title), and non-zombies (Make
Them Die Slowly, Grim
of the Flesh Hunters features non-zombie cannibals. Mortals compelled
to eat human flesh by a virus that's contracted when one is bitten by an
infected cannibal. Much like spreading lycanthropy, vampirism, or
the murderous nymphomania in Cronenberg's They
Came From Within (aka Shivers, Frissons, The
of the Flesh Hunters opens in Vietnam with the prolific John Saxon
leading an assault on the enemy (NVA or VC, I'm not sure). A cheesy
battle scene with extras running about aimlessly, flinging their guns while
dying theatrically amidst fiery explosions. One enemy woman is set
aflame in her cleanly pressed pajamas. All enemy pajamas look cleanly
pressed and many things are set aflame, but mostly leaves.
think grenades can set tropical leaves aflame, but they seem to here, although
there's also a flamethrower. Some of Saxon's troops carry M-16s,
but Saxon holds what looks like an Israeli Uzi. The Vietnamese jungle
looks like a Temperate Zone forest, and there's even a cave. The
battle culminates when Saxon discovers two American POWs trapped in a pit
-- eating an enemy woman.
wakes up, nightmare over. It's been many years since the war ended. So why his persistent hunger for human flesh?
nightmare turns real when one of the POWs in his dream (and his former
subordinate) phones with a request that they meet. Seems some vets
contracted a cannibal virus in Nam, they're beginning to devour civilians,
and soon the body count mounts.
storyline follows Saxon's struggle to resist succumbing to his disease
while aiding his infected comrades, all amidst the spreading rampage of
flesh-hungry vets and civilians. Plot holes abound. Why does
the cannibal nurse unstrap the cannibal vets rather than eat them in their
state of helplessness? They're not zombies, after all, their flesh
is still fresh albeit infected.
And as in so many zombie films, one
wonders why the cannibals only appear nibbled upon -- why weren't they
consumed more thoroughly when previously attacked? Nor is it ever
clear where Saxon intends to lead his men, or why they're traversing the
sewers. They certainly never get anywhere.
ends with a familiar scene. The veteran calmly dons his old but pristine
uniform before a mirror. His chest covered with medals. Finally,
he polishes and loads his gun, preparing either for suicide or carnage.
of the Flesh Hunters is another horror film about the men ruined by
Nam, returning home to inflict their pathologies on the civilians who sent
them abroad, then discarded them. In Spaghetti
Nightmares, director Margheriti expresses his own personal distaste
for screen violence, and explains, "My initial intention was to make
a film which carried a sociological, anti-war message. I wasn't aiming
at making a 'splatter' at all, but, in the end the producers, who wanted
to copy the popular trend launched by Romero's Dawn
of the Dead, had the last word."
works an old but reliable metaphor. The first explicit entry in this
Vietnam horror subgenre, and a superior film, was 1972's Deathdream (aka, The Night Walk, Dead
of Night, The Night Andy Came Home, The
Veteran). Romero's Night
of the Living Dead has also been interpreted as such, but its message
was implicit. And in Jacob's
Ladder the vets alone suffered the war's aftereffects, they themselves
inflicting no harm on the civilian population.
curious to see foreigners portray Americans in foreign films. The
1982 Italian futurist film, 1990:
Bronx Warriors, is laughably entertaining for its incongruous juxtapositions,
featuring white South Bronx gangstas mouthing lengthy Euro-existentialist
speeches. Likewise, while Invasion
of the Flesh Hunters is set in the US (it was filmed in Georgia and
Italy), its biker gang dresses like trendy Euro-trash.
a European film, there is an illicit affair subplot and some trashy but
bland music. John Saxon performs well, as do the supporting cannibals
and shapely actresses. The jungle battle was cheesy, but the crazed-vet-in-a-stripmall-shootout (shades of Dawn
of the Dead) and cannibal feasts should please gorehounds.
entry in Italy's cannibal cinema oeuvre.
Review copyright by Thomas
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