Island of the Cannibal Death Gods (2011) – By Cary Conley

OK, any time you have a film with a title like this and an opening prologue thanking Roger Corman, H.G. Lewis, Russ Meyer and Lloyd Kaufman, you know what kind of film you’re going to see.

A movie star, his hanger-on brother-in-law, and the star’s agent decide to take an exotic vacation to get away from the grind. They hire an attractive but tough-as-nails female captain to take them on a Caribbean fishing jaunt. On their way through several islands, the captain tells the trio about the pirate lore, especially the rumors surrounding one particular island, believed to still harbor a tribe of primitive cannibals. As they motor past the mysterious island, they see an abandoned boat washed ashore. Naturally, they must stop to investigate. Will the group survive the day on the deadly island? Will they meet up with this dangerous and deadly tribe of cannibals? There’s only one way to find out–you must see this movie for yourself.

Cannibal Death Gods is a true homage to the shoestring budget filmmakers of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. As such, the filmmakers have created an intentionally hokey film which may or may not suit the viewer, depending upon whether you like "trash" movies (and I’m using that term lovingly here).

First, the bad: it takes 45 minutes for the foul-talking group of motor mouths to reach the mysterious island and a full hour for the cannibals to show up (the film itself clocks in at around 75 minutes). This means that the plot consists of a good deal of rude and crude banter, some of it funny but mostly monotonous and tiresome. In fact, the first two-thirds of the film reminded me of any number of 1950’s sci-fi flicks where the first half of the picture is nothing but dialogue with very little action occurring.
None of these characters are the least bit likable and quickly became annoying as they whined, complained and rolled their eyes like a bunch of pansies. Director Jeff Freeman also chooses to pay his respects to the grindhouse flicks of yesteryear and inserts rolling film clips, white noise, skips, and so on. Unfortunately these "effects," while not really annoying, are obvious and not authentic enough to convince us that this is a real grindhouse effort. Frankly, I’m getting a bit tired of all the grindhouse homages and feel the theme has run its course. The acting is uniformly atrocious, although I’m not sure that this particular aspect of the film should be classed as a negative as the poor acting gives the film a certain low-budget charm.

But there is also plenty to be happy with here. The cannibal girls are absolutely hilarious. We are first introduced to the "natives" as we see one creeping up on the men, crawling on all fours and sticking one leg up in the air for no reason. Later, we see all the beautiful female natives doing a tribal dance that is one of the funniest sequences I’ve ever seen on film. While there are some glaring anachronisms in the film (the cannibal girls are obviously wearing store-bought fabric and use professionally made metal knives that such a primitive tribe clearly could not have), these things are easy to overlook because they are so funny. Plus, a twist ending–which I enjoyed tremendously–explains these seemingly glaring errors is a very creative way. The soundtrack is quite professional and highly enjoyable. It fit the film and the individual scenes perfectly and is a high point of the film.

There are other enjoyably cheesy bits in the film as well. The special effects are bloody without ever going over the top or treading into gross-out territory and are very simply staged and quaintly amateurish, which I believe was the intention. For example, one man is killed and sliced open and his intestines are pulled out. While the intestines looked real enough, there is an extreme close-up of the knife sawing through a clothed torso while the guts ooze out of the slit. Easy enough to accomplish, especially when the "victim" is clothed! In another classic scene, one man gets a machete to the top of the head, a la "Dawn of the Dead" and a million other horror flicks. It’s an obvious trick, with a piece of the machete removed to allow for the curvature of the actor’s head. And during one murder, a piece of equipment can clearly be seen before a cannibal girl rises into frame and blocks the offending object.

Island of the Cannibal Death Gods is a loving tribute to the cheapo films of yesteryear. That could be both a blessing and a curse. Some viewers might class this film as just another bad film made by a bunch of amateurs; but those of us who are a bit more discerning with our low-budget horror/adventure fare might see this as what it truly is, simply a cheap but fun popcorn flick to enjoy and laugh at with a few buddies on a slow Saturday night. It’s a mixed bag, but as long as you understand what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish, you might have fun with this one.

While the film itself doesn’t come with any special features, my copy is a two-disc version with a "Standard Portion" film version as well as a "Ground Chuck Edition" and a "Fast Food Edition." I didn’t have time to compare all three versions so I don’t know what the differences are in each version, if indeed there are differences at all, but my DVD also came with a couple of slick postcards (one is an interactive scratch-and-sniff card to be used at certain points during the movie) as well as a very professional poster of the DVD artwork.

Overall, if you can be a little forgiving of the production and enjoy some classic low-budget campiness, you will probably enjoy Island of the Cannibal Death Gods. If you don’t know who Lloyd Kaufman or H.G. Lewis are, then you probably want to stay far away from this flick. For more information, go to www.cannibaldeathgods.com.