Theater Thoughts

Reviewer: John Carpenter

Release date: 6/8/1973
84 mins/Rated R

Here is a fun game.  With Halloween right around the corner, give your friends a choice.  Ask them if they would rather watch a movie directed by Ivan Reitman which stars Eugene Levy or ‘Cannibal Girls’.  Pairing Ivan Reitman of ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘My Super Ex-Girlfriend’ fame with Eugene Levy (‘Best in Show’ and ‘’The Man’) could be comedic gold or garbage – depending on how much you have had to drink.  Either way, their collaboration should be good for a couple of laughs.  On the other end of the spectrum, a movie called ‘Cannibal Girls’ brings the likes of Herschell Gordon Lewis to mind.  The title implies a sort of crazy exploitation flick the seventies are known for.  Only the hardcore movie freaks will realize that these options both lead to the same movie.

Clifford (Eugene Levy) and Gloria (Andrea Martin) are lost and their car is on its last leg.  They decide to stop in a small town to have their vehicle repaired and stay in a motel.  While there, they hear an urban legend about a trio of girls who lure men into their home only to eat them.  The meat supposedly keeps the girls young and beautiful.  Curiosity gets the best of Clifford and Gloria.  They decide to have a meal in the infamous house turned restaurant and are greeted by the Reverend Alex St. John (Ronald Ulrich).  He wines and dines the couple, keeping their minds at ease and setting them up for horror.  Anthea (Randall Carpenter), Clarissa (Bonnie Neilson), and Leona (Mira Pawluk) are more than just the Reverend’s assistants – they are the cornerstone of the cannibalistic tale.

‘Cannibal Girls’ is one of Reitman’s earliest flicks starring two leads who are now known for their comedy more than anything else.   The highlights should have been Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin.  Undoubtedly the most successful of all cast members, these two found themselves overshadowed by Ronald Ulrich.  He has a calm demeanor similar to Tom Noonan’s Mr. Ulman in ‘The House of The Devil’, but Ulrich adds a grindhouse twist of humor.  Dressed like Coffin Joe, he is the perfect ringleader to the trio of cannibal girls and had the audience laughing numerous times with his devious smile, intense stare and seemingly well mannered conversations.  As the trailer promotes, the three girls are indeed young, beautiful and very….very sexy, but do little to stand out during the film.  ‘Cannibal Girls’ is similar to ‘Motel Hell’, but not as memorable.

There are two versions of ‘Cannibal Girls’.  One version has a ‘warning bell’ and one version does not.  The ‘warning bell’ alerts viewers to upcoming gore.  If the bell rings, the squeamish need to cover their eyes or brace for blood.  The version I saw did not have the warning bell.  There were certainly some bloody scenes and a fair share of nudity, but nothing that I would think merits a warning bell.  While it may have been humorous to have a bell alert a crowd of hardcore horror junkies, I’m glad to save the novelty for the DVD.

Andrea Martin more than made up for ‘Cannibal Girls’ by following it with Bob Clark’s excellent ‘Black Christmas’.  Eugene Levy and Ivan Reitman pretty much dove head first into comedy and never looked back.  ‘Cannibal Girls’ is the type of film that needs a six pack of beer and a few friends to find its way into your good graces.  Ronald Ulrich steals every scene he is in.  It is a shame that this was his final movie.  While Terror Tuesday is known for 35MM prints of films, a miscommunication left the crowd with a master copy of the film on blu-ray.  Naturally, ‘Cannibal Girls’ looked as good as it will ever look on the copy we screened.  The film showed its age, but was restored well.   The film will available on DVD later this month.  The ‘Warning Bell’ version can be found at Diabolik DVD on October 26th.

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