1997, Starring Lisa Heughan, John Sorbera, Paul Noiles, Mark Tyler, Paul Griffin. Directed by Kalman Szegvary.
If there's any rite more sacred than ancient ceremonial cannibalism, it has to be the tradition of first-time Canadian directors to want to capture it all on film. Kalman Szegvary's directorial debut Cannibal Rollerbabes is the latest in a long line of low-budget Canadian horror films in which gobs of human flesh are consumed for chills as well as laughs. The trend started 30 years ago(!), with Ivan Reitman's 1973 classic Cannibal Girls, which was followed the next year by Ed Gien biopic Deranged and the little-seen gem The Corpse Eaters. Later, films like Big Meat Eater (1982) and Top of the Food Chain (1999) pushed the flesh eating trend figuratively and literally over-the-top with the additions of hungry aliens.
Cannibal Rollerbabes gets back to the, uh, meat of the Canadian cannibalism trend by focusing exclusively on terrestrial diners. It manages to combine the lighthearted comic-book style of the latter farces with the darker campiness of Cannibal Girls, a film it has a lot in common with. Like Reitman's early classic, Cannibal Rollerbabes is also about a mysterious man who has a town in his sinister grip with the help of some hungry young girls.
After a very cool credit sequence with Canadian screwball comedy-like animated caricatures, we meet the hero of the film, Scott. Fired from his burger-flipping job at Wimpy's Diner, Scott accepts his friend Chuck's offer to go up to his parents' cottage for a week to relax and fish. They have only just arrived when they meet two unusually hungry girls by the side of the road. Wisely, Chuck and Scott pass them up, reasoning that they have a whole week, and there will be plenty of other girls in town. Or in Scott's case, the water. While fishing that evening, Scott has eerie visions of a girl alone in a room, who tells him her name is Anna. He is entranced, but unsure what it all means.
The next day, while Scott and Chuck are fishing in Chuck's motorboat, Scott notices a decrepit-looking castle on an island in the distance. Chuck explains that the building is an abandoned laboratory that is now believed to be contaminated. Of course, the lab is not empty at allit's home to Atman, a muscle-bound scientist fond of wearing a pink and black-striped Bret the Hitman Hart outfit. Under his hypnotic control are the catsuit-clad Spike (Playboy model and Howard Stern guest Lisa Heughan) and a bevy of rollerbabes, which he sends out to eat men in a bizarre scheme to preserve their beauty. Atman is able to manipulate the girls by outfitting them with earrings which receive signals from an oversize radio control box, but not all the girls are so cooperative. The aforementioned Anna is one of Atman's rollerbabes who finds herself mysteriously drawn to Scott's presence in town-- so much so that she tried to escape island, and is punished by Atman and Spike.
Later, Scott and Chuck decide to go rollerblading (in one of the film's only scenes of actual rollerblading), but thing quickly take a turn for the worse. The friends are separated, and the two rollerbabes from the beginning knock Chuck out and drag him back to the castle. Scott is equally surprised to see a jealous Atman coming at him with an axe. He escapes, only to discover the Sheriff dredging leftover chunks of one of the rollerbabes' victims from the river.
Now, Scott knows he must visit the castle to rescue his friend. Up until this point, Cannibal Rollerbabes has been fairly quick-paced, but the story bogs down a bit once Scott arrives on the island. He meets an elf named Random who gives Scott a "special power" and helps him hide from black leather jacketed "Centurions" that roam the island. The elf tells him about Atman, referring to him as " God." The director refers to this as his Star Wars moment, but it more closely resembles a Tolkien-esque rewrite of Island of Lost Souls. But all this is forgotten about once the rollerbabes capture him. In the castle, Scott meets his dream girl and reunites with his friend Chuck, but his only way out is to confront the mad scientist.
Although it claims to really be set in Los Angeles, Cannibal Rollerbabes was filmed in Peterborough and Lakefield, Ontario. The story gives the film's Canadian pedigree away early on though, when Scott and Chuck go "up north to cottage country," a distinctly Canadian phrase (and concept). Likewise, during the Batman-esque credits, animated maple leafs can be seen.
Like the recent Canadian camp hit Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, Cannibal Rollerbabes was shot on grainy film stock which really helps give the picture a late night drive-in feel. Visual interest is kept high with surreal lighting effects, as well as the inclusion of a variety of eye-catching set pieces including a Pac-Man arcade game, a 1950s army jeep, and a dune buggy(!). Also contributing immensely to the film is a spot-on soundtrack by ex-Toronto sleaze rockers Cadillac Bill and the Creeping Bent, who contribute the Cannibal Rollerbabes theme song, "People Eating People."
Rollerbabes does have problems in getting its story across. There are several noticeable continuity errors, and the unfolding of the plot is often confusing. For instance, it isn't completely clear how Atman is controlling the girls until well into the last half of the film, and some story aspects are hinted at but never fully explored, including Spike's relationship with Atman, and the role of the centurions and the elf. The film's other weak point is the stunt work, of which the director admits he had no budget to properly achieve. Still, this is nicely covered up with editing when Chuck is attacked by the girls, but many of Atman's fighting scenes look embarrassingly phony.
Canadian films often have problems with distribution, and this entry is no exception. But five years after it was first made, Cannibal Rollerbabes is finally available as a special edition DVD. Producer/director Kalman Szegvary claims that the bootleg copies of the previously unreleased Cannibal Rollerbabes were still in demand, so he decided to give the film a second life on home video himself. The highlight of the special features is Szegvary's director's commentary. He takes a humble look at his debut film, plainly noting what works and what doesn't, while tossing in a few anecdotes and insights into do-it-yourself filmmaking. A "making of" documentary is also included, and although much of the information is repeated from the commentary track, it's fun to see the rough behind-the-scenes video compared to the final product. Finally, to sweeten the deal, the DVD also includes the theatrical trailer and a trading card for the film. Although maybe not as accomplished as the previously mentioned Cannibal Girls, Cannibal Rollerbabes makes for a flawedbut funslice of no- budget Canadian filmmaking.