Celebrating the Tasty, Tasty Human: Five Cannibal Film Favorites
The American remake of We Are What We Are (review) hits VOD on December 17, and while the Mexican thriller of the same name is superior, Jim Mickle’s take on ritualistic cannibalism is a damned fine film in its own right and certainly one of the better cannibal-centric movies to come out recently.
Making a list of the “best” cannibal movies out there is a fool’s errand, if only because it invariably leads to someone saying I have no idea what I’m talking about because I left this film or that film off the list, prompting me to question everything I know and love. You proud of yourself now?
Therefore, instead of a “Best Cannibal Films” list, I’m treating you to a list of my favorite cannibal-centric movies. And no, Cannibal Holocaust is not on the list ‘cause that movie is gross and made me leave the room twice while watching it. And I sat through the entirety of From Justin to Kelly so you know it must have been vile enough if it made me walk out.
Ravenous: I don’t care what anyone says; Antonia Bird’s incredibly underrated film Ravenous is the best cannibal movie ever made. A subtly brilliant critique of Catholicism by way of the Wendigo myth during the Mexican-American War, Ravenous follows Guy Pearce as Captain John Boyd, a soldier relocated to a remote outpost in the Sierra Nevadas. While there, he and his new motley crew are visited by the seemingly starving Colqhoun, played by Robert Carlyle, who tells a tale of murder and cannibalism. Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn’s beautiful score was one of the first soundtracks I ever purchased (the second was Moulin Rouge! ‘cause fuck you, that movie is awesome) and remains a favorite of many to this day. Sadly, director Antonia Bird, who replaced the film’s original helmer at the insistence of Carlyle, recently passed away so go watch this one in her honor.
Frontiere(s): Xavier Gens’ French thriller, in which a group of criminals escaping riots end up in the clutches of a group of cannibalistic neo-Nazis, is one of my favorites. Excessively violent and filled to the brim with the requisite blood and guts, the film pays direct homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in one of its most amazing scenes. Preceding it, however, is yet another absolutely gut-wrenching moment involving the protagonist, played by Karina Testa, and the young actress Maude Forget, who tearfully explains how she came to be involved with the cannibal clan. Through the blood and gore that pervade the film is an absolutely beautiful movie filled with incredible performances, and it should not be missed.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: Inspired in part by prolific serial killer Ed Gein, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is essential viewing, at least for me. While the cannibalistic tendencies of Leatherface and his family are more subdued, the film’s dinner scene, wherein the family gathers around the kitchen table with Sally, only to be served her friends by a transvestite Leatherface, has become one of the most iconic scenes in horror film history and thus cements this classic a spot on this list.
Cannibal: The Musical: About a decade ago I was home for Christmas break from college, and I watched Trey Parker’s Cannibal: The Musical every single day for two weeks. I know every song by heart and can quote almost the entire movie. Released by Troma, this is a pre-“South Park” film, though Cartman’s singing voice makes a special appearance if you listen closely enough. It’s hilarious and a cult favorite, and for the life of me I can’t understand why sing-a-longs don’t occur on a regular basis in Denver. I mean, seriously. Enough with Rocky Horror.
Alive: It’s not a horror film, I know, but Frank Marshall’s Alive, based on the true events of a Uruguayan rugby team that turns to cannibalism after their plane crashes in the Andes Mountains, is one of my favorite “cannibal” films (if you can accurately call it one). It focuses on the depths man will go to when faced with the struggle to survive, and while it’s certainly not a scary film, the approach toward cannibalism is as real as it gets.
We Are What We Are, the acclaimed new masterpiece from director Jim Mickle, arrives December 17th on VOD; look for it on Blu-ray and DVD on January 7, 2014, from Entertainment One (eOne).
A seemingly wholesome and benevolent family, the Parkers have always kept to themselves, and for good reason. Behind closed doors, patriarch Frank (Bill Sage; Mysterious Skin, American Psycho) rules his family with a rigorous fervor, determined to keep his ancestral customs intact at any cost. As a torrential rainstorm moves into the area, tragedy strikes and his daughters, Iris (Ambyr Childers; The Master, Gangster Squad) and Rose (Julia Garner; The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Martha Marcy May Marlene), are forced to assume responsibilities that extend beyond those of a typical family.
As the unrelenting downpour continues to flood their small town, the local authorities begin to uncover clues that bring them closer to the secret that the Parkers have held closely for so many years. In his vivid re-imagining of the 2010 Mexican film of the same name, director Jim Mickle (Mulberry Street, Stake Land) paints a gruesome and suspenseful portrait of an introverted family struggling to keep their macabre traditions alive, giving us something we can really sink our teeth into.
Also starring in this tension-filled shocker are Michael Parks (Kill Bill, “Twin Peaks”), Kelly McGillis (Top Gun, Witness, The Innkeepers) and Kassie DePaiva (“One Life to Live”).
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