Ever hear of the saying, “Never meet your heroes”? There’s a good reason for that; in many cases we build up our heroes to near Greek God-like status and when we meet them we realize they’re just human beings like you and I. In addition to not meeting your heroes I can safely add, “Never watch an older director’s ‘big come back’ film(s).” Well I broke that rule and paid dearly for it.
Land of Death director Bruno Mattei has helmed 55 movies between 1970 and 2007 (when he died). His heyday was definitely from 1980 to 1986 (some would argue 1988) when he made his most enjoyable exploitation and zombie films. You’ll note that I didn’t say “good exploitation films”. Ya really can’t call Mattei’s flicks “good”. They are hugely entertaining if for nothing else their gore and campy good fun. Then from 1997 to 2000 Mattei dropped off the radar. After that short hiatus Mattei burst back on the scene with 15 (that’s right, count ‘em, 15) movies between 2001 and 2007. In this rather fertile “come back” period, Mattei stayed in his comfort zone and directed the kind of movies he was familiar with: A couple zombie flicks; a “women’s prison” flick; a handful of female-centric dramas; and two cannibal flicks. That’s right, he tried his best to bring back the lurid, shameful, and for me fun cannibal sub-genre. The results are disastrous!!
There’s no way to sugar-coat this people; Land of Death is fucking horrible and is void of any redeeming quality that could make it fun. The plot concerns a group of commandos entering the jungle with a local white expert who knows the lay of the land and which tribes to avoid in order to rescue the general’s daughter. I may have dozed off when the “plot” was being established but I never heard the commando’s mission detailed out that clearly. Commandos fly in, meet with the general, and next thing you know they’re in the jungle. My stomach hurts just thinking about this one.
The alternate titles of Mattei’s 2003 cannibal flicks are Cannibal Holocaust 2 and 3 obviously trying to cash in on Deodato’s ground breaking Cannibal Holocaust (1980). Neither one has anything to do with Deodato’s classic. In fact, the full alternate title of Land is Cannibal Holocaust 3: Cannibal vs. Commando. I’m not even gonna start on how gay and retarded that title is!! But since I’m hoping none of you reading this review will go out and see this flick I will let you in on an amazing secret: Land of Death doesn’t rip off Cannibal Holocaust. Oh no. Land of Death is practically a shot-for-shot ripoff of … wait for it … 1987’s PREDATOR! You heard me, Schwarzenegger’s Predator. I shit you not!! All the evidence you need unfolds neatly before your very eyes: A commando team enters into a hostile jungle not realizing just how hostile it is; we get dead, skinned soldiers hanging upside down from a tree; a soldier, while firing a machine gun, gets his arm cut off and we see the arm fall to the ground in slow motion (just like what happened to Carl Weathers); when its dark out a soldier thinks he’s tracking down and killing the alien (er; I mean cannibal) and when the others get there they find he killed a wild boar; and the end credits are done EXACTLY like the one’s in Predator.
But perhaps my favorite is when Mattei steals one of the classic lines from Predator. Remember Jesse Ventura’s classic, “I ain’t got time to bleed”? Well you’re in for a treat. When the female commando (who cares what her name is; I’ve already forgotten it anyway) is shot and another says to her, “Are you bleeding,” she responds, “I got no time for things like bleeding”!! Yes!! I love it. Mattei is just shameless here.
Forget about this being a Predator rip-off; hell, at least Mattei was trying to rip-off a great movie. This isn’t what makes Land of Death a terrible flick. The acting and dubbing is atrocious (when one soldier looks at something scary his eyes get all wide and he does an exaggerated “gulp” that made him look like Don Kotts); the “cannibals” all look suspiciously like Philippino business men; nothing, and I mean nothing happens action-wise; the fight choreography scenes are laughable; and the gore scenes look like they were done by a 10 year old (there’s a leg amputation scene that looks like an undercooked meatloaf). But on the plus side, Land of Death has a real plucky theme song that is used to death over and over again. It sounds like the music to a 1970’s Italian romantic comedy. Blech.
It seems that Mattei was also having some fun (well fun for him, anyway) with the character’s names: We have a Romero, a Cameron, and a Krueger. Good one buddy!! Look, you know I’m always one for a fun and gory cannibal flick. This one is neither. Mattei thought he was making a movie combining Predator and Cannibal Holocaust, but what he actually made was a combo of a shitty film and incompetence. Definitely skip this one.
Director: Bruno Mattei
Plot: 1 out of 5 stars
Gore: 1.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer