Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)
If for nothing else, Antonio Margahritte's 1980 film Cannibal Apocalypse is famous for its huge number of AKA's. Released as Invasion of the Flesh Hunters, Cannibals in the Streets, Apocolipisse Domani, as well as near a dozen other variations, it is one of the most well known films of the Italian splatter films from the 70's and 80's. It is also one of the most enjoyable, accessible films from that era. Written by Margahritte and tireless screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti (Twitch of the Death Nerve, City of the Living Dead, Blastfighter) and starring a practical who's who of genre stars, Apocalypse is a film for every fan of Italian splatter.
Returning Viet Nam Vet Norman Hopper (John Saxon, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, A Nightmare on Elm Street) is having trouble adjusting to civilian life. His best friend is trying to seduce his wife (Elizabeth Turner, Beyond the Door, The Psychic), the young girl next door is trying to seduce him, his dreams are plagued by images of war, and he's developing a taste for human flesh. When his old Marine buddy (genre regular Giovanni Radice, City of the Living Dead, Cannibal Ferox) calls him up for a get together, his life begins to spiral down out of control.
While fitting into the Italian sub-genre of cannibal films, Apocalypse is a film all its own. Taking a cue as much from Dawn of the Dead as from Italian gut-munches, the film is an urban nightmare, more concerned with shoot-outs and action scenes than it is with flesh-eating.
What it lacks in cruelty and social commentary it makes up for in characterization and the performances of its central cast. Saxon, Radice, and Turner are all first-rate. In spite of obvious budget and script limitations, they turn in involving, professional work. The same can be said for make-up artist Gino de Rossi, his relatively small number of effects are all well-executed and stomach turning. Especially note-worthy is the legendary death of Radice, a topper for a man who has been subjected to some of the most gruesome deaths in cinema history.
With little to distinguish it from a dozen other similar titles, Cannibal Apocalypse has a lot of fun being undistinguished. A recent DVD release by Image, it has been remastered and restored to its full running time. The package also features a number of extras, the highlight being a near hour-long documentary. A real treat, the doc contains interviews with Margahritte, Saxon, and an almost unrecognizable Radice. Filled with funny anecdotes and incites into low-budget horror film-making, this documentary is as enjoyable as the film itself.