DATELINE: Papua Horror!
No, it’s not what you think! Someone gave this sober documentary a title right out of the worst tabloid movie horror. This is an hour-long episode about the Bismarck Archipelago in New Guinea.
However, the sensational title is not far off the mark. The masks made by the descendants of families of former cannibals are practically copyrighted. They are singular and unique horrific expressions of spiritual power. Ghosts of Cannibal Islands is a rather surprising little documentary.
The islands were under German control until after World War I, and many of their missionaries were eaten by the natives. The German hosts of the show are quick to explain the blond haired natives as not the result of the German influence, but some unknown group from the continent. Yeah, right.
However, that good German engineering is evident when they must drive over 100 year old wood bridges, built by the colonials. These marvels will last for another hundred years.
The islands are volcanic and still spewing from a major eruption 30 years ago. Little streams are boiling, and the ground is warm. If you go into caves, you will roast from the underground vents of heat.
The natives have abandoned the major city that is now under ash, and the dust makes the place look apocalyptic. Yet, there are still animals in the jungle.
One of the most dangerous is a form of ostrich that is a man killer, standing nearly as tall as a man, and with claws that are like spikes if you are kicked.
There is an isolated group of men who lived apart and are considered “taboo.” Women are not allowed to look upon them when they sail past the community, and their lives are highly secret. Men can join if they want.
What we have here is a jaw-dropping look at a place where extinction seems around the corner, and the flora, fauna, and surviving creatures are something out of science fiction.
This film is utterly intriguing and mind-blowing.