Directed by Joaquin Montalvan (Visual Futurist 2006, Saravia 2008), Cannibal Corpse Killers originally cropped up at film festivals in 2018, notably Cinematic Wasteland. Written by Montalvan alongside Eunice Font (Adagio 2002, Noir 2005) and S.E Feinberg (The Happy Worker 2021), now eager viewers can catch it on DVD and digital platforms as of August 18th via Indican Pictures.
With the title being what it is, you are probably asking, “what is the film about?” It is about the end of the world, brought about via a legion of demons. A small group of survivors led by Pike (Dennis Haggard: Mobius 2009) is left to make its way through the hordes of possessed corpses to the city of Jawbone. This is where the demons first rose up, and where their leader, the Magistrate (Ron Jason: High Desert 1993, Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher 2014), plans on building a new world with his own army of cannibal corpses. Can Pike and his crew save what is left of humanity or is it all over?
So it is 1979’s Mad Max meets 1978’s Dawn of the Dead via 1973’s The Exorcist. That sounds wild, except there is a bit more to it than that. The Cannibal Corpse Killers themselves certainly look like something from 1981’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and the cannibal corpses themselves are essentially zombies with a few differences. But there is also a touch of the Wild West in there, with some cowboy characters (like the Magistrate himself), Jawbone’s monster Western-town look, the odd touch of harmonica on the soundtrack, etc.
Still, through all the John Wayne references and Stetsons, the film is a Horror flick at heart. There is blood and gore a-plenty, alongside some Horror-style cinematography and the dramatic tension to go with it. It builds up to the carnage with quieter sequences, ultimately building up to the climax with some Raimi-esque POV and low-level thrumming on the soundtrack.
Outside of that, the film even has some nice visual and establishing shots overall. Not that every shot is a winner. When the action scenes get started, the editing gets messy and frenetic. But when it works, the scenes can look lush without being oversaturated nor dispelling the creepy atmosphere. The film still has a cheapish look to it, while using that to its advantage. It looks more real compared to bigger budget fare via its use of props, lighting, and direction over CGI and other tricks, while looking much more high-end than, say, the Asylum’s films.
So the film is a looker. But what about everything else? Well, that is not quite as grand. The story is not anything to write home about, and the way it plays out is rather ho-hum. It consists mostly of the Cannibal Corpse Killers wandering from set-piece to set-piece, killing monsters and exchanging backstories. Only Pike’s backstory ties the group in with the Magistrate and Jawbone, while narration from Slim (Chris Shumway: Western Religion 2015, Six-Gun Savior 2016) stitches things together. If there was any extra narrative meat beyond this, it fell victim to the cuts along the way.
Then there is the acting. Shumway comes off the best here, having played a range of cowboys for most of the 2010s. Regardless, his understated Slim comes off better than Haggard’s plain, plank-like Pike. Jason is not much better, though he has a raw deal as he is barely on screen. Montalvan’s recurring ‘Psychotic Drifter’ side-character leaves a more lasting impression than the main villain, and Holly’s Ruby gets rougher when she tries to get more emotional. She can certainly scream though: the audio levels can barely contain them.
Ultimately, Cannibal Corpse Killers is a mostly visual treat with some solid makeup and cinematography despite some messy action scenes and angles. But the story is not so grand, as it is basically a series of action set pieces building up to an undercooked villain. The acting ends up adding to the slack instead of compensating for it. Overall it could have been a good exploitation flick – rough yet fun – but instead it is just rough. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Cannibal Corpse Killers 2.5 out of 5 stars.