Cannibal Girls (1973) was – a dubious honour, this – the budding Canadian film industry’s first international B-movie success. The intentionally cheesy horror comedy set out to be all things to all men and, though patchy, very nearly achieved it. To modern eyes it has the cosy nostalgic feel of a hippopotamus wallowing happily in glorious mud. A nude hippo with oodles of breasts. In a mudhole full of axes.
A youthful afro-sporting Eugene Levy (American Pie) and Andrea Martin (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) work with mostly impromptu dialogue as the young couple who – but of course – get stranded in the middle of nowhere, Farnhamville when their car breaks down. While they wait at a local motel the young couple learn of the Farnhamville legend – a trio of tootsies who lure men home purely to murder and devour them. Nor is it just a legend. After an interminably long dinner with the local Reverend Alex Saint John (Ronald Ulrich) and three delightful waitresses who insist on serving the couple lashings of meat, meat and more meat, the couple decide to stay the night – and discover their waitresses are none other than the three cannibal girls of legend. Cannibalism, fake blood and tootsies – what more could anyone wish for?
There’s no doubt Cannibal Girls has a satisfyingly high B-movie cheese ‘n’ sleaze factor. While the dated fashions provide unintentional amusement, the surreal dialogue is presented in a deadpan manner which is more hit than miss. And let’s not forget the tootsies – a blonde, brunette and redhead to suit every taste, so long as your taste extends to vanilla porn automatons fingering carrots like they really, really mean it. If you want occasional bare breasts, pouting clothed ladies writhing in a coyly suggestive manner and endless faux-sexual referrals to ‘meat’ (that’s long pig not loverman-meat, though the distinctions are blurred), then this film’s your dish of the day.
Unfortunately, the pace is a little slow. There’s not much in the way of true horror, in spite of the gimmicky ‘warning buzzer’ added before the squeamish bits so cowards could close their eyes. Incidentally, this gimmick was ripped off from Chamber of Horrors (1966) and William Castle’s pioneeringly self-promotional fright break timer in Homicidal (1961). Pop fact, horror lovers!
I never thought I’d say this but there’s too much show rather than tell in the dragging backstory (normally I’d be firmly on the side of ‘show’ with all your might), but the tale regains its one-two killer punch of dark comedy and squibtastic slasher as the tension rises during the young couple’s meal with the cannibal girls. From then on, it’s just an orgy of oversized underwear, Wicker Man folk songs and running around with axes. If you like quirky drink-and-watch films, or you’re a horror completist, or if you want to see what Reitman got up to before Ghostbusters, Cannibal Girls a cheeky little whirl.