VHS Review: The Grim Reaper aka Anthropophagus the Beast

This is another one of those films, like all of Rob Zombie’s films, that results with me desperately desiring a shower because I feel so dirty. Initially released in the UK in 1980, uncut by VFP but ultimately became a part of the infamous DPP (Department of Public Prosecutions) list. We call it the infamous Video Nasty List though. Drama rained on the film’s parade. The DPP bitch slapped the film and soon it was banned and prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act in 1984. The film was banned from the UK for 18 bloody years. It’s said that the infamous fetus dinner scene is what really did the film in, along with its cover. The film was pronounced as a snuff film on the BBC News. A lot of the films on the list were present due to their covers. If you actually watch a lot of these video nasties, there were no practical reasons for them being on the list, most notably, Frozen Scream and I Miss You Hugs and Kisses.

One of the most collectible versions of this film today is the cut release. It was released in America under the title “The Grim Reaper” which is the version I have. It’s also badly dubbed. The Grim Reaper audio really isn’t all that in a bag of potato chips. The score is very unnerving though. It helps to set the mood for the film unlike Marcello Giombini’s music in the DVD versions. Honestly, I haven’t seen all the versions of this film so I cannot tell you what’s what.  The different versions of this film include; Anthropophagus as the French title, Anthropophagus: The Beast as the UK title, The Grim Reaper as the original censored US title, Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper as the US DVD uncut title, Man Eater as the German title, The Savage Island (I don’t know anything about this title,) and Zombi 7: Grim Reaper after the release of its sequel Absurd. I have yet to see the sequel or the remake. Guess I need to get my ass in gear.

This fun nasty is pure Italian schlock splatter. There’s plenty of shock in this film and I can see why it was banned. D’Amato just decided to wait until the end to unleash the spaghetti-sploitation. I will say this about D’Amato, he was a brilliant cinematographer. With this island location in Greece, he was able to capture an eerie atmosphere. The atmosphere along with that synthesizer score are not enough to shape the film into an effective and adequate whole. There are a few boring moments but you will never lose that feeling of dread. It’s obvious that this film was made rather quickly to cash in on the video market. Porn directors have no boundaries. You can expect offensive material when watching any Joe D’Amato film. Critics and horror fan’s opinions on the film seem to vary. Some seemed to be bored and let down by the amount of gore. Being a critic and a horror fan, I have to say that I quite enjoyed this piece of trash.

A group of tourists stumble upon a deserted Greek island where an insane and grotesque colossal cannibal picks them off one by one to devour them. The cannibalistic seaman wasn’t always this gross. He and his family had been lost at sea years before. With the heat and starvation combining, he decides it’s time to eat his wife and child so that HE can live. What a selfish bastard. Now he transforms into the “beast” that haunts the island with a receding hair line and sores begin to spread all over his face. Looks more like nodular leprosy. This is not your every day cannibal story which is what I liked most about the film. I will say this, the cannibal reminded me of the cannibal in Raw Meat. I wonder if it may have been influential on Anthropophagus.

The most notorious scene would be when the cannibal rips the unborn fetus out of the pregnant woman’s stomach and takes a bite out of it while the father watches in agony. As a mother, I do find this scene to be tasteless and hard to watch. The censors actually thought this was snuff footage. The fetus scene was a skinned rabbit, thank God. This scene was cut from The Grim Reaper VHS along with the final shot where the cannibal freak is stabbed with a pickaxe and begins to eat his innards while they are spilling out. The effects really aren’t that bad for such a low budget flick. We also get a severed head in a bucket, a scalp ripped off, and an axe to the head. The opening scene was a little too much for me. They make it out to seem as if the cannibal is inhuman with his Jaws like kill and the POV shots. Inarguably the best scene in the film, the group is surprised to find a blind girl that appears to be in shock and covered in blood while popping out of a barrel with a knife. This blind girl can smell her killer. Why not? She is blind after all.

Although I found the majority of the effects to be pretty good for its time, the facial effects of the man/beast were absolutely atrocious and below average. That being said, he is still one scary mother fucker. Particularly in a scene where he is hiding behind a door with his eyes glaring WIDE into the room. I cannot decide if this scene is just creepy or hilarious.

The character development is inadequate but the acting was spot on. The characters were just so tedious. This is known as George Eastman’s best work, as the cannibal. Despite his starring and co-writing the feature, he was not happy about his participation in the project at all. Whatever happened to Tisa Farrow (Julie?) In one of my Video Nasty books they mentioned that she is now a Taxi driver with an eye patch. I haven’t been able to find out much about her on the internet. Surely she cannot be a Taxi driver. Her sister is Mia Farrow who should be well off. Unless they are estranged, she should be taking care of her. Tisa Farrow is mostly known for her role in Zombi II and for her spread in Playboy July, 1973. As well as having a part in Woody Allen’s Manhattan. Zora Kerova (Carol) was no stranger to Italian cinema. She’s mostly known for Escape From Women’s Prison, Cannibal Ferox, The New York Ripper, Touch of Death, and The True Story of the Nun of Monza.

I also own the Shriek Show DVD. It provides Widescreen format with very little grain. It’s a two disc set with a 67-minute documentary “Joe D’Amato Totally Uncut 2.” It features clips from several D’Amato films. There’s also an 11-minute piece of footage of George Eastman, D’Amato, and Zora Kerovawhere they talk about the film at a convention. The second disc features alternate opening credits, photo galleries, unique box art, and trailers.

If you’re not a fan of Italian trash and you cannot get enough of gore-fests then Anthropophagus the Beast is for you! It’s a let down for many that waited too long to pop it into their VCR or DVD players but if you’re like me, you wont be disappointed!

Anthropophagus means someone who eats human flesh.