Horror Movie Review: Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

The story surrounding the lead actor in Cannibal Apocalypse is way more interesting than the movie as a whole. Legendary actor, John Saxon was intrigued by the story twist so agreed to play the role of Norman Hopper, a Vietnam Vet infected with a virus that turns people into cannibals. However, he did not realise that it was an Italian exploitation film based on cannibalism so lost interest in taking part. However, he had already signed up for it so had to go through with it.

He claims to have never seen it & has spoken very poorly about it over the years. His portrayal of the Vietnam Vet, Hopper is both lazy & lacks any real emotion. It’s clear to the viewer that he didn’t want to be there at any stage.

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It’s a pity because he is a very good actor & even here manages to outshine almost everyone on screen.

The movie opens in Vietnam (clearly using stock footage of real Vietnam soldiers) & sees Hopper & his unit attacking an armed village to rescue a couple of American POW’s. Hopper is disgusted to see the pair are eating human flesh & is bitten by one of them, Charlie.

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Years later, Hopper awakens in his home still suffering from nightmares of the horrors he experienced in Vietnam. Meanwhile one of the two POW’s that Hopper rescued has been allowed to leave the mental hospital & decides to contact Hopper in the hope of having a beer. The call disturbs Hopper who gives into the urge he has been fighting, to bite someone. This is the flirtatious young girl who lives next door (in a very uncomfortable scene as she looks like a child).

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As the movie progresses we see Hopper give in to his cannibalistic urges & join forces with Charlie & others in trying to escape police capture.

As I said above, Saxon is pretty terrible here but he is still a cut above many of the other cast who are over-dubbed & lack any kind of realistic emotion. His wife in particular could have been played by a mannequin & it wouldn’t have mattered.

Characters like Charlie get a lot of screen time & work hard in their roles but are given such hammy dialogue that it’s hard to take anything seriously.

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The story is actually a pretty good one at least at the start, I enjoyed the Vietnam connection & it made it seem far more real. Sadly, the latter half of the movie just turns into one long chase scene that never really lifts itself above monotony.

What you’ll remember most about Cannibal Apocalypse is the gore & the music, a mad mix of bloody chunks of flesh thrown about to the soundtrack of funk & jazz. It is quite something & worth a watch for that alone. The gore while only in places is excessive & the imagery of ripped flesh as a person bites into another does stay with you.

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A video nasty once upon a time, it’s hard to see why it got as much attention as it did. As always by modern standards it really isn’t that shocking anymore.

A coherent attempt to tell a story with a lead who couldn’t be arsed, badly dubbed actors elsewhere & the usual high-level of gore that comes with Italian exploitation films. Cannibal Apocalypse does an admirable job of not being a complete mess.


  • Carl Fisher

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Cannibal Apocalypse
  • The Final Score - 5/10
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