Ivan Reitman is a better filmmaker than Robert Simonds. That’s what Todd Philips said on a snowy night in Manhattan when he spotted director-producer on the street. This simple diss led to Phillips making Road Trip and The Hangover with Reitman. Is it true? You really want to see Simonds’ The Pink Panther 2, See Spot Run or Taxi? Or would rather feast on Cannibal Girls?
Reitman directed Stripes, Meatballs and Ghost Busters. He produced Llsa the Tigress of Siberia, Animal House, Heavy Metal, Up In the Air and the Trailer Park Boys movies. He’s as much of an ‘80s icon as Spuds McKenzie. The Canadian Reitman made his first big splash in the USA with Cannibal Girls. The film is legendary since it introduced Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin three years before SCTV. After years of merely reading about it, Cannibal Girls is finally out on DVD.
A town in remote Canada turns out to be an extreme tourist trap. Farnhamville promotes itself as “The Friendly City,” but it’s got a nasty reputation. The local legend is about three attractive girls who lure men to their house where they butcher them up. Of course this is only a legend when a local elderly lady tells the tale to Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin. They’re a couple on a vacation. They’re become stranded in Farmhamville with nothing to do. Turns out the house of the cannibal girls has been turned into a restaurant. This is the ultimate tourist trap for the morbid.
Turns out the rumors of the cannibal girls aren’t highly exaggerated. They are real. They are sexy. And they are hungry. As an appetizer, they tempt three men to their house. The guys think they’re going to get lucky with the hotties. However they end up getting served in an extreme fashion. Next on the plate is Levy and Martin. The couple arrive at the house for what might be their last meal. They can’t count on the locals to be any help since the cannibal girls are the cottage industry. This town likes fresh and inexpensive meat.
Levy and Martin are a perfect couple. They both compete for having the biggest hair on screen. Levy looks like he’s smuggling poodles with his shaggy hairdo and bushy semi-Fu Manchu mustache. He’s supposed to be a rock musician. The bag of hair on his head makes him resemble a member of Blue Cheer. They both dress in extreme ’73 fashions. Levy’s knitted tie is an art project.
While Cannibal Girls is not a double feature, there’s two different versions of the film on the DVD. When it was originally released, Reitman had a warning bell in the audio mix. Right before a violent scene, an alert would sound so audience members could close their eyes. It’s a perfect William Castle stunt. When you play this soundtrack option, the movie’s a comedy. When you choose to hear the movie straight, it’s a good ‘70s creepfest. The comic touches aren’t overwhelming in nature. This doesn’t play like an SCTV sketch from Count Floyd’s Monster Chiller Horror Theater. The gore remains rather bloody with cannibal flourishes. With this optional audio gimmick, Reitman delivers both the horror and comedy without compromise. All Robert Simonds appears capable of doing turning a comedy into horror as witnessed in Just Married and Corky Romano. Cannibal Girls was worth the wait and a proper dessert after a hearty meal.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer maintains the gritty look of ‘70s films. The colors on Levy’s tie do pop. The audio is mono. This was a low budget production so the sound is rather rough. But it adds to the harsh nature of the gore moments.
Warning Bell! is the audio track that give you the ring before the knives come out.
Cannibal Guys (26:46) gets Daniel Goldberg and Ivan Reitman discussing how they came up with the film. This makes up for the lack of a commentary track as they get all the stories out.
Meat Eugene (19:40) is Richard Crouse interviewing Eugene Levy in a butcher shop. Crouse looks like he was transported from the ‘70s. Levy reflects about how his college years shaped his career including longtime friendships with Martin Short and Dave Thomas. He also met Andrea Martin and Ivan Reitman there which led to making the film.
Theatrical Trailer (2:13) reminds us of a town that has strangers arrive for lunch and stick around to be dinner.
TV Spot (1:00) sells the sex appeal and then reminds us of the warning bell gimmick.
Radio Spots (1:30) is classic AIP exploitation audio. They knew how to scare you on the radio dial back in 1973.
Cannibal Girls comes with the triple talent threat of Ivan Reitman, Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin. Reitman juggles the slight comedy with the horrific action without reducing it to a camp stew. Levy and Martin are made for each other as the couple stuck in the sweet and creepy small town. The ending doesn’t disappoint. A great low budget effort from a trio of future superstars.
Shout! Factory presents Cannibal Girls. Directed by: Ivan Reitman. Starring: Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Ronald Ulrich, Randall Carpenter and Bonnie Neilson. Running Time: 82 minutes. Released on DVD: October 26, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.