Devil Hunter, El Canibal (1980)
Directed by: Jesús Franco
Written by: Jesús Franco, Julian Esteban
Starring: Al Cliver, Antônio do Cabo, Antonio Mayans, Bertrand Altmann, Gisela Hahn, Ursula Buchfellner, Werner Pochath
THE DEVIL HUNTER (1980)
Directed by Jess Franco
A beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed actress named Laura Crawford is kidnapped and held to ransom on an island. Whilst her movie producer boss is prepared to pay the $6 million ransom to get her back, he hires mercenary Peter Weston to bring back the girl but with an added bonus of 10% of the ransom if he can bring back the money too. Whilst the kidnappers think they’re in luck when they spot the helicopter circling the island, little do they know that the location they decided to hide on is home to a tribe who worship a cannibalistic God who roams the tropical jungle.
Euro-cinema director Jess Franco combines images of boggle-eyed cannibals, bloody entrails and naked ladies in his sexploitation jungle action-horror THE DEVIL HUNTER. With the film quickly establishing the island is home to some serious tribal worship that involves offering women up for sacrifice, it’s not hard to realise that the character of Laura Crawford, seen spliced in the opening 5 minutes meeting with the media as an African lady is being hunted down in the jungle, will be the next one to potentially succumb to the flesh-hungry God. It’s how she ends up there in the first place that comes as a bit of surprise until we see her aid Jane watching and acting suspiciously around her. It isn’t long before they put their plan into action and she’s whisked away to a remote location where she’s subjected to torture and rape by her captors as they wait for the ransom money to be delivered.
Italian genre star Al Cliver stars as the moustached merc Weston and is quite the professional hero the film requires as he attempts to rescue the damsel in distress whilst also retaining the millions of dollars. He’s joined by mentally-scarred Vietnam vet Jack, played by Franco regular Antonio Mayans, who appears like he’s more along just for the ride as the helicopter pilot rather than an integral part of Weston’s rescue mission. Whilst outnumbered 4 to 2, Weston and Jack seemed to be a little more prepared than their adversaries but skulking around the jungle is their biggest threat – they just don’t know it yet. Emitting some of the freakiest noises I’ve ever heard, the bloody-eyeballed cannibal god, that is actually made of flesh, stalks through the tropical environment looking for his next victim. We’re told by one character that he’s motivated by his insatiable hunger for human hearts but it seems like any part of the body will do as long it’s from that of a female body. Close-up shots of him tearing flesh with his teeth are quite sinister whilst the rhythmic dancing and the rituals performed before the female sacrifice, as the lead female of the tribe prays to the totem depicting the cannibal god, are just as chillingly hypnotic. Between these acts of human-on-human(god) violence lies an action film as Weston and Jack fight to get the girl. This side of the film is just, if not more, thrilling as the actions of the cannibal god become a little bit monotonous after time, resulting in the main story of rescuing Laura Crawford being the more exciting, dominant one.
There’s an erotic beauty about Jess Franco’s work. Whether it’s lingering on the naked female form for elongated periods of time, or zooming in on their pubic region, there’s a dreamlike sensation about his work. What I do admire is that whilst Franco obviously likes to ogle the female form, he actually puts women in the role of the villain as well, showing both sides of the coin that many other directors may not have bothered with. Never does the film feel pornographic even though it is angled towards male lust with the little male nudity on show being ignored in favour of that of the female physique. Being an admirer of Franco’s work, I’d say that THE DEVIL HUNTER is a more coherent, straight-forward piece of film than some of the others I’ve seen, sticking more towards the horror genre than the surreal. Even the tropical location feels accurately captured, to the point where I almost felt like I was sweating just watching it.
If you’re looking for some real terrifying cannibalistic horror, then you may be disappointed with what THE DEVIL HUNTER has to offer. The horror elements of the film aren’t that scary but are performed with good faith, even if the blood is a little too red to be believed and the throat of a ‘severed head’ can be seen pulsating. If you’re willing to look over these things and the workarounds taken for more challenging, finance-hungry scenes, such as the ‘helicopter crash’, then there’s enough to warrant an entertaining time providing you’re a fan of these types of movies.
THE DEVIL HUNTER is now available on region free Blu-Ray thanks to 88 Films’ release in the UK. Presented in high definition and with extensive regrading carried out in the UK, the video nasty can be watched with dubbed audio or subtitles and also comes with a brilliant 40+ minute extra where critics, writers, Sitges film festival organiser Mike Hostench and actors Dyanne Thorne, Howard Maurer and Antonio Mayans discuss Franco’s body of work – a fascinating addition for any film fan.
Read Matt Wavish’s review of Devil Hunter as part of his Video Nasty series.