Readers who have followed our Facebook page for the last year or so may recall seeing posts that I had shared (indirectly) promoting the then-upcoming British “creature feature” The Young Cannibals. Realistically speaking, you really wouldn’t have had to follow our site at all as many other horror-centric media outlets spotlighted the film, usually making a joke in reference to film’s title being awfully close to that of 80’s pop group The Fine Young Cannibals. I too made a few references to Roland Gift, somewhat hoping that at least 25% of the people reading wouldn’t actually know the name of the singer for the aforementioned band.
I will admit that I had forgotten about the film for the last few months, only to be reminded of its existence when I saw it available on Amazon Prime Video. (The Young Cannibals is also available on VUDU, iTunes, and Showtime’s streaming service.) Seeing as the film had interested me enough to tell others about it, I figured that I should probably stand by my (somewhat, but not exactly) recommendations and finally watch the damned movie. If nothing else, I owe it to those members of the Horror And Sons audience who may still be on the fence about the film, or even those just now hearing of it, to discover if these Young Cannibals really were “fine”.
The answer? I wouldn’t say that they are “fine”, but get me liquored up and I’d probably “hit” it. I wouldn’t want to talk about it in the morning though.
The first detail that will draw the attention of viewers is that The Young Cannibals was picked up for distribution by The Asylum. Yes, The Asylum!! The same Asylum responsible for the Mega Shark films, Sharknado franchise, countless summer blockbuster clones, and the last 15 years of Dean Cain’s career! While I shamelessly confess to enjoying quite a few of The Asylum’s releases, this seems like a surprising connection as The Young Cannibals is very much not in the same vein as a majority of their films. In other words, it takes itself seriously.
As the film opens, we find two men devouring what was once a colleague of theirs, seemingly trapped on a snow-covered mountain. A third man declines to join them, refusing to stoop to such savage depths, despite the need to eat. Soon after, an unseen force tosses one of the flesh eaters through the air before ripping him to shreds. The surviving men can only watch the slaughter before the film’s title screen appears.
Ethan (Benjamin Sarpong-Broni) is visiting his girlfriend Nat (Megan Purvis), a patient in a mental health facility since her recent suicide attempt. The couple have devised a plan to “break” Nat out for the weekend in order to celebrate her birthday with a special camping trip with their friends. Nat will be returned the following Monday, and the couple are prepared to face whatever consequence awaits them upon her return.
After some deception involving a cupcake, the couple are free from the facility and on their way to the campsite. While I do not believe it is clearly stated just where they will be camping, the trip would appear to take some time, which provides the filmmakers ample opportunity to showcase our lovers’ true compassion and dedication to each other. Possibly more importantly, it also provides an opportunity to showcase some simply stunning aerial shots of the Welsh countryside.
A surprise invitee to the birthday celebration is Nat’s estranged brother, Teddy (Samuel Freeman), whom she has not seen since before her mother’s death a few years prior. Nat believes that her brother ran away rather than face their mother’s impending demise, which in turn instigated the woman losing the will to fight. As one might expect, Nat is less than pleased by Teddy’s presence.
What follows requires the viewer to suspend disbelief to supernatural levels in order to accept the premise of the film. Despite driving for miles into the middle of nowhere for the trip, the land on which they will be camping is actually owned by someone. In this case, that “someone” is Blackwood (David Patrick Stucky), the surviving flesh eater from the opening sequence, albeit now somewhat older. After walking the oddly short distance from their site to Blackwood’s house in order to pay for their stay, the man gives the campers a container of raw hamburger patties; a free meal as part of their stay. Little do they know that the patties have been “laced” with human flesh. Of course, the friends unquestioningly eat the free burgers. All except the vegan member of the group, that is.
Blackwood soon resurfaces to not only reveal what they’ve truly eaten, but to also take them hostage. All except the vegan member of the group, that is. Blackwood reveals that the woods are home to a creature that stalks, kills, and eats those that have eaten human flesh. A carnivore, if you will. Our campers will now be used as bait in the hopes that if the monster feeds on them, it will leave Blackwood be for a while. Now, I’m not sure how far these mountains from the opening sequence are located from the campsite, but they can’t be close, so I guess we should assume that this creature’s hunting grounds cover an incredibly large area.
Sure enough, the creature does begin hunting the friends, claiming its prey one by one. While it manages to claim its first victim rather expeditiously, there is a sizable stretch of time before anything else of real significance occurs. There’s the inevitable tension between Nat and Teddy, who proves to be the coward she believed him to be, as well as tension between the group as a whole as they run and hide for their lives.
However, it is this glacial pacing that proves to be The Young Cannibals biggest misstep. The film follows the route that one might expect it to, occasionally making key moments feel somewhat predictable, but ultimately just comes off as slow and even a tad tedious. Given that the creature is not shown as much as the promotional materials for the film may suggest, large portions of the film boil down to nothing more than actors in the woods running from the camera, which makes the finished product feel a little lower-budgeted than it actually is.
When the creature is shown, it is usually hidden in shadows or shot from a distance, which (once again) seems like a stark contrast to the creature being clearly visible on promotion materials and site listing images. That said, I never found the design to be particularly effective. That’s not to say that it’s poorly created, but I never felt all that moved either way by the damned thing. It’s possible that I found the design to be too human, as the creature almost looks like a shorter, tailless version of Pumpkinhead.
In many ways, The Young Cannibals reminded me a lot of Neil Marshall’s The Descent, albeit with a few moments from Predator thrown in. That said, The Young Cannibals is nowhere near as entertaining and memorable as either of those films. While gore should never be a deciding factor in a horror film’s worth, I was disappointed to find that most of the film’s bloodshed happens off-screen.
The Young Cannibals does feature strong performances throughout, but that unfortunately only goes so far when the majority of the characters aren’t overly likable and tend to have little to do besides running around while looking scared and bickering. The Young Cannibals does feature a standout synth score by Gabe Castro, who also worked on 2012’s The Apparition and Citadel, that I’d happen to listen to at home, and which may have created more suspense than anything that happened on the screen.
By the time that The Young Cannibals‘ final act rolled around, I found myself highly disinterested and longing to do other things. The highest form of damnation that I can possibly lay upon a film is that I would rather be doing anything else, which is truly sad when one considers just how well made this film actually is. Maybe the fault lies in editing, but I found The Young Cannibals to be a case of having all of the right puzzle pieces, but failing to make them fit.
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