THE CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Monster Week

Directed by: Simon George

Written by: Charlie Foley

Starring: Jim Sturgeon, Richard Brake, Simon Ginty, Sam Swainsbury & Ping Medina

CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE is the most difficult movie that I’ve had to review for this website. That’s not because the film horribly made or difficult to watch, but rather because there is so little information about this film online. For the past week, Animal Planet has been celebrating Monster Week (with documentaries about man-eating tigers, vicious polar bears, giant crocodiles, killer hornets, etc.). Every single piece of promotion, be it on TV or their website, has been hyping the world premiere of their original movie: THE CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE. Yet, despite this, there is not a full-fledged webpage with details about the film and absolutely no IMDB page yet (which is sort of mind-boggling). Animal Planet hasn’t exactly become known for cinematic prowess (what with titles like KILLER LEECHES and MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND), but CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE is actually an okay movie of the week that gets slightly more right than it gets wrong.

CJungle 1

In the 1970’s, Tim Darrow and two fellow scientists ventured into Indonesian jungles to look for a rare owl. Their expedition didn’t quite go as planned. A bruised Tim Darrow emerged from the jungle and Darrow’s two other companions were killed and apparently eaten by Darrow. To this day, Darrow denies his involvement in their deaths and claims that hobbits (a creature of Indonesian urban legend that’s nowhere near Tolkien related) attacked the trio. With Darrow locked away in an Indonesian prison for decades, a documentary filmmaker decides to venture through the old expedition grounds in search of the mythical man-eating creatures. He might not like what he finds. CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE is all fiction, but there are pieces to preexisting folklore and a scientific approach taken to the possible existence of monsters. In other words, this is heads and shoulders above a majority of what Animal Planet has been airing for the past 5 years or so.

CJungle 2

CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE has both good and bad qualities. I must give the movie props for not giving too much actual on-screen time to the hobbits themselves. Instead, filmmaker Simon George wisely decides to rely more on sounds, eerie locations and creepy hints at what we’re not seeing. It’s far scarier to see a half-eaten pig, a bunch of footprints and markings on trees rather than ruining any possible suspense by immediately revealing the threat. When the CGI/practical monsters do finally make an appearance, their moments are fleeting and surprisingly effective. The effects used are far better than what I was expecting (KILLER LEECHES was very much in Syfy territory). The narrative being told in a pseudo-documentary format (complete with reenactments, interviews and archive footage) actually works and has a solid entertainment factor to it. While MERMAIDS spent too much time on trying to seem authentic and real, CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE fully knows what it is and embraces that in a mostly positive way.

CJungle 3

Where CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE wavers is in the horror movie cliché department. We’ve got characters making really dumb decisions, including the head-slapping mistake of chasing the monster that you were just running away from. There’s an obligatory found footage scene at night with a ton of ominous sounds in the distance. A chase scene that would have been otherwise pretty intense is damn near ruined by indescribable amounts of shaky cam. The most glaring problem comes in the annoying music used throughout. We don’t need a suspenseful tune building up to a guy opening a door and cheerfully saying “Hello!” which is exactly what happens during one scene. You can very much tell CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE is a TV movie because there are automatic commercial breaks built into it. These usually come with a cryptic line (including “I found something,” “They are tracking us,” “Did you see that?” and “That’s when I saw it.”) and a loud stinger (usually a boom) following it. It isn’t like these take up a majority of the running time, but they are annoyances throughout.

CJungle 4

Overall, CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE is an okay TV movie that very much feels like a feature-length version of LOST TAPES (one of the better, earlier episodes, mind you). This movie-of-the-week (in this case, Monster Week) manages to surpass both Syfy Channel and Chiller standards, but suffers from clichés. Knowing what Animal Planet has given us in the past few years, CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE is still a bit of a half-hearted victory.

Grade: C+

Comments

  1. I found it far more interesting than you, as I was intrigued enough by it to search it out, thus finding this VERY unfair article. It deserves at least a B. Critics detest the horror genre, and regardless of how awesome the art form displays it, they reject it. BOOOOOOO! I give you a C-.

    • Derrick Carter says:

      Thanks for reading my review. I actually found the film to slightly above average hence the C+. It’s also worth noting that I far from detest the horror genre. I love enough it that I used to run a blog through the name of Dead Derrick for about four years that was dedicated strictly to genre cinema.

      That all being said I think there are far better quality horror films than Cannibal In The Jungle. Just recently for example, we’ve had Oculus, Unfriended, Housebound, Stonehearst Asylum, V/H/S/2, and this year’s It Follows (which I gave an A). As far as horror on the small screen, I don’t think it’s a stretch to call Hannibal the best horror TV series ever (with American Horror Story: Asylum as a very close second).

      Again, I respectfully disagree that it deserves a B, but know that I far from detest the horror genre or this film (C+ isn’t bad, it’s just okay). Thanks for reading and commenting,

  2. batzyio says:

    I am aghast of the attitude of the one person / from the embassy who should have believed Darrow and was so benign in his “Well, I was the one that could have helped him…” Every item that was shipped to Darrow’s family should have been shipped AFTER the trial was over…as it ALL was evidence… the facts are… there WAS something out there and the Indonesian authorities had the case figured out and didn’t want to mess with giving Darrow a fair trial. He kept saying the camera, the camera and they had it all along….this is the way that government bureaucracy works… they put someone in a position of authority, it was his job to HELP Darrow and he couldn’t be bothered….go through the items that the police collected? All the evidence? Oh… my bad…he died in prison after 30 years… where is the cry for justice for this fellow?…. I believe that while this film was dramatic…the facts are the facts… those can’t be denied…. I loved it… and can’t figure out why Darrow’s sister didn’t make contact with him after her parents (who forbade even mentioning him) were deceased… he was very credible in the interviews and I think what was so terrifying about he episode is that in the back of everyone’s mind there is always that question when out in the woods…what if… there are generations of others that we are not aware of? I give it a A!!!

    • Derrick Carter says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. The film is all fictional (the actor who played Darrow is starring in the newest Rob Zombie film as one of the villains), but I wouldn’t honestly be surprised if there were crazy cannibal-creatures out in the jungle. There are definitely animals out there that we don’t know about and haven’t discovered. Personally, I won’t ever be caught in the Pine Barrens after dark, because the legend of the Jersey Devil scares the hell out of me. Also, as far as fair trials and bad attitudes at embassies go, I can’t say I’d be surprised if something like this were to happen (or probably has already happened). :/ Sadly, people are going to be people and have their own selfish interests at hand. Again, thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you enjoyed the film. It was way better than I thought it would be (especially, given Animal Planet’s recent track record).

  3. I too found it to be very real and convincing. Look at the video that was found!! Without the video, they had no choice but to assume he killed them. No body? well, he ate them! really!! They have it on video for heavens sake! The video from 1977 The scientist is going to involve this guys only surviving family his sister and tell her a bogus story and oh yeah were going to get others to go along with it. I say equip to go trap one and protect themsleves. Is there a chance all of it was madeup? Of course anything is possible however, a man went to prison and died there with his story. Does that happen? yes of course. But when they contacted the sister and they got out his belonging and the video……IF THAT IS TRUE, I BELIEVE THIS IS ALL TRUE. You are claiming it is fictional without any proof. I am claiming it is true. We are both relying on what we saw as proof but unless we are in the jungle ourselves, who knows. If it was a court case and these beings were known as being alive in the jungles, he would have been set free. My opionion thank you for sharing yours.

    • Derrick Carter says:

      Thanks for sharing your opinion and I’m glad you enjoyed the film. Though the film has basis in folklore and does scientifically approach it’s monstrous subject, it’s fictional because CGI was being used to bring the creatures to life (although very convincing-looking CGI on the archive film, think the underrated APOLLO 18). I too was searching for information online about Darrow as the film was going, because I could have sworn that I had heard of this case in the past. Turns out that I was thinking of Diloy’s Ape (not sure if that’s how you spell it), but nobody was killed in that expedition.

      However, the film is also fictional because we get actors instead of factual real-life folks…including Darrow’s sister. In fact, the actor who played Darrow has played plenty of creepy or unhinged characters in the past (ASYLUM BLACKOUT, PERKINS’ 14 and Rob Zombie’s upcoming 31). The movie was a movie, albeit well made enough to be convincing in areas. It’s not as if Animal Planet hasn’t aired mockumentaries in the past (MERMAIDS and it’s sequel). I enjoyed the film (C+ is above average for me) for what it was, but it felt pretty much a feature-length version of one of the better episodes Lost Tapes for me.

  4. I found it entertaining and for the first few minutes was thinking it was real, that was the point wasn’t it? I found elements of Cannibal Holocaust, and Cannibal Ferox in it, but much less gore than you would expect from such fare. The telling was well done. I really began to question the movie when the Sister appeared in interview. It was over acted and you could tell right then that this was a tale, a good tale non the less.

  5. Don Krieger says:

    According to other reviews of this show, the “hobbit” bones are real and have been discussed in recent years and apparently did “walk among humans.” However, those other reviews state that there is no Dr. Timothy Darrow, much less a case of cannibalism related to him in Indonesian courts. (Simply do a search for this movie’s title, you’ll find other reviews stating out-right that the characters and events – prison, murders – aren’t real or otherwise documented.)

    So if someone can direct me to any evidence that a Tim Darrow did exist and that he, or some other American doctor fitting this case, ended up in an Indonesian prison, I’m considering this garbage TV that willing and knowingly tried to deceive viewers into believing this was a true, or even truish, story.

    There should be a law making this kind of deception illegal.

    • Scott Schwedes says:

      Lighten up Donald! I’m sorry they “tricked you” into almost believing this story. Try to enjoy good fiction and just roll with it. Nobody needs to go to jail and no laws were broken. If you find that this content simply blows your mind, then I would suggest maybe a movie with a nice love story. I’m thinking maybe “Beaches” starring Bette Midler. No laws broken there for sure.

  6. Don Krieger says:

    … I wanted to add: I might’ve actually enjoyed this movie *IF* Animal Planet had not tried to pass it off as a “truish” story. The “hobbit” bones are real – I remember reading about their discovery a number of years ago. But trying to make this look like a real story is just downright deceptive and serves no other purpose than I guess to stir up a controversial story that seems to make … Oh, hell, I don’t know what the purpose of this movie was other than to make the producers a little richer off an unsuspecting public.

  7. Well, I am watching the movie right now and was really enjoying it until I decided to see what I could find on the Internet during commercials and found this. Damn I was completely taken in, believing it to be true and engrossed but now, you ruined it for me…

  8. Cristiane says:

    Hello! Forgive me, but do not speak English. I saw the movie yesterday. I believed faithfully in history. It is a pity that the documentary is presented as real and it’s just fiction. This takes away all credibility of scientific discovery … as it refocuses. The film is very well done, he got through total reality.

    • Don Krieger says:

      Hi Cristiane,
      Please don’t let this move “take away all credibility of scientific discovery.” In other words, just because this movie is misleading and complete fiction, don’t let that make you think that scientific discovery in general has somehow lost credibility. Scientist generally try to do good work, but movie makers and TV producers are usually in it for the money.

      It would have been OK if The Animal Planet had simply advertised this movie as a fun little non-fiction story. Instead, The Animal Planet tried to make this movie look like a real story and that is just plain shameful.

      But yes, I agree with you, Cristiane, it is a pity that this fake movie was presented as a real documentary.

  9. Is this film fact. Fiction. Truism or what. How can this film be presented as fact. If animal planet has sunk to this just for a movie of the week I’m disappointed in them

    • Sadly, they have sunk to this for a movie of the week. Not the first time either. MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND is a perfect example of what Animal Planet will do for ratings. I wish we could go back to the old days when Animal Planet had non-stop Animal documentaries, MTV had music and History Channel had history programs non-stop. Those were the days. :/

  10. ttelles@hotmail.com says:

    I find unfortunate the display of a fiction film as a documentary on Animal Planet a channel with scientific credibility. Now when assitir the channel will have to be wondering what documentariu or just novel.

  11. Mermaids….’Submarine’….. ‘Cannibal’ …I’m so done with Animal Planet.
    Entertainment is great…documentaries are great. It would be great if AP didn’t feel the need to suck in viewers by blurring the line between the two. This recent spate of
    ‘mockumentaries’ has undermined my faith in AP being a trustworthy source
    of factual representation. Just when the date is going so well, she turns to me and says:
    “You know I’m a dude, right?” I hope you’re making money at this stuff, AP, because if you were counting on respect, you continue to fall far short.

  12. I’d like to watch this again but cannot find it! Any help is much appreciated!

    Thank you!

    • Sadly, your best bet is probably an eventual rerun on Animal Planet. They don’t seem too keen on releasing their original movies…especially since the Mermaid mockumentary was met with a ton of online backlash.

  13. Definitely 5/5 stars if you like me start watching without realising it is fiction. Tthis was very entertaining and pretty scary and because it was on discovery channel I believed it was a documentary even though there were places where it did seem like acting or inconsistensies.
    I had some wierd ideas running in my head as to why the authorities really wanted to keep this story dead and not resurect the case. Excellent gift for a friend who likes science mysteries.. give the dvd without the box where i suppose it has to admit it is fiction. Ha ha.

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