Hardly anything in the world gives me as much pleasure as Italian horror movies. They just make me really happy. Even the really crappy ones like Manhattan Baby (directed by Lucio Fulci) or - heaven forbid - anything directed by Bruno Mattei. Yes, I will sit down to that man's films. I love cannibals, I love zombies, i positively adore all sorts of Italian horror based mayhem. I am also a huge fan of Giallo movies, and as some of you may have read, I wrote an article rating the best Giallo movies a while back. The line dividing Giallo and straight out horror often becomes blurred in Italian cinema. Take a film like Torso (The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence). On one level it is a typical Giallo concerning a murder-mystery - a who dunnit with a masked killer running around - one of the most obvious motifs in the Giallo genre. On another level, it can be read as a typical straight slasher horror film - which is how it was marketed to overseas audiences. In this list, I have mainly tried to focus on pure Italian horror, however some Giallo elements inevitably sneak in. There is a lot of pilfering and copying in Italian horror cinema, so I have attempted to pick the most original movies possible as well as the classics we all know and love. So please enjoy 12 Classic Italian Horror Movies - and if you have your own favourites please list them below.
12. Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)
Starring John "The Man" Saxon and directed by the highly capable Antonio Margheriti, Cannibal Apocalypse is a good fun flesh eating romp which is distinguishable from its fellow cannibal films for not having a jungle setting - instead utilising an urban American back drop. Basically a couple of Vietnam vets were inflicted with a virus that leads to flesh chomping urges. They chow down on the Viet Cong and when they come back to America they are apparently 'cured'. However their cannibal ways come roaring back to life. Spouting the funniest line ever in a cannibal movie - "Oh my God son! Put it down!" (when a police chief comes across an officer chewing a woman's breast), Cannibal Apocalypse is a riotous romp. It borrows heavily from Romero's Dawn of the Dead, for example - the stand off with bikers, but it is highly entertaining as a piece of Italian horror. One famous scene includes poor old Giovanni Lombardo Radice taking a shotgun blast through his abdomen leaving a giant hole for us to peek through. There is also a fun twist ending where we think all of the cannibals have been defeated but then we see a young girl and her brother stowing away pieces of their grandmother in the refrigerator. John Saxon is a towering presence in the movie and adds a real touch of class into the proceedings. However, when he realised what he had signed up for, he was most displeased to find himself in an Italian exploitation cannibal movie. He refuses to discuss the movie which is an embarrassment to him and he was probably happy to see it banned in Britain during the Video Nasty brouhaha. The characters in the film are well developed and interesting. Saxon's portrayal of Norman Hooper - living a normal life at first and then degenerating into an unrepentant cannibal is skilfully handled by Margheriti. The disco soundtrack is annoying and inappropriate but the film as a whole is one of the best examples of the cannibal film which at least tries to do something different and interesting compared to the other entries in the subgenre. John Saxon should be loving his appearance in this film instead of dissing it!