Director: Richard Driscoll
Writer: Richard Driscoll
Producer: Richard Driscoll
Cast: Steven Craine (ie. Richard Driscoll), Linnea Quigley, Eileen Daly
Year of escape: 2001
Reviewed from: UK DVD (Film 2000)
Kannibal is very possibly the worst British horror film ever made. Ever. At all. Bar none.
And remember that I’m the person who found nice things to say about Virgin Witch...
When the same person writes, directs and produces a film and stars in it too, albeit under a different name, then you know you’re dealing with a vanity project, and that’s never a good sign. Is Kannibal as bad as The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Rock’n’Roll Musical? Not quite, but only because it hasn’t got any awful songs in it.
Richard Driscoll is a legend among fans of British horror movies. Well, I say legend; I mean joke. Here’s a succinct summary of the man’s career, courtesy of Pass the Marmalade webmaster Darrell Buxton, from a discussion on the British Horror Films forum:
“Driscoll produced and directed a terrible mid-’80s movie called The Comic, all about a stand-up comedian who murders a rival and buries him in the garden - for some reason the film is set in a near-future fascist Britain but it doesn't really make any more sense than the rest of the movie or add anything to it. Richard also produced the Fhiona Louise movie Cold Light of Day [One of the final releases by Screen Edge - MJS], which purports to tell the story of Dennis Nilsen but does so in an extremely slow and uninteresting way. Driscoll took prints of both films to the legendary 'Splatterfest' event, held at the Scala Cinema in King's Cross in February 1990 - but since we'd all sat spellbound through the amazing Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and laughed our heads off at Rabid Grannies by the time The Comic was unspooled, Driscoll's film got a disastrous reaction from the audience and was almost booed off screen! He was last seen disappearing into the King's Cross night, clutching both movies (we never got to see Cold Light of Day and I eventually caught it years later).”
In 2001 Driscoll re-emerged with Kannibal, the most shameless rip-off of Hannibal imaginable. The sleeve is designed to look like the Hannibal sleeve, with ‘Steven Craine’ pictured a la Hannibal Lecter. (The stage name is because there’s already an actor named Richard Driscoll; he played a vicar in EastEnders.) Even the tag-line ‘Break the silence’ has been shamelessly - and meaninglessly - aped as ‘Keep the silence from breaking’. Without exactly following the plot of Silence of the Lambs or its sequel, Driscoll’s film lifts scenes, shots, ideas, images and dialogue wholesale.
Let’s say something good about the film. The production values are mostly top-notch. Sets are lavish, locations are impressive, props and set-dressings are luxurious, and there are large numbers of extras in scenes which require them. This is not half a dozen people trapped in one location. With second-unit work in the USA and Italy, the cost of this film must have been considerably more than many recent British horror flicks.
But... the direction is lame, the script (quite apart from its unoriginality) is banal, and the acting is almost uniformly dreadful. No, dreadful is too mild a word. The actors who are merely dreadful are among the better ones here. Let’s put it this way: if a six-year-old acted this badly in a nativity play, they would be recast as one of the sheep.
The overly complicated plot has Linnea Quigley, looking about a hundred (she was actually 42 when this was shot) and never removing her sunglasses, even when naked, as Georgina Thereshkova, heiress to a US-based Russian organised crime ring dealing in prostitution, pornography and drugs. She inherits this from her mother, who is found murdered in a grisly prologue; presumably she also inherited the extraordinary accent she uses. It’s meant to be Russian but sounds uncannily like Steve Martin doing his impression of a Frenchman.
We pick up two years on from Thereshkova Snr’s death, when Georgina has transplanted to London, hiding her activities behind a company called NewTech. It wouldn’t be a British horror film without Eileen Daly (Razor Blade Smile, Witchcraft X, Pervirella, Demonsoul etc) and here she plays Tanya Sloveig, Georgina’s PA. Within five minutes, bisexual Georgina has her PA pressed up against a corridor wall, has ripped open her PA’s jacket - no bra, quelle surprise - and is asking her, “Do you want to fuck?” Before you know it, she is mechanically manhandling her PA’s breasts while Eileen does her best not to look bored. Ten years ago this might have been erotic, or even interesting, but neither actress is an ingenue and frankly it’s enough to turn the stomach of the devoutest heterosexual.
Now, I like Eileen Daly. I’ve met her a few times. I’ve had breakfast with her. She’s lovely. But she’s not the world’s greatest actress. However, compared to Richard Driscoll himself - ‘Steven Craine’ - she is like a RADA graduate. Craine/Driscoll cannot act. At all. He’s not a bad actor, he’s a non-actor. Is he trying to mimic Anthony Hopkins? Quite possibly. Is he reading off idiot boards? Probably not, which is a shame as it might have improved his performance.
Of course, there’s no director to tell him what he’s doing wrong. And nobody else on set is going to say anything because he’s also the producer so he’s paying their wages. He ‘stars’ as a police pathologist called Kavanagh, who is actually the mysterious Quinn responsible for Valentina Thereshkova’s death. Honestly, that’s not a spoiler. Because you’re never going to watch this film. Not if you have any self respect whatsoever.
Watching Driscoll act is a painful experience. And there are lots of close-ups of him mixed into various other scenes and montages. The man’s barely off-screen, yet he has the presence and charisma of a house brick. There are a few people in the cast who can act. Steve Evans as Police Sergeant Webber is not bad, and Vass Anderson (Life Story, series two of Auf Wiedersehen Pet, and a small role as one of the elders of Krypton in Superman) brings some characterisation to his under-written role as an old guy who has taken over the US branch of the Thereshkova operation. Probably the best actor in the whole film is Tim Reynolds who has a tiny role as director of a porn movie about an SS Officer raping a nun.
Anyway, various people are being killed. “That’s five dead in the past six months, all young women,” says Webber as he watches Kavanagh remove cocaine-filled condoms from a prosthetic body so badly made and plastic-looking that it actually has a visible seam down the side. Next to go is Georgina’s cousin, drug baron Salvatore Sabine (fine old Russian name).
Then we meet the Inspector.
I have no hesitation in saying that Lucien Morgan is The Worst Actor In The World and I challenge you to find me a worse one. This man would be thrown off the set of a Santo movie. He’s worse than the American GIs roped in to play themselves in Junk. He’s shit beyond belief. He’s even worse than ‘Steven Craine’. Morgan’s previous greatest hit was as one of the ‘actors’ in the fake porno flick seen in An American Werewolf in London. In an extraordinarily over-the-top performance as monocled Inspector Lewis Reed, he mis-emphasises everything, pronounces words oddly, and his every stance, his every expression betrays the hideous truth that Somebody Told This Man He Could Act. No. No, Lucien, you can’t act to save your life. Become an accountant, a dustbin-man, an MP, anything. Just stop trying to act. You know why I’m not an airline pilot? Because I don’t know the first bloody damn thing about how to fly a plane! Do you see the analogy here?
Anyway, back to the overly complex plot... no, sod it, forget the plot. I already have and I only finished watching this crap thirty minutes ago. Imagine if you took all the memorable bits of Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, made them not as good, cast them with shit actors, jumbled them up a bit and filmed them expensively. That’s what you’ve got here. Parts of it make no sense at all (the sequence in Florence seems to have fallen in from a different film) and those that do make sense are boring, the only spark of interest being the gall with which the two better-known (and it goes without saying, better) films are ripped of. Even details like the chianti and the fava beans are included. (When I say ‘better’, this should not be construed as any suggestion that I thought Hannibal was anything other than a pile of crap. I also seem to be the only person in the world who can see the gaping plot holes in Silence of the Lambs. We now return you to your review.)
I’ve got nothing against B-movie makers producing cut-price cash-ins of A-movies. That’s been going on since Rocketship X-M beat Destination Moon into cinemas half a century ago. But normally it involves some degree of wit, some chutzpah, some alternative take on the basic concept. The Terminator a hit? Okay, let’s make Nemesis. Let’s just take the concept of a cyborg built like a brick shit-house travelling back in time and do our own spin on it. Not: let’s reshoot a bunch of scenes from The Terminator in a different order with shit actors and call it The Derminator.
And throughout this whole dreadful film you have the incredible non-acting ability of Driscoll and Morgan, frequently both together. It’s unwatchable, it really is. But they’re not alone. The very first voice we hear is a US newsreader describing the police discovery of Valentina Thereshkova’s death and the actress (let’s name the guilty: Mandy Adams) is more wooden than a stripped pine wardrobe. It doesn’t get any better after that.
All of which is a shame because, as I say, the film looks gorgeous (crappy prosthetics aside) thanks to cinematographer Peter Thornton (Out of Bounds/Dead in the Water, the Welsh western Guns of Honour, also camera operator on The Curse of King Tutankhamen’s Tomb) and production designer Bill Alexander (David Wickes’ versions of Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde, also art director on The Sweeney, Minder and Van Der Valk). The most extraordinary name in the credits is script supervisor Renee Glynne whose career in continuity extends from late 1940s Hammers such as The Man in Black and The Adventures of PC 49 to recent British horrors like Simon Hunter’s excellent Lighthouse, John Stewart’s The Asylum and, well, this. Along the way she has worked on such notable titles as Spaceways, Stolen Face, The Quatermass Xperiment, Fanatic, The Nanny, Curse of the Fly, Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, A Room with a View, Beyond Bedlam, The Krays, Catweazle and, um, Delta Force II. What a career!
Kannibal is bad enough, but on the DVD you also get a commentary track by egomaniac Driscoll, singing the praises of his creation, and a featurette, The Making of Kannibal (as if anybody cared). As with the commentary, in The Making of Driscoll explains how good his film is - but this time you can marvel at how he is saying it with a straight face. He must genuinely believe the crap he spouts, because we’ve already established that he’s no actor. The film will appeal to people who enjoyed movies like Hannibal and The Silence of the Lambs, according to Driscoll. No, they’re the last people it will appeal to. Though it might appeal to people who have never seen - or even heard of - either film, perhaps, if anybody in the cast could act.
Anyway, back on the DVD there’s a trailer and a short film which is, if anything, even worse than Kannibal. Surely you lie, MJ! No sir, because Inspector’s Diaries is a solo turn by Lucien Morgan in ‘character’ as Inspector Reed. In this staggeringly amateurish nine-minute quickie (which seems to last for a good half-hour), Morgan/Reed talks straight to camera, taking us through the history of movies based on real-life serial killers: Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, etc. “We begin with this man,” he says. “Jack the Ripper. ... Who was he? ... Who knows ... who he was? ... Do you?”
I wish I could say that every single thing about Kannibal is shit, but it is very nicely photographed and the sets are good. However, as they say, you don’t come out of the theatre humming the sets. It’s such a tragedy that, while many British indie horror flicks are scraping funds together, Driscoll has somehow got his hands on the cash to make something this lavish. But the other tragedy is that no amount of production value can disguise the facts: the script stinks, the direction stinks, and the acting stinks.
Driscoll had hopes in 2001, as indeed he had ten years earlier, of setting up his own Hammer-style studio. Thankfully this has never appeared and his only subsequent film has been a thriller called Alone in the Dark which stars Driscoll/Craine again with Robin Askwith (proving that you can go downhill after Queen Kong), the ubiquitous Ms Daly and 1980s teen heart-throb Jason Donovan! (Still unreleased, this movie will need to change its title in order to avoid being confused with the video game adaptation directed by Uwe Boll. Or, being a Richard Driscoll production, it probably won’t.) Among his announced plans were such unsubtle homages as Blade Hunter, Harry and the Wizard and Legend of the Rings - ‘based on the best-selling book’: erm, which book would that be? - which were all promoted with full-page ads in the 2001 MIFED brochure, plus an all-CGI animated feature to be called ... Toy Monsters. In 2001 Driscoll attended a Fangoria convention in New York where he mentioned a film called The Raven starring Christopher Walken, saying he had already shot Walken’s scenes and that the film was “the Poe story with a Lara Croft spin on the material”...! (Apart from anything else: Poe’s 'The Raven' is not a story, it’s a bloody poem, you numbskull!)
The single scariest thing in this pitiful excuse for a horror movie is the final, post-credits caption: ‘The Kannibal will return’ - please God, no. And in the whole sorry, frankly tedious mess there is one moment of genuine entertainment, in The Making of Kannibal, when Richard Driscoll says of his masterpiece, “It’s like an opera version of Tosca.”
MJS rating: D-
No, that’s still too generous. F
Well, the photography was very good. Okay then. F+
Review originally posted before November 2004