13 Tastiest Cannibal Flicks
Article By: Tony Timpone
You are what they eat… One of mankind’s last taboos, cannibalism, continues to fascinate the morbid curiosities of people everywhere. The trial, conviction and dismissal of New York City’s alleged “Cannibal Cop” filled the tabloids with shocking stories for the last two years. Meanwhile, a recent best-selling book revealed that wealthy explorer Michael Rockefeller (son of former U.S. Vice President Nelson) had been gutted and consumed by New Guinean natives in the 1960s. And at our neighborhood multiplexes, we await the release of Eli (Hostel) Roth’s paean to the Italian cannibalism films of the 1970s-’80s, The Green Inferno. So for this course of The Friday 13, we go straight to the gut to serve up 13 Tastiest Cannibal Flicks! (Titles arranged according to year of release.)
1. Raw Meat AKA Death Line (1972)
In director Gary (Dead & Buried) Sherman’s way-ahead-of-its-time creepy gem, a tunnel-dwelling subhuman survivor of an old London Underground cave-in prowls the Tube to make meals of late-night straphangers. As the quirky inspector on the case, Donald Pleasence tries to get to the bottom of the disappearances. Hugh Armstrong delivers a performance that both disturbs and rouses our sympathy as the lonely lunatic.
2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Tobe Hooper’s horror classic (currently celebrating its 40th anniversary with a digital restoration rerelease) instigated an endless wave of backwoods maniacs movies (including the Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn movies, to name just two!), plus ongoing sequels and remakes and sequels to remakes! The first Chainsaw’s still the best, with its psychotic Sawyer clan robbing graves and waylaying desert travelers, slaying and ingesting the victims and selling off the remains as good old-fashioned Texas barbeque. Finger-lickin’ good!
3. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Nearly 20 years before The Blair Witch Project, this notorious film purports to be the “found footage” of an ill-fated Amazonian expedition by a group of NYC filmmakers. Cannibal Holocaust wallows in cannibalism, real animal killing and other depravity, but all too an admittedly powerful and horrifying effect. The movie’s gritty faux photography and the hauntingly beautiful score by Riz Ortolani further elevate this distasteful but essential shocker. Italian police arrested Cannibal director Ruggero Deodato because they thought he really murdered his actors!
4. Motel Hell (1980)
British director Kevin Connor helmed this twisted piece of Americana, where Vincent (vintage Westerns star Rory Calhoun, who pulls a mean chainsaw) and sister Ida (Nancy Parsons of Porky’s) “farm” human visitors to their shabby motel. The demented duo plants the still-living unlucky ones in their yard, plumping them for slaughter and advertising the “home-cured meats” to unwary locals. Fans of ’80s horror comedies hold a soft spot for Motel Hell, which also booked small roles for pioneering DJ Wolfman Jack and Cheers’ John Ratzenberger.
5. Eating Raoul (1982)
Black comedies don’t get any blacker than writer/director/star Paul Bartel’s delicious cult hit. The Blands (Bartel and longtime friend/co-star Mary Woronov) dream of opening their own restaurant. To finance the endeavor, they snuff swingers who they entice into their apartment. When neighborhood “Chicano” Raoul (Robert Beltran of Star Trek Voyager) blackmails them, the Blands hit upon a unique way of disposing of the interloper… Too bad Bartel never dished up a second helping of his hilariously square schemers.
6. Parents (1989)
Defunct distributor Vestron Pictures poured their Dirty Dancing profits into making weird movies like this, a pitch-black horror comedy that marked the directorial debut of actor Bob Balaban (gold star member of Christopher Guest and Wes Anderson’s stock companies). Set in a lovingly realized ’50s suburbia, the story revolves around a kid (Bryan Madorsky) who suspects those unusual dinners cooked up by “perfect” Mom and Dad (Mary Beth Hurt and pre-felon Randy Quaid) taste nothing like chicken. Loved by Siskel and hated by Ebert, Parents succeeds as a twisted sendup of the Father Knows Best era, and the movie’s disgusting food close-ups would give Mario Batali nightmares.
7. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, in less than 25 minutes of screen time, etched one of the screen’s most memorable villains as Dr. Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter , a brilliant but imprisoned serial killer who “aids” rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (fellow Academy Award winner Jodie Foster) in the hunt for another ruthless mass murderer. Hopkins repeated the part to somewhat lesser effect in a Silence sequel and prequel. For NBC’s TV series reboot Hannibal, whose over-the-top cannibalism scenes outgross anything in the films, Mads Mikkelsen takes over the role of everyone’s favorite maniacal gore-met chef and psychiatrist.
8. Delicatessen (1991)
In one of the most imaginative movies from France since the silent days of Georges Méliès, directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro concoct a postapocalyptic world where food now rates as a currency for the hungry masses. A butcher bumps off the occasional lodger and handyman to feed the cannibalistic tenants in his apartment building. After clown performer Dominique Pinon falls in love with the butcher’s daughter, he must avoid becoming the next banquet. Delicatessen racks up as an endlessly inventive smorgasbord of dark comedy, queasy horror and vegetarian agitprop.
9. Ravenous (1999)
Another underrated horror comedy (why do some of us consider cannibalism funny?!), Ravenous barely saw the light of movie screens, so it’s ripe for discovery. L.A. Confidential’s Guy Pearce stars as a disgraced army captain sent to a remote fort in the 1800s. There he meets a bunch of oddball misfits (including Scream’s David Arquette, Beetlejuice’s Jeffrey Jones and Lost’s Jeremy Davies). However, nothing prepares him for the arrival of a mysterious stranger (Robert Carlyle), who spins a frightening tale of survival in the wilderness that involved the consuming of fellow travelers. Soon it’s a case of eat or be eaten in late director Antonia Bird’s wicked frontier feast.
10. Evilenko (2006)
The true story of Russian madman Andrei Chikatilo inspired this movie about a mild-mannered school teacher who raped, fatally dispatched and sometimes devoured over 50 children. A more subdued than usual Malcolm McDowall (A Clockwork Orange, Halloween) plays the titular character here, who eludes capture for nearly a decade because ignorant Soviet authorities consider such crimes as a uniquely American pastime. McDowall turns in mesmerizing work here, and further kudos go to Twin Peaks’ Angelo Badalamenti for Evilenko’s melancholic score.
11. Grimm Love (2006)
This movie, like Evilenko, comes ripped from the headlines. In 2001, a German man successfully advertised on the Internet for a willing participant to be eaten and killed (yes, in that order). The real-life assailant tried to stop this fairly faithful dramatization, which toplines Thomas Kretschmann as the computer cannibal. (The actor just did double Dracula duty as the lead in Dario Argento’s movie remake and as Van Helsing on the NBC series.) Here the tragic story of the guy who finds his soulmate/dinner on the web is told in flashback (rather unnecessarily) by a snooping student (Keri Russell of Felicity!). Sensitively directed by Martin Weisz, Grimm Love emerges as another case where truth is stranger than fiction.
12. We Are What We Are (2013)
This movie (a remake of an equally fine 2010 Mexican film) from acclaimed indie genre director Jim Mickle (Cold in July, Stake Land) takes place in rural New York State, where strict religious upbringing in the Parker family doesn’t preclude ritualistic anthropophagi. The film generates suspense as to whether teen sisters Iris and Rose will buck centuries’ old family traditions and defy their stern father. We Are What We Are culminates in a jaw-dropping finale of cannibalistic carnage.
13. The Green Inferno (Festival: 2013; Wide Release: ????)
Hostel director Eli Roth loved Italian cannibal movies so much that not only did he have the chutzpah to convince financiers to cough up dough to produce his gory mash note to this controversial subgenre, but he also included a bibliography of his choice spaghetti flesh-eater flicks in the end credits! Roth doesn’t back down from topping past people-chewing highlights either; The Green Inferno—about a group of student tree-hugger types who run afoul of a tribe of Amazonian cannibals—has already had festival audiences screaming in disgust and delight at such scenes as a poor schlub being methodically gobbled up with relish by the fearsome natives. The film’s unfortunate theatrical postponement is only increasing the appetite of gorehounds to see The Green Inferno on the big screen now!
Hungry for leftovers? Then take a bite out of Italian gorefest Cannibal Ferox (1981; a.k.a. Make Them Die Slowly) and Spain’s Omnivores (2013), which uncovers the affluent elite dining out at secret cannibal clubs. Meanwhile, French director Xavier Gans dealt with the man-eater theme to a most disturbing effect in both his Texas Chainsaw-inspired Frontier(s) (2007) and the nuclear war survivalist drama The Divide (2011). Bon appetit!
Tony Timpone appeared on the hit TVGN summer reality series The Sorrentinos.