A young nanny (Tisa Farrow) and friends sail to a small Greek Island only to discover the population has vanished. While investigating the mystery of the missing islanders the gang finds a terrified blind girl that screams about a monster. The monster is revealed to be a disfigured shipwreck survivor (George Eastman) who developed a taste for human flesh while lost at sea. Soon, the friends realize their vacation has become a buffet, and they’re on the menu.
The taboo of cannibalism has been covered by other slashers like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Humongus, but none have sunk their teeth into the subject like Joe D’Amato’s Anthropophagus. Eastman (real name Luigi Montefiori) uses the occasional knife or meat cleaver to subdue a victim but throat chewing is really his preferred killing method. If you find cannibalism a difficult subject to swallow, then stick with the The Grim Reaper, the heavily edited US version of Anthropophagus. You still get the stalking and slashing in The Grim Reaper, but the cannibalism and extreme gore has been removed.
Italian sleaze merchant Joe D’Amato (real name Aristide Massacesi) gives the film enough old world gothic atmosphere and suspense to make things interesting before dropping an atomic gore bomb on the audience. There are two infamous scenes that keep Anthropophagus from reaching family friendly status. The first has Eastman chewing on a fetus freshly ripped from a mother’s stomach. Viewers troubled by this scene can take comfort in the knowledge that mother and child were later reunited… inside the cannibal’s stomach. The other disturbing scene shows Eastman ripping out and eating his own intestines after a nasty pick ax accident. This could be silly if performed by a lesser actor but Eastman’s psychotic gaze makes the scene all the more haunting.
While D’Amato and Eastman loaded their script for Anthropophagus with plenty of bad taste moments, they forgot to include likable or complex characters. Such generic characters mean the actors, with the exception of Tisa Farrow and George Eastman, are nothing more that fodder for the killer. The dubbing isn’t too bad for an Italian film, at least lips and words look close to matching, but the dialog sounds like it was recorded in a giant, empty warehouse.
Anthropophagus is something of an acquired taste. Fans of Italian splatter and gory slashers will love every gut churning moment. If you prefer slashers that rely on plot more than graphic violence, then go with The Grim Reaper, the same film minus the controversial bits. D’Amato and Eastman later teamed up for the prequel Absurd (aka Rosso Sangue and Monster Hunter) and Michele Soavi’s classic slasher Stagefright (D’Amato produced and Eastman wrote the screenplay).