Raw Meat (1972) Dir. Gary Sherman
Raw Meat, AKA Death Line, was not exactly what I was expecting form a movie that boasts "Beneath Modern London lives a tribe of once humans. Neither men nor women. They are the raw meat of the human race" on the poster. And apparently with increased availability of this film, it has caught others off guard as one probably wouldn't expect much from an early film from a director that gave us classics like Poltergeist III. On my quest to track down a few stills from the film, I've seen endorsements from critic Jim Emerson and Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. This allowed a sigh of relief because sometimes, I doubt my immediate impressions when it comes to horror and cult movies. In contrast to more jaded viewers, I do tend to be a bit more squemish and a lot more jumpy than most, but I found Raw Meat to be totally absorbing.
Raw Meat was not particularly scary, but functions mostly be buidling a sense of mytery about what is happening below London's Underground stations. After a very unusual opening credit sequence of out of focus images that slowly come into focus, only to again fade into undescipherability. Finally the shot reveals a smartly dressed man, in a bowler, trolling London's red light district. He suffers a blow to the head and a young couple find him unconscious while exiting London's Underground. They leave him in search of help, only to be unable to locate him when they return with the police. It turns out that the man they saw unconscious has disappeared and is part of the ministry. This leads Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence) and sergeant Rogers (Norman Fossington) to defy orders to let MI5 handle the case and further investigates as they realize that numerous missing were last seen at the same underground station. What unfolds is a curious gritty british mystery with a nice helping of canibalism.
The first clue that Raw Meat is not the average low budget, shocker, was the first revealing decent into the tunnels. Filmed in a long takes, the camera moves away from the platforms and into a lair lined with the bodies of the missing, in various states of decay, but the camera doesn't stop with that grisley sight and continues to a man and woman embracing. They are both obviously quite sick and he is attemping to feed and care for her. And all of this is shown with steady, long tracking shots. Additionally, I didn't expect empathy for canibals either. As the woman dies, he wails in anquish and arranges her body among dozens of others, revealing that there have been generations of underground dwellers that have likely been sickened with septicemic plague.
By the end, they reveal that the canibals were the progeny of workers that were trapped underground as the result of an industrial accident and while the details may not make much sense if one dwells on it too long, the film over all was engaging and thought provoking.
Tally: 11 total, 9 FTV