5 Great Cannibal Movies to Expand Your Flesh-Hungry Horizons
For most folks, the phrase “cannibal movie” conjures the image of two things: Hannibal Lecter’s mask-clad visage, hungry for some liver with chianti and fava beans, or for the more horror-inclined, a horde of amazonian tribesman swarming a ravaged body. Hannibal is the most famous people-eater in the world, and Italian exploitationists like Ruggero Deodato and Joe D’Amato own the genre, but if you dig a little deeper there is so much more gruesome fun to be had.
In the name of broadening your horror horizons, I’ve compiled a list of the best alternative cannibal films that aren’t set in the jungle and don’t feature a man with ironically rhyming name. From suburban horror comedy to artsy erotica, and a few too nebulous to slap a label on, if you’re looking for an offbeat cannibal film, you can’t go wrong with these delectable suggestions. Bon Appetite!
We Are What We Are
Jim Mickle’s remake of the 2010 Mexican feature of the same name is steeped in a sense of backwoods Americana that lends the whole grisly affair a sense of credence. I know — a remake?! Gasp. But Mickle manages to take the strengths of the original film and adapt the material to a new culture in a way that makes sense. The film follows a family of cannibals, raised to be so in the tradition of their lineage (the explanation of this is the one true pitfall of the film). When the mother, who always lured in the victims, dies unexpectedly, the teenage daughters must step up to keep their family in good eating. Neither daughter is enthused by the prospect of murder, but they carry out their duties diligently under the strong thumb of their stoic father. Perhaps the most straight up horror film on the list, We Are What We Are is filmed beautifully with a serene, quiet quality that only heightens the savage, sick-making climax.
Bob Balaban’s horror comedy skewers the idea of safety in suburbia. Parents follows Christopher, a disturbed young boy who is plagued by nightmares and visions of disturbing imagery — at night he drowns in a torrent of blood, he sees a flapping hand emerge from the garbage disposal, and as he hides in the closet, ropes of sausage encase and trap him. Who is he hiding from? None other than his parents, of course, an otherwise shinning image of suburban idealism, who just happen to have a taste for human flesh. His sinister father (Randy Quaid) is a respected scientist and doctor in the Division of Human Testing — a job that gives him easy access to human tissue — constantly espousing bizarre lectures about the importance of blending in. His mother (Mary Beth Hurt) is the picture of Americana perfection; a well-groomed, chipper people-pleaser who delights in preparing meat centric meals (almost as much as the film delights in detailing the chipping, grinding, slicing, pounding and pureeing of the flesh). When a teacher is alarmed by his macabre stories, the school psychiatrist snoops around, leading to a confrontation that is only as heinous as it is hilarious. Parents is an exercise in clashing tones, from the music to the imagery, the film pits the sinister and the domestic against each other to raucous results.
Trouble Every Day
Claire Denis‘ much maligned film is one of the finest cannibal films of the last 15 years. The cannibal sub-genre is a bit of a rarity in horror, in that it’s rarely sexy. Slashers are all about flesh and penetration. Vampires are eternally alluring. Even zombie films evoke that apocalyptic urgency for anything that feels good. But stories about eating human flesh are generally a stomach churning affair, far removed from lust or love. Trouble Every Day manages to transcend that barrier. The film stars Vincent Gallo and Beatrice Dalle as otherwise ordinary, moral people who are infected with a condition that compels them to chomp on human flesh in moments of carnal intimacy. Since their hunger is tied to their lust, Trouble Every Day ties the repulsive to the alluring, resulting in a sensual and deeply disturbing cinematic experience. The film is a slow burn, artsy to a fault at moments, but it carries a sense of thick sensuality that is only rivaled by the explicit and nearly unbearable moments of savagery. Just try to get through the film’s infamous moment of feasting and fucking without grimacing (and if you do I’ll buy you a drink — or maybe just avoid you all together).
Eating Raoul is one of the most gleefully immoral horror comedies of all time. The least gruesome entry on the list, the film centers on a drab, condescending married couple, appropriately named The Blands (Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov), who have absolutely had it with the influx of swingers and degenerates in their apartment complex. When one said swinger gets aggressive with the wife, it sets off a chain of events that leads to a delightfully absurd and completely unhinged series of murders that culminate in a finely prepared people meal. Eating Raoul is backed by moments of underplayed humor (See: Bartel’s character snuggling a wine bottle pillow at night), an exploration of seedy sexual deviancy, and a quiet, wry wit that makes the film an absolute must-see.
Probably the most well-known and beloved film on the list, Ravenous is difficult to talk about without spoiling the fun (if you can call it that), so I’ll be delicate. Antonia Bird’s creeping horror is chilly to the bone, centered on the idea that when you eat another man’s flesh, you gain his power and develop an insatiable hunger. Backed by an excellent cast that includes Guy Pierce, Robert Carlyle, and the chronically underutilized Jeremy Davies, Ravenous features all kinds of ghastly, gruesome imagery as it follows a legion of soldiers isolated in a snowy outpost where all manner of machismo antics unfurl to the most epic, bizarre climax of any cannibal film I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a whole lot of them). It’s action-packed, blood-soaked insanity balanced by moments of chilling eeriness, and it never becomes more ghastly than it is fun.