Let me start by assuring you that I have seen Ruggero Deodato's Ultimo Mondo Cannibale and Cannibal Holocaust, and Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox, but I have never been a big fan of the so called cannibal genre. On the contrary, I strongly disapprove Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox, because both movies have simply gone too far. They include jungle footage that depicts real violence towards animals. Clearly, that is not tolerable, and therefore I urge all horror film fans to boycott those movies. Please do not buy, rent or even watch them. It might even be worthwhile to boycott all Deodato and Lenzi movies.
When it comes to the cannibal genre, Marino Girolami's Zombi Holocaust is a strange movie in that it incorporates elements from both the zombie films and the cannibal films. It is also a particularly direct rip-off. If you watch the movie, you will notice that it is an almost one-to-one copy of Fulci's Zombi 2, although it is worse in every respect. Even if clumsy, I consider Zombi Holocaust as okay. Despite its shortcomings, it still does enough to be entertaining and you will probably get goods laughs from watching it.
Back in the 1980s, I always wanted to see Antonio Margheriti's Apocalypse Domani (Cannibal Apocalypse), but was unable to track down an uncut print. Unfortunately all the VHS video tapes available were censored, and I certainly did not want to spend my hard earned money on copies ruined by the fools who advocate censorship.
Finally, in 2010, thirty years after the original release, when visiting a local movie store that specializes in all kinds of hard-to-find films, I quite accidentally came across The Euroshock Collection widescreen special edition of the Apocalypse Domani. I spotted the DVD lying on a shelf stacked with dozens of other DVDs, and it immediately struck me that this could be an opportunity I had been waiting for a very long time. I asked the guy behing the desk whether the version was uncut. He replied that it was an uncensored version. The DVD was a used one, in a perfect condition, and cost only 10 EUROs, so I was happy to add it to my shopping cart, among Margheriti's 1973 La Morte Negli Occhi del Gatto (Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye) and Paolo Cavara's 1971 La Tarantola dal Ventre Nero (The Black Belly of the Tarantula). It turned out to be a very good snag indeed.
Not surprisingly, it is a rule of the thumb for the cannibal films to be set in a jungle. In this respect Apocalypse Domani is a very welcome digression from the de facto standard. Not counting the opening sequence, Margheriti's film is entirely set in an urban city environment, which is what I love. Personally, I do not enjoy watching seminaked, mud-stained cannibals jumping around in the jungle environment. After the initial novelty, the jungles are very boring, and all the scenarios usually look pretty much the same.
I did not have huge expections for the Apocalypse Domani. Instead, during the years of waiting, I had just developed a certain unfulfilled curiosity about what this film would be like. I did know the plot, which is very simple: there is a contagious virus spreading around, and the victims infected by the virus turn into raging cannibals. This is very much like a storyline from a simple, enjoyable comic book.
The australian Cannibal Apocalypse poster features a hilarious tag line: "Crazed cannibals alive in the city... terrorising the streets! See them before they eat you." That is basically what this film is about, except that the pacing might perhaps not be so fast as you could expect based on reading the advertisements. Please do not get me wrong, though. There is enough action to keep one interested, and I am very happy to say that I liked this film a lot. It has a particularly good performance by Giovanni Lombardo Radice (a.k.a. John Morghen). Radice, a familiar face to many italian horror movie fans, plays Charlie Bukowski, a crazy and creepy Vietnam veteran who is one of the first infected by the dangerous cannibal virus. John Saxon is also good in his role as another war veteran, Norman Hopper, who was Bukowski's captain in Vietnam.
It is interesting that after viewing the film, I heard a rumour saying that John Saxon has tried to badmouth this film, or at least to avoid mentioning it when discussing his career. If the rumour is true, it is quite ridiculous. The Apocalypse Domani is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. It can be taken as a pretty sleazy film, to be sure, but that is perfectly all right. In fact, many people admire certain italian films precisely because of their courageous portrayal of sleaze, and of other less than comfortable aspects of our society.
The american horror films usually lack character and style, as they have been watered down to satisfy the censorship authorities' stupid demands, and thus they often fall flat on their faces (of course there are some refreshing unrated exceptions like Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead or Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator). In contrast, the italian movies have much less inhibitions, and the directors in general are not afraid to push the limits even to the sometimes unpleasant extremes.
All in all, I give two thumbs up for the Apocalypse Domani. It has solid actor performances and steady but not exceptional direction. The action parts are nice. I also liked the soundtrack, which is rather simple but effective, and I think just right for this kind of film. It keeps on pounding as the action rolls.
However, I do want to stress one very crucial factor: like always, please make absolutely sure that you will watch the uncut version. Otherwise you will miss lots of action, as I have been told that the censored versions often remove almost all violent scenes. If you stick with the uncut version, I can practically guarantee good laughs, and for those with a weak stomach or little experience with sleazy kind of films, I can also guarantee some nauseating moments. Just do not have unrealistic expectations and Apocalypse Domani will surely not disappoint, but provide you with a very entertaining evening.