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2007 - 82m.

The jungle cannibal picture is somewhat of a lost art form. We have seen variations in recent years in the form of the Wrong Turn movies and other backwoods horrors but aside from The Green Inferno, I can't remember the last time that I saw some natives chowing down on civilized people who are way out of their element. The cannibal craze was last seen in the early 80's with movies like Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive but since then has vanished just like the mythical people who are feared in the films. Of course, the most famous film in this genre is Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust which has clearly inspired director Jonathan Hensleigh and he does a surprisingly good job of pulling off a fitting tribute to a genre that has all been left for dead.

The film follows the journey of four young people who decide on the spur of the moment to travel to Papau New Guinea to search for Michael Rockefeller who disappeared in 1961 while on an expedition to study the Aswat people in the region. The four of them figure that they will get rich if they can find evidence that Rockefeller was indeed eaten by cannibals as legend suggests. Once they get into the wild, the true personalities of the new friends emerge and we clearly see a distinction between the "good" couple and the "bad" couple. After much bickering, the couples split up and eventually meet up with the local natives after they deface a burial ground. As the film is shot with hand-held camera in a found-footage style, we see the action through the eyes of the separate cameras as the couples travel down the river in search of both Rockefeller and an exit.

Resurrecting a dormant genre is always a tricky proposition as there have been so many expectations established going in. As Jamie Kennedy spoke about in the first Scream movie, there are rules to certain types of movies that need to be followed for them to be successful. Hensleigh takes a while to get the action going in this flick but when the payoff finally comes, he does a good job of mixing in what cannibal fans have come to expect with modern day characters and attitudes. The scenes where the natives are introduced are very effective as they stalk their prey from the banks of the river and eventually unleash violence. There are some obvious references to Cannibal Holocaust including a modified version of the infamous pole shish kebab gag. Although not as gruesome as its predecessor, there are still moments of gore that will unsettle most viewers. Animal lovers will be happy to know that there is no animal violence in this film.

I was surprised to see the director of The Punisher remake choose such a low budget picture as his next project. Even more surprising was seeing big-budget producer Gale Ann Hurd (Aliens, Terminator 2) attached but it made more sense when I realized that she is married to Hensleigh. This movie was made on a shoestring but Hensleigh's experience behind the camera and knowledge of the genre along with a good choice of actors and shooting on location in Fiji makes for an interesting and realistic take on a lost genre. His choice to only give the actors an outline and have them improvise the scenes was a wise one and adds to the realism as they become more aggravated with each other. In particular, Nick Richey as Mikey stands out as the obnoxious jerk who antagonizes everyone he comes into contact with and has a smarmy attitude that makes you cheer for the cannibals. I can't see this type of movie making a full-blown comeback but this is a decent homage to a type of film that is nearly extinct. (Josh Pasnak, 3/7/2023)

Directed By: Jonathan Hensleigh.
Written By: Jonathan Hensleigh.

Starring: Sandi Gardiner, Callard Harris, Nick Richey, Veronica Sywak.