Cannibal Girls (1973)
These girls do exactly what you think they do!
Year of Release: 1973
Running Time: 84 minutes (1:24)
Director: Ivan Reitman
Eugene Levy ... Clifford Sturges
Andrea Martin ... Gloria Wellaby
Ronald Ulrich ... Rev. Alex St. John
Randall Carpenter ... Anthea
Bonnie Neilson ... Clarissa
Mira Pawluk ... Leona
Robert McHeady ... Sheriff
May Jarvis ... Mrs. Wainwright
Bunker ... Himself
A young couple are forced to stop in a lonely country place which is supposedly deserted. They are told about the legend of three young cannibal girls hunting the area, but soon this legend becomes reality...
Cannibal Girls, remindin' us that any country where Curling can achieve a national following is likely to produce cannibal lunatics evolutionarily tailored to combatin' the trend. That's what happens when you institute universal healthcare, though; without that whole survival of the fittest deal goin' for ya things can get pretty outta control before Darwin's hand comes along to straighten things out.
An speakin' of women who like to go for the jugular, Sadie Bonebreak came down with a pretty serious case of the gut crud Thursday night an 'er girlfriend... oh who the hell cares what 'er name is, called me up about 9:30 in the PM to tell me Sadie was on 'er deathbed an needed me to get my hinder over there ASAP so she could dictate 'er epitaph since what's 'er name was in no condition to take it down. Big surprise there, cause evidently that gal ain't in any condition to even start 'er own car in the mornin'.
"You call Tetnis?" I asked 'er.
"Course I did, but he's bouncin' over at Walleye's right now and Rusty Dockweiler's in there gettin' drunker than Kevin Spacey's agent, and Wade won't let him leave until Rusty passes out or gets chunked into the snow bank, so just get over here! Please!"
"Fine." I grunted, an hung up, briefly flirtin' with the idea of hangin' myself with the phone cord.
Now, I don't want anybody to get the idea that I'm insensitive, but this woman once started hyperventilatin' when a squirrel smelled 'er bag of peanuts an followed 'er down the sidewalk. An besides that, when Sadie's sick she don't want ANYBODY anywhere near 'er, so not only was I likely to be unwelcome, but there prolly wasn't even anything really wrong with 'er. So I drove over there an the girlfriend's waitin' out on the porch shiverin' like Max Von Sydow in The Exorcist, mascara runnin' so hard 'er shoes're squishin' every time she takes a step, an she says "You gotta help, I'm too old to start over with another woman!"
"Oh for cripes sake Patsy Cline, you're 38 years old. Now pull yourself together an go get the woman somethin' to eat," I growled at 'er.
"...kay... but can you scrape the ice off my windows for me while you're here?"
I'm tellin' ya, if Sadie ever dumps this girl she's gonna be the youngest person in the nursin' home, it's pitiful. So anyway, she heads off to the Jiffy Mart to grab some burritos an I knock on Sadie's door, at which point I'm greeted with: "unless it's Death you'd better get the hell outta here."
"Oh you don't mean that," I says. "Sides, at the moment your options're dealin' with *me* or dealin' with *her*, an I think we both know which's the better solution beins how *I* won't have you put in jail."
"You're forgettin' the third option; I kill you both and bury you out back next to the chicken coop," she wheezed.
"Sadie, don't even joke about buryin' me next to her, cause if I gotta deal with her naggin' in the hereafter I *will* haunt the bejezus outta you. Now look, I got 'er out grabbin' you somethin' that'll take three months off your life, an I brought some flicks, so let's just make the best of this."
"An I realize that you've got a fever an all, but you really should put some clothes on, cause if she comes back an sees us in the same room with you nekkid there's no tellin' what she's gonna do," I nudged.
"YES, MOTHER!" she shrieked back at me as she groped blindly for 'er bra.
I think I handled the situation pretty well; stuffed 'er fulla deep fried garbage once 'er bimbo got back with the grub, stuck Dead Alive in the VCR so said bimbo'd leave us the hell alone, caught up a little bit, an once the flick was over I filled 'er foam dome up with NyQuil an watched Cannibal Girls while she dozed off.
Walked outta the bedroom about 1:30 in the AM an ran right into the girlfriend, who'd apparently had 'er ear up to the door the whole time, an before I can even get a curse word out she squeals, "how long does she have?!", with 'er eyes all swollen up an vibratin' like a coupla dashboard compasses.
"I dunno, 35, 40 years if you don't drive 'er to suicide first, now take your Xanax an go to sleep. An not WITH her either, you ride the couch tonight. She'll never get any rest with you lyin' next to 'er blubberin' like an Eskimo whale skinner," I says as I elbow 'er outta the way.
So, of course, she blubbered on *me* for a good five minutes, dribblin' snot, makeup, tears, an somethin' I never seen before that looked like Silly Putty, until she finally went to the can an I snuck outta there. Next mornin' Sadie was fine, an I've been a disgustin' trough of ooze ever since. Just goes to show ya - no good deed goes unpunished.
It's too bad Sadie crashed before Cannibal Girls got goin', cause I think she woulda really identified with a bevy of broads who like to spend their time eatin' the hearts of men in an elegant, tastefully decorated dining environment... or, in the backseat of a '75 Ford Pinto for that matter. Which is somethin' that has a distinct possibility of happenin' if I don't shut up an get to the movie. Seriously though, I dunno where this flick's been all my life, cause it's one of the best black comedies ever made to tackle that touchy cannibalism subject, with the added bonus of bein' set in a country where everyone's so polite that the first three rows of parkin' spots at the supermarket never actually get used just in case a flock of disabled orphans show up to do their shoppin' at the exact same time. Still not sold? Well, it's ALSO got Eugene Levy in it, circa 1973, lookin' *exactly* like Groucho Marx, so just trust me - you're gonna love it, an I've picked out three of my favorite cinematic mementos to get you started. Observe. First, once you've seen a Canadian male nekkid, it's not hard to figure out how the legend of Sasquatch got started. Second, sometimes you run into even scarier things than moose in the road, an they're usually wearin' lace night gowns. An third, lettin' a Canadian cannibal go down on ya is a real good way to lose your hoser.
This's one of those flicks that really makes ya miss the '70s an '80s, cause the idea of a cannibal flick in 2018 just ain't gonna fly. Not cause of censorship or anything like that, it's just... well, look around; McDonald's has pretty well ruined the entire cannibalism concept. I mean, what kinda sick sombitch wants to bite into *that*? I can suspend my disbelief as well as the next guy, but even I have trouble with the idea of folks eyeballin' lardasses ridin' Hoverounds an thinkin' to themselves, "hot damn, would I like a piece of THAT!" No goddamn way. Remember all those great cannibal flicks the Italians used to make where the natives'd slice the skullcap off a monkey an eat its brains, an then hack a guy's junk off an cauterize it with hot coals? You remember what the people in *those* flicks looked like? Goll dang right you do; lean, tanned, attractive 20 somethins in peak physical condition. I can kinda see wantin' to chew on THEM for awhile, ya know, if my plane crashed in the Andes Mountains or somethin', but modern 'Muricans? The folks who get winded reachin' for their inhalers? That's just sick. Thank cripes we advanced quickly enough technologically to preserve that glorious moment just after we'd gotten over that whole "free love" nonsense, but *before* we turned into a race of soy slurpin' globs of couch potato salad. That dietary shift we undertook pretty well closed the door all too quickly on one of the nastiest subgenres in the history of Horror, an did more to discredit its plausibility than just about any other cultural advancement in the recent past, short of the invention of the cell phone. Damn shame too, cause we as a society are now poorer for the loss of the cannibal film.
The movie begins up in maple syrup country where a coupla nymphos're beddin' down in the snow to club the seal, when outta nowhere some jealous klondyke shows up with a minin' pick an starts diggin' for gore deposits in the guy's skull before rippin' the gal's blouse off an smearin' blood between 'er snow cones til she looks like she's been eatin' a Carl's Jr. $6 burger in the buff. Elsewhere, Eugene Levy an Andrea Martin are drivin' down a back road somewhere in Ontario, when Eugene stops the car to drain the sap out of his hickory an decides to scare the crap outta Andrea until she gets butthurt an starts whinin' like Diane Chambers. Unfortunately, when they get back into their Stretch Pinto an try startin' it, the damn thing just makes this noise like a Woolly Mammoth that got slapped in the junk by a low hangin' tree limb, until Andrea strokes its manifold an tells it what a high performance hunk of American engineering it is an gets its motor goin' again. So the solution was kindness; right, that's Canada's answer for everything. Anyhow, they limp their 30' cruise liner of a car into the nearest service station an ask the grease monkey if there's a hotel or a moose they can slit open an bunk in for the night an end up at this bed an breakfast where the innkeeper (Mrs. Wainwright) tells 'em about these three foxy Canuck babes (Anthea, Clarissa, an Leona) who used to cruise the Curling alleys an pick up pathetic single men with enough body hair to resurface a Yeti undergoin' cancer treatments, an lure 'em home with promises of homemade poontine. Three such guys were Rick, Earl, an Felix, who were the kinda macho men who'd sit around playin' Monopoly all day waitin' for the girls to make the first move in case they ever decided to run for political office. It takes a coupla days, but finally Clarissa takes Earl upstairs to 'er bedroom, only they have totally different ideas about what "scissoring" is supposed to mean, an Earl ends up gettin' laid an slayed.
Same deal across the hallway; cept over there Leona's distractin' Felix with 'er T & Eh, while Anthea sneaks up on 'im an hacks his back into Canadian bacon an leaves 'im lyin' on the floor in desperate need of Montriage. It's just as well, cause if I was gettin' with one of these gals I'd be afraid of 'em pullin' a marital aid outta the nightstand an tryin' to Winnipeg me. Then Fleagore, the creepy hunchbacked servant (real name, Bunker) drags the bodies off to be processed into tourtiere, an when Rick wakes up the next mornin' he finds 'imself cuffed to his bed like Kathy Bates just hauled 'im out of a Saskatchewan snowbank, an next thing you know all three Looney Poons come into his room, slosh blood all over his chest, an start makin' like piranhas at a period party. It's okay though, cause Wainwright explains to Eugene an Andrea that it happened a long time ago, an that the cannibals choked to death on toenails or somethin' an how the place is a restaurant these days, so they head upstairs where Eugene starts playin' folk rock on his guitar til Andrea ends up passed out like a stack of pocket constitutions at an NRA meetin'. Then Eugene heads back to the repair shop to get his rig worked on, only the wrench jockeys're too busy drainin' the fluid outta this guy whose sister went missin' a few months back, an so he hasta leave the car overnight so they can finish their body work. Course now he's got no way to get over to the Tim Horton's to snag 'imself that Panini he's had his eye on, so Wainwright takes 'em over to the restaurant she mentioned earlier where "The Reverend" comes to the door dressed up like Montag the Magnificent an invites 'em in for caribou burgers an a nice glass of syrup. Cept pretty quick a god-awful racket erupts from the basement an The Rev hasta go chargin' down there to keep Clarissa an Bunker from killin' each other over the last pound of ground Canuck, but all that does is give Clarissa the openin' she needs to chop off Bunker's paw an turn it into a finger steak basket. Serves 'im right for not sharin' his tips, the greedy ass.
The after dinner entertainment ain't bad either, an consists of a game of "name that stuffy English playwright" between Eugene an Reverend Al Sharptongue, followed by Pagorian chanting by the members of the Satan's Pyre Choir. Then Eugene an Andrea start headin' home, only about five steps out the door they hear the Wendigo out in the yard beggin' for table scraps an decide to bunk with Pope Beenadick at Chateau Freak Show, where the Fine Young Cannibals fawn all over 'im while the couple settles in. A few hours later Eugene an Andrea're fast asleep, an pretty quick the whole congregation's up in their room cuffin' Cliff to the bedpost like a pro wrestler in May West's house, while the Messiah for Hiah does his Bela Lugosi routine on Andrea an just about hypnotizes 'er into carvin' Eugene up like a Canadian Goose until she breaks the hold an goes dashin' through the snow an ends up gettin' a ride from a doctor who mixes 'er up a nice Prozac cocktail an puts 'er to bed. Next thing you know Eugene's wakin' 'er up back in their hotel room, where it *seems* like she musta just dreamed the whole thing, cept when she tries callin' home the operator tells 'er the long distance power-line's blown down an that all their linemen are currently bein' menaced by polar bear terrorists demandin' Coca-Cola products an a helicopter to Minnesota. Then she starts fallin' apart until Cliff gets P.O.'d an hasta threaten to dump 'er off at David Cronenberg's house so she'll calm down, an they end up wanderin' around the tourist shops until the sheriff picks 'em up for loitering an dumps 'em back off at the "restaurant." Got a pretty decent twist ending comin' up here, so this is about as far as I can go without spoilin' it.
Those wacky Canadians, eh? Seems like almost all the Canadian Horror titles from the '70s and '80s came out at least decent, even the really low budget stuff like Cannibal Girls. I mean, just look at this list and try to find a stinky one: Deranged, Black Christmas, Shivers, Rabid, The Brood, The Changeling, Prom Night, Terror Train, Funeral Home, Scanners, My Bloody Valentine, Ghostkeeper, Visiting Hours, The Dead Zone, American Gothic, and quite a few others. Now granted, they had the advantage of David "the national treasure" Cronenberg workin' for them, but this is still a very solid list even without Fun Dave's contributions. Didn't get many all-time classics out of Canada, but I think it's worth it not to hafta wade through a mountain of crapola to find somethin' good. Cannibal Girls, though, is one of their more interesting titles, because it's one of the earliest examples of extremely dark comedy. Herschell Gordon Lewis did some of this back in the '60s, but his movies weren't the most competent of productions, and because they were so graphic, visually repulsive, and shocking for their time, I think some folks may have missed out on the *intentional* comedy they contained. Flash forward a decade and people've started gettin' used to themes and concepts that normally shouldn't be considered "funny" being portrayed as such. But I think even by that time cannibalism was still on the list of taboo subjects (at least on this continent), and along comes this flick centered around a guy who assimilates an entire town into the cannibal lifestyle, that's laced with deliberate dark humor, and which conducts itself with little enough seriousness that it implements a William Castle style gimmick (the "warning bell", that warned audiences something gruesome was about to happen). It's actually a lot like Motel Hell, except that it preceded Motel Hell by seven years. It also preceded The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by one year, and although it only shares a few common elements with Chainsaw, I think it's significant that this low budget title beat Chainsaw to the punch to some degree. There were, of course, other movies that did it first, like The Undertaker and His Pals, but for me that movie is so goofy that it's almost a straight Comedy. Cannibal Girls is far more balanced, more subtle, and works as both Horror and Comedy, where lesser efforts like Undertaker really only work as Comedies. Ivan Reitman could prolly care less what anyone thinks about Cannibal Girls 45 years after the fact, but he really oughta get more credit for having made it, particularly considering principal photography only lasted 9 days, and much of the dialog was ad-libbed (and even credited as such). Bottom line: this flick deserves more notoriety than it has.
Sorry if that got a little preachy there at the end, but I hate it when people don't get the credit they deserve. Particularly when it's almost half a century too late to do anything about it. In any event, it's about time we nibbled at a few of the prime cuts this flick has to offer to find out whether it deserves to be on the grill at the steakhouse, or the McDonald's dollar menu. The plot is really simplistic, and set up for us almost immediately through the flashback/story told by the innkeeper in the early goings. From there, the film takes the "bomb under the table" approach, wherein the audience has a general idea of what's going to happen, while the characters do not. There are a coupla surprises thrown in here and there, and the ending has a satisfying, if not all that unpredictable twist. It's very much a movie you watch knowing where it's headed, but not the exact path it will take to get there, and for its time, is pretty enjoyable. The acting is far better than you'd expect after seeing the message "the dialog was developed by the cast from an original story by...", cause I gotta tell ya - once you see that text flash on the screen, you're thinkin' toilet time on the acting. Surprisingly though, that's not really the case, because not only is said dialog at least marginally better than that of other low budget titles that allegedly had scripts, but the actors all seem to have at least a modicum of training and poise. Eugene Levy and his '70s fro are pretty good in the lead role, and Andrea Martin is also decent as the adorably cute, yet whiny girlfriend. You've also got the Cannibal Girls themselves, each of which are passable, if slightly wooden in their deliveries. The best performance is definitely that of Ronald Ulrich, who plays the ultra-smarmy Reverend. The man just oozes sleaze beneath that well-manicured facade and really lays the slime on thick; essentially, it's his show, and he knows it.
Here's who matters and why (sides Eugene Levy, who's become pretty popular in the last 45 years): Andrea Martin (Black Christmas 1974 & 2006, Innerspace), Robert McHeady (Deranged), Allan Price (The Mad 2007, Body Parts 1991), Ray Lawlor (The Mask 1961), David Clement (Black Christmas 1974, Darkman II, Blue Monkey, 984: Prisoner of the Future). Particularly surprising, given how low budget this flick is, AND that the cast was allowed and even encouraged to create their own dialog, we do have some folks (besides Levy) who went on to at least moderate mainstream success, and their credits are as follows: Andrea Martin (Phyllis Stein in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Liz Butsky in Wag the Dog, various characters on the classic Canadian TV series SCTV, and she also did the voice of Ms. Fowl on Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius), Randall Carpenter (the voice of Mystique on the X-Men TV series).
The special effects aren't the strongest aspect of the flick, but I wouldn't say they're bad either. The most glaring inconsistency is the blood, as they seem to have used several different recipes; early on it's too thick and really vibrant, later it smooths itself out, darkens up, and becomes practically perfect (in the ladling scene), and then it maintains the proper shade but gets *too* runny, so I dunno what was going on there. Better to have some look good than none, I suppose. At the end of the day it's not as gory as you'd expect from the title, as quite a bit happens off camera or right before an immediate cut, but what they do have is okay, and they do a good job of making you feel that you're seeing more than you really are, not unlike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The shooting locations are alright, with principal photography taking place in Oak Ridges, Whitchurch-Stouffville, Aurora, Beaverton, and Richmond Hill, Ontario. The snowy, frigid, mountainous region where the bulk of the running time takes place helps create a sense of claustrophobia, and generally has a pleasant aesthetic about it, with at least moderate amounts of snow falling during a majority of the outdoor scenes. I prefer the outdoor scenes to the indoor, but the interiors, particularly the Reverend's house, have a ring of authenticity that not only look nice, but whose decadence also implies that this man has a great deal of power and influence over the townspeople. There's also a nice shot of the downtown area of Beaverton, Ontario, current population 2800, which I only mention because a whole lot of Canadians and Americans live in areas like these, and for us, these shots kinda bring it all home. The musical composition isn't bad, and features some fairly foreboding piano music, as well as some of that "now nobody panic, but I think something might be a little off here" woodwind stuff with the inquisitive oboe that's pretty common in soundtracks of this era. It also features Mozart's Piano Sonata in A Major during the sequence that takes place in The Reverend's den, helping to cement the notion that he's a sophisticated aristocrat, and not the sort of man you'd generally associate with cannibalism. Of course, sometimes the music gets downright goofy; one piece in particular sounds strikingly similar to something I'm pretty sure I heard in an episode of Yogi the Bear decades back. On the whole, it's decent, and a bit better than you'd expect for a movie with such a small budget. Overall, I think it's *barely* good enough to pass on a technical level, but it's also a fun, enjoyable little exploitation flick, and that earns it a place at least modestly higher than your average D- Horror film. I'd definitely recommend it to fans of exploitation titles, cannibal movies, and general drive-in fare from the gritty '70s; a very under-rated little gem.