Monday, November 15, 2010

Cannibal Girls

I suppose it shouldn’t be odd to discover that, before helping to make the 80s completely awesome with such films as Stripes, Twins, and Ghostbusters 1 & 2, director Ivan Reitman first got his start with this early 70s horror movie. After all, it’s sort of a rite of passage for directors to get their start by making cheap exploitation fare; everyone from Francis Ford Coppola (Dementia 13) to Peter Jackson (Bad Taste through Dead Alive) to Martin Scorsese (Boxcar Bertha) to…well, I could go on for a while with that. So what better way, then, for a goofy, offbeat director to first make his mark than with a goofy, offbeat horror movie?

The film stars Eugene Levy in his second role (it was both his and Reitman’s second film, after Foxy Lady, which I know nothing about) as a young hippie on vacation with his girlfriend (Andrea Martin). While traveling through Canada, they are told the legend of the cannibal girls, a trio of women that ate their victims and as a result never got sick a day in their lives. As it turns out, the house the girls lived in is now a bed and breakfast, so they decide to spend the night there, meeting their rather outlandish (and touchy feely) host, and his staff of three suspiciously familiar looking women…

Now, the problem with that synopsis is that it makes the film seem like a natural progression from plot point to plot point, when the film is actually, in the grand style of 70s films and films without much of a budget, extremely loose and free form, feeling half improvised for the bulk of the film. You get random bits like a couple characters playing Monopoly (which, combined with the period clothing and woodsy setting, just made me think of Friday the 13th), or the butcher that gets his own closeup so he can assure Martin that “if it was any fresher it would get up and tell you itself!” before winking at her to end the scene. I won’t even get into the last twenty minutes, where the film seems to have ended too early at the one hour mark and so hits the reset button and tries to do a bit of a jazz riff on it.

It’s a completely weird, loopy effort, which I suppose is the sort of thing one should expect from a director that would go on to be primarily associated with Bill Murray. One could almost forget it was a horror movie at various points, were it not for all the gory murders (and the rampant nudity, I guess, but that happened in almost every movie in the 70s). It’s a little incoherent at times, though I guess that’s to be expected when dealing with a movie about immortal cannibalistic women, and the frequent nudity and surprisingly graphic violence help it over the various hurdles it encounters.

The film does fall into the trap that hits most horror comedies, in that by dividing its efforts it manages to not be funny enough or scary enough to justify itself, but it’s still a thoroughly watchable venture, with enough highlights to (mostly) make up for the more draggy sections of the movie. Reitman, Levy, and Martin would all go on to bigger and better movies, but it’s kind of neat seeing such an early, juvenile effort by them. Thanks can go out once again to Shout! Factory for giving this a long-awaited DVD release, they deserve praise for all the old movies they’ve been releasing lately.

Rating: **

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