Antonio Margheriti passed away in the late 2002 but his works in the field of Italian horror and exploitation cinema will not die in the hearts of their admirers. War film L'Ultimo cacciatore (aka: The Last Hunter, 1980) and cannibal tale Apocalypse domani (aka: Cannibal Apocalypse, 1980) are probably the two best (known) films that he directed. They are both extremely exploitive and violent and also both written by Dardano Sacchetti who wrote most of the Fulci masterpieces like Zombie (1979), The Gates of Hell (aka: City of the Living Dead, 1980), The Beyond (1981) among films for other directors like Lamberto Bava and his Demoni (1985) and Demoni 2 (1986).
Cannibal Apocalypse stars the b movies favourite John Saxon and Giovanni Lombardo Radice who is a small legend in the field of Italian exploitation cinema. He has acted in Fulci's Gates of Hell and even more notably in Umberto Lenzi's sicko cannibal flick Cannibal Ferox (1982) that he also hates the most nowadays! Saxon and Radice (the latter known also as John Morghen) are Vietnam veterans that suffer from a strange virus originating from the war field: cannibalism and the need for human flesh and some gut munching. In the city, this naturally causes trouble as Radice is the active one and Saxon only trying not to accept what his teeth and hands more and more desire and eventually they find themselves on the run and contaminating more and more people with the virus and their hunger. It spreads as wildly and rapidly as the zombie virus in Romero's zombie films, and thus Italian zombie films, too!
So what a rip off of a plot but this way they were. These films, Cannibal Apocalypse being a very noteworthy example, are nothing but exploitation and attempts to cash in some bucks and throw a movie that is even more violent and sleazy than the previous one. The Italian cannibalzombie genre has some real masterpieces and serious pieces like Ruggero Deodato's harrowing 1979 masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust that is as important and topical in its message about humanity and media than it was back then. Naturally the film caused a hystery due to its sadistic and graphic (but not gratuitous) violence and many producers and directors started to rip that film off in order to "satisfy" the audience that liked the violence in Deodato's film so much even though that is definitely not even the film's point, it is its theme, and everyone watching Holocaust because of its violence are closer to the film's message than they could have ever (dared to) thought. Lenzi did his Ferox and Eaten Alive (1980) and they are nothing but mindless gore and some laughable attempts to give the film some kind of a meaning and importance which means lines and bits of dialogue taken straightly from Deodato's film, especially in the case of Ferox.
Cannibal Apocalypse has a little different setting as it takes place in urban jungle and in the big city, not in the jungle with wild animals and natives. The film has sadly very few positive cinematic merits and even the soundtrack that is usually very effective in these films (Fabio Frizzi with Fulci and Riz Ortolani with Deodato) is at times very awful and almost laughably cheesy disco-something attempt that makes the imagery even more painful to follow. But the soundtrack has some genuinely creepy bits too and that is more than nice. The cinematography is nothing special nor the editing and all they did very carefully and with 100% interest were naturally the close ups to the gory details in the spirit of exploitation cinema.
The carnage on screen is pretty strong and thus this film cannot be recommended to anyone else than a hardcore fan of the genre. There are some now "legendary" scenes like the shotgun blast at the end and the sadistically long tongue ripping scene that really makes it clear what is the reason for this film's existence. The most insanely sick Italian sleaze gore hell I've seen so far is Aristide Massaccesi's (aka: Joe D'Amato) 1979 film Buio Omega aka Beyond the Darkness that has some of the nastiest ideas ever in the history of cinema. The effects in Apocalypse are by Giannetto de Rossi who began his remarkable career with Spanish director Jorge Grau and his atmospheric zombie piece Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie in 1974 and worked alot with Lucio Fulci and his zombies, too.
It is interesting to hear the makers' own opinions on these (low) films nowadays, now that most of the directors have retired and are old men, and the actors also aging but still possibly in the business. John Morghen has some very straight opinions on these films he's acted in as he says they are very sick and he doesn't like them at all. He admits that Lenzi was the most "violent" one and "liked violence very much" which I hope is not as true in real life as it could be (Lenzi seems like a very nice old guy to me.) Margheriti himself was very proud of this film and also mentioned plenty of times that Quentin Tarantino himself has liked Cannibal Apocalypse (same kind of comment about Q has been said by Lenzi, too!).
The fact is Cannibal Apocalypse is pretty inept in any serious and cinematically noteworthy level lacking almost all the atmospheric wonders of Fulci and being visually very uninteresting too. Still Cannibal Apocalypse has a place in the minds, hearts and shelves of the enthusiasts of Italian (exploitation) horror cinema which still has MUCH more noteworthy and greater pieces to offer and thankfully so.
Cannibal Apocalypse is also a little too long running 96 minutes in NTSC speed. No need for that as nothing interesting or important is included in most of those minutes. For example, the final sewer chase sequence is painfully long.
Review by Bogey Man from the Internet Movie Database.