A young German couple are vacationing on this Greek island, and after investigating its only town, a quiet enough place at the best of times, decide to head for the beach to relax. Once they are there, they strip down to their swimwear and the girl walks into the sea, calling back to her boyfriend about how cold it is. He puts on his headphones, closes his eyes and starts to doze with their dog sleepily sitting beside him, but the girl hears a thump and looks around to see an apparently empty rowing boat drifting close to shore. Intrigued, she approaches it when suddenly something grabs her from beneath the surface and drags her down....
For a film with such an evil reputation, there's very little gory about Anthropophagus, it's simply that what bloodletting there was was of a nasty fashion that has stayed with those who might have caught it over its chequered past. It was one of the original "video nasties" in the United Kingdom, a somewhat arbitrary list of films supposed to corrupt their viewers which were banned during media-led scare of the eighties. Watching it now, modern audiences may well wonder what the fuss was all about, as most of its ninety minutes involves the cast wandering about a picturesque location and looking concerned.
It was conceived by infamous Italian schlockmeister Joe D'Amato as an answer to - or more likely a cash-in on - the slasher movies coming out of America of the day, with the actor playing the villain co-writing the script with him. That actor was cult star George Eastman, familiar to generations of exploitation fans as the towering bad guy of many a European horror, action or spaghetti Western movie, who was cast as antagonists not because he had a particularly threatening visage, but because he was so incredibly tall - sort of the predicament Christopher Lee found himself in, although Eastman seemed far happier to embrace the celluloid dark side. Here he is given makeup to look more gruesome, lending him a hairy gargoyle impression.
Representing the forces of good was Mia Farrow's sister Tisa Farrow, in her last film before she packed in showbiz and retired to become a nurse. For some reason she ended her acting career in a few films on the grottier end of the spectrum, but she has endeared herself to aficionados of the obscure for having mainly appeared in cult items for about ten years in the seventies. It is Tisa's heroine Julie who suggests to her new friends, a group of young adults on a trip to Europe, that they make for the island we saw at the beginning, describing it a paradise which should set alarm bells ringing in the same way that every film about the Titanic has someone proclaiming that it is absolutely unsinkable.
Once they arrive by boat, they can't help but notice that there doesn't look to be anybody about, and start to investigate, with the pregnant member of their party left behind with the captain as everyone else realises there's something fishy going on. We have already realised that George's title monster has set about the villagers and they have fled or been eaten by the man with the ravenous appetite for human flesh, and when the holidaymakers wind up stranded the chase is on. It's easy to mock Anthropophagus for the manner in which it replaces budget-consuming action sequences with simply shooting the cast traipsing around the island with uneasy expressions, but D'Amato, for all his low-rent reputation, did manage a degree of suspense for all that, and the parts where Eastman catches up with the potential victims are surprisingly well achieved. It's those gore moments that make this live on in infamy, and you'll know them when they occur, but they shouldn't have overshadowed one of the better efforts of this type. Music by Marcello Giombini.