A pair of Germans visiting a remote Greek island go to the beach, and are slaughtered by someone who emerges from the ocean. On the mainland, five travelers are preparing to tour the islands, and are joined by Julie, who asks for a ride to an island that some friends of hers live on. The only one who objects to this detour to the island (which Julie explains has only a few permanent residents, and only sees tourists a few months out of the year) is Carol, whose tarot cards convince her that something bad will happen if they go to the island. The group sails to the island anyway, and while disembarking the pregnant Maggie hurts her ankle, so she stays behind on the boat with its owner. A man attacks the boat, ripping the sailor's head off, and abducting Maggie.
The others explore the island's town, discovering it in disarray, and abandoned with the exception of an elusive woman in black, who writes "Go Away" on a dusty window. In a house, a rotting corpse which appears to have been cannibalized is uncovered, prompting everyone to rush back to the boat, which is adrift. With no other options, the group goes to the house owned by Julie's friends, where they find the family's blind daughter, Henriette. After wounding Daniel in a panic, Henriette is calmed down, and rants about there being a madman who smells of blood prowling the island.
To stop Daniel's wound from becoming infected, Andy and Arnold go into the town to search for antibiotics. Carol walks in on Daniel flirting with Julie, and goes into hysterics, running off into the night. Julie goes after Carol, but loses her, and meets up with Andy and Arnold. Back at the house, the disfigured killer breaks in and rips Daniel's throat out, but leaves Henriette alone and flees as the others return. In the morning, everyone treks through the island, and find a mansion belonging to Klaus Wortman. Julie mentions that she read that Klaus, his wife, and their child are assumed dead, having been shipwrecked, a tragedy which caused Klaus' sister Ruth to become unhinged. Ruth (the woman in black from earlier) watches the group enter the building, comforts the sleeping Carol, and hangs herself.
After waking Carol, Andy and Arnold look out a window, and see that the boat has drifted close to shore. The two men go to secure the vessel, and Julie finds a partially destroyed journal among the objects in the mansion, and it reveals that the killer is Ruth's brother, Klaus, and that the bodies of all of Klaus' victims are in a hidden room. Andy and Arnold split up, and the latter reaches an abandoned church, where he finds Maggie, and is confronted by Klaus. Klaus has a flashback that reveals he and his family were stranded in a raft after being shipwrecked, and that Klaus accidentally stabbed his wife while trying to convince her that they should eat the body of their dead son to survive. Klaus then ate his wife and son's corpses, driving him insane.
Klaus regains his composure, stabs Arnold, and rips out and eats Maggie's unborn child. At the mansion, Julie uncovers the room where Klaus' victims are, and skims another diary she finds in it. Carol stumbles into the chamber, and drops dead from a slit throat. Klaus then attacks Julie, who locks herself and Henriette in the attic after a short chase. Klaus breaks through the ceiling and kills Henriette, and is then knocked off the roof and into a well by Julie. Klaus attacks Julie when she peers down the well, but she is saved when Andy appears and stabs Klaus in the stomach with a pickaxe, causing the cannibal's intestines to spill out. As a last dying act, Klaus gnaws on his own innards, staring at Andy, while Julie looks at Klaus in horror. Klaus then falls over and dies. Andy and Julie stand there, staring at each other.Tisa Farrow as Julie
Saverio Vallone as Andy
Serena Grandi as Maggie
Margaret Mazzantini as Henriette
Mark Bodin as Daniel
Bob Larson as Arnold
Rubina Rey as Ruth Wortman
Simone Baker as First Victim
Mark Logan as Second Victim
George Eastman as Klaus Wortmann
Zora Kerova as Carol
Antropophagus was director Joe D'Amato's first "straight" horror film, having previously made erotic horror films such as Emanuelle in America and Erotic Nights of the Living Dead. D'Amato and co-writer George Eastman were long-time associates, and Eastman often had lead roles in D'Amato's films.
In the documentary Totally Uncut 2 D'Amato stated that the film was solely made for foreign markets; both the director and Eastman claim that even though the film did very well in other countries it was a flop in Italy. Eastman also revealed that he has never liked the film, though he did enjoy making it.
Antropophagus was released on video in the United Kingdom in 1980 uncut by VFP. The film became one of the infamous titles to feature on the government's Department of Public Prosecutions list (DPP), better known to the tabloid press as the "Video nasty" list. It was later successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act in 1984. This was due mainly to the infamous foetus eating scene. In reality, the foetus was a skinned rabbit. This did not prevent the film from being falsely described as a snuff film, a story which was even featured on BBC News. The first official release in the UK was in a heavily pre-cut form, under the title The Grim Reaper, before being passed fully uncut in June 2015.
Antropophagus also saw another release in the UK, prior to its banning from a very small video company known as Videoshack. This release, although cut, is highly collectible among fans today due to its extremely scarce existence. The film would be released theatrically in America as The Grim Reaper around fall of 1981 from former independent distribution company Film Ventures International, in a dubbed and heavily edited version for an R rating.
Spaghetti Nightmares called it "an icon of the cinema gore". AllMovie gave the film two out of five stars, describing it as a "Z-grade Italian 'gorror' movie", but also as a "yummy bit of fun". DVD Verdict wrote that "Anthropophagus may be the most notable horror effort mounted by Euro-skin and sin maestro Joe D'Amato, but that doesn't mean that it's particularly a good film." Antropophagus has achieved a cult film among fans of the gore genre.
As well as Antropophagus, the film is known by several other titles, including:Anthropophagous (French title)
Anthropophagous: The Beast (UK title)
The Grim Reaper (original U.S. title, censored)
Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper (US DVD re-release title, uncut)
Man Eater (German title)
The Savage Island
Zombie 7: Grim Reaper (after 1981, the release year of Absurd)
Gomia, Terror en el Mar Egeo ("Gomia, Horror in the Aegean Sea". Spanish title)
The 1981 Pornographic film Porno Holocaust, also directed by D'Amato and starring George Eastman, features a similar plot, having a group of people stranded on a deserted island with a monstrous killer.
D'Amato followed up this film with a pseudo-sequel, Absurd (1981).
A German remake of the film, directed by Andreas Schnaas and entitled Anthropophagous 2000, was released in 1999.