Cannibal gals, won’t you come out tonight, won’t you come out tonight…
“This movie is so terrible, it might make some money.”
—Director Ivan Reitman
A couple (Eugene Levy, American Pie, and Andrea Martin, Black Christmas) ends up stuck in a small town when their car breaks down. While it’s in the shop, the young lovers stay at a seedy motel, where they learn a local legend about three beautiful women who seduced men, killed them, and then cooked and devoured them. The couple then visits a local “restaurant,” which is also the home of a bizarre reverend (Ronlad Ulrich) and his three lovely but mysterious lady companions. Could they be…Cannibal Girls?
Every trashy B-movie needs some sort of claim to fame to distinguish itself from all the other trashy B-movies. In the case of Cannibal Girls, that would be the warning bell. How this works is that just before there is a gory scene, a bell goes off, alerting squeamish viewers that something horrific is about to happen so they can turn away from the screen. Then, when the scares are over, a doorbell-like chime plays, letting viewers know that the horror is over, and it’s OK to look again. This only “sort of” works. First, it’s inconsistent, in that there are some bloody shots that are not forewarned by the bell, and in other cases the ending chime goes off when there’s still blood on screen. Second, it’s not so much a bell, but an old-timey car horn going “A-oo-ga! A-oo-ga!” The unexpected loudness of it will startle you more than the fakey karo syrup blood. The bell is also a spoiler of sorts, in that it’s a jump scare before the real jump scare. Basically, it’s a William Castle-style gimmick to get butts in seats for an otherwise ho-hum low budget cannibal flick.
With Reitman, Levy, and Martin involved, you can probably guess that the tone is more horror-comedy than straightforward horror. Levy and Martin improvised a lot of their scenes as the sometimes-bickering, sometimes-horny young lovers, and the dialogue with the titular cannibal girls is loaded with all manner of double entendres about meat and eating. The horror half of the story isn’t as prominent, with the occasional chase through the dark woods at night, or the girls stabbing some poor guy who thinks he’s about to get lucky. The girls don’t eat human flesh just for fun, mind you, but as part of some kind of cult ritual which requires them to (of course) cavort around topless, so there’s that as well.
Some famous funny names, the goofy warning bell, and the promise sexy flesh-eating females might have you thinking that this is a great time at the movies, but, sadly, that’s not the case. Cannibal Girls commits the worst sin a B-movie can commit—it’s boring. Even with a slim 84-minute runtime, the movie is nonetheless loaded with padding. Levy and Martin’s improv contains some funny beats, but these scenes go on forever. Similarly, their endless dinner conversations with the reverend have their moments, but they drag on and on. Subplots about a gruff local cop, a bunch of young tough guys, and the girls’ hunchback-like servant don’t go anywhere. You could cut this whole thing down to about 30 minutes and not lose any of the good stuff.
The pop culture gods and goddesses of Shout! Factory have treated the movie right. The video and audio have been cleaned up. Although there is some specks and grain present, the picture is mostly clean, and the sound is basic, but serviceable. The best of the bonus features is an interview with Reitman and producer Daniel Goldberg. They dish all the dirt about the movie’s creation and distribution, such as how the original nine-day shooting schedule went on for two years, and the legally questionable tactics they took to get the movie a screening at Cannes. Levy is interviewed, in a butcher shop no less, joking about his involvement in the movie, and how ridiculous his hair looks in it. From there, we get the original theatrical trailer, TV spot, and radio spots. Thanks to an alternate audio track, you also have the option of watching the movie with or without the warning bell.
These girls might enjoy meat, but their movie is pure cheese. On the plus side, it’s interesting to see how Ivan Reitman and Eugene Levy got their starts, but on the negative side, this horror-comedy is plodding, with not nearly enough horror or comedy to sustain most viewers’ interests.