In the '70s and '80s, the cannibal subgenre was growing in Italy. It did not take long before the audience got tired of the formulaic plots, but even to this day people can remember the movies widely for their brutality and scenes with real animals. This documentary looks into what the subgenre was, how it started and how it ended.
By no means am I an expert on the subject on cannibal films but I've always been fascinated by them. The means they went to while making the movies always gave them a rather realistic feeling. Whether it was the locations they went to when shooting, all the jungle sounds, the natives actually looking like natives, or... the real animal killings. There was always something in these movies that would make them more effective than the rest of the exploitation genre ever managed. My personal favorite, like most others, is "Cannibal Holocaust", and that's one of the few that I can revisit frequently still. Yet it still feels just as effective.
"Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film" is a documentary that comes as extra material on Njutafilms' new release of "Cannibal Holocaust" (for you Region B people), and Grindhouse Releasing's "Cannibal Ferox" (Region A people!), and it's a great little look into the subgenre. It's a collection of interviews with the filmmakers and actors of the movies, as well as fans and critics. The movie explores most angles of the cannibal films, from where it began to where it ended. Movies like "The Man From Deep River", "Last Cannibal World", "Cannibal Holocaust" and "Cannibal Ferox" are the ones that are discussed the most due to their importance (and because there was some expected competition between Deodato and Lenzi). But we also dive into titles such as "Savage Terror", "The Mountain of the Cannibal God", and even semi-cannibal movies like "Zombi Holocaust" and "Cannibal Apocalypse".
There are some heaten moments with Umberto Lenzi, who made "The Man From Deep River" and wants the title of the creator of the genre, while Ruggero Deodato thinks of his additions to the genre as the staples due to the amount of studying that went into making them. While "The Man From Deep River" certainly was first of these, Deodato's movies perfectly summed up everything about what the subgenre was about. Umberto Lenzi even went on to make the "Cannibal Holocaust" rip-off "Cannibal Ferox", which isn't a horrible addition but certainly not shy to take things straight from Deodato's movie.
Many of the people involved in these movies look back at them with some shame due to the animal killings, the racism and sometimes sexism, but the documentary shows all sides of the discussions. One of the most insightful interviewees of the documentary is FrightFest programmer and film journalist Shelagh Rowan-Legg, who brings up many valid points of both ends of the discussions. It's perfectly fine to be on any side of the arguments, but when you can stand inbetween and acknowledge both sides, that's when you truly can appreciate these movies for what they are. They are the very definition of exploitation, and sometimes the filmmakers went to extreme solutions to achieve effects, but this was a different time in cinema and one that we're probably never gonna see again.
"Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film" is a great little piece if you dig the genre or is curious about it. It features many important people that were part of the subgenre such as Umberto Lenzi, Ruggero Deodato, Sergio Martino and Robert Kerman. Sure, it is just another talking heads horror documentary, but at least this is a subject that needs to have some light shed on it. Even to this day these movies upset, and if you are curious about the ins and outs then this documentary will bring it up.