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Cannibal film

Related: cannibalism - exploitation film - Italian exploitation - film


Cannibalism has been a theme in a number of mainstream movies (Soylent Green, 1973), as well as a subgenre of Italian and Japanese exploitation film.

Italian cannibal movies

Cannibal films are a subgenre of exploitation film, a collection of graphically gory movies created from the late 1970s through the early 1990s by Italian moviemakers.

In 1974, Umberto Lenzi makes Man from Deep River (1972), generally believed to be the first Italian cannibal movie. Joe D'Amato made Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals in 1977 and Ruggero Deodato continued the tradition with Last Cannibal World (1977) and Cannibal Holocaust (1978), an acknowledged influence on The Blair Witch Project. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannibal_film [Nov 2005]

See also:

  • http://www.algonet.se/~krig/gore.html
  • Eaten Alive!: Italian Cannibal and Zombie Movies (2002) - Jay Slater [Amazon.com]

    Cannibalism in mainstream films

    1. Delicatessen (1991) - Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet [Amazon US]
      The title credit for Delicatessen reads "Presented by Terry Gilliam," and it's easy to understand why the director of Brazil was so supportive of this outrageously black French comedy from 1991. Like Gilliam, French codirectors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro have wildly inventive imaginations that gravitate to the darker absurdities of human behavior, and their visual extravagance is matched by impressive technical skill. Here, making their feature debut, Jeunet and Caro present a postapocalyptic scenario set entirely in a dank and gloomy building where the landlord operates a delicatessen on the ground floor. But this is an altogether meatless world, so the butcher-landlord keeps his customers happy by chopping unsuspecting victims into cutlets, and he's sharpening his knife for a new tenant (French comic actor Dominque Pinon) who's got the hots for the butcher's nearsighted daughter! Delicatessen is a feast (if you will) of hilarious vignettes, slapstick gags, and sweetly eccentric characters, including a man in a swampy room full of frogs, a woman doggedly determined to commit suicide (she never gets its right), and a pair of brothers who make toy sound boxes that "moo" like cows. It doesn't amount to much as a story, but that hardly matters; this is the kind of comedy that springs from a unique wellspring of imagination and inspiration, and it's handled with such visual virtuosity that you can't help but be mesmerized. There's some priceless comedy happening here, some of which is so inventive that you may feel the urge to stand up and cheer. --Jeff Shannon for Amazon.com

    2. Riget aka The Kingdom (1994) - Morten Arnfred, Lars von Trier [Amazon US]
      The Kingdom defies categorization. This cult Danish miniseries plays like a nightmarish cross between Twin Peaks and Chicago Hope as directed by David Cronenberg, and even that hardly captures the giddy absurdity of Lars von Trier's soap-opera-cum-horror-tale. The setting is a modern hospital built on a medieval graveyard, but the most terrifying ghosts belong not to ancient history but rather to the hospital's own dark past. An egotistical, self-righteous visiting Swedish doctor, who abhors the Danes and screams his outrage in nightly rants from the hospital roof, presides over this ensemble of eccentrics; but he's hardly the strangest this hospital has to offer. ER has nothing on this delirious madhouse, where haunted ambulances, a Masonic cult, a devil cabal, demons, ghosts, and a most mysterious pregnancy lurk in the fringes of more earthly (though equally bizarre) melodramas. Shooting in video with a bobbing handheld camera, von Trier creates an otherworldly atmosphere with the dimly lit corridors and bland, drained color schemes, set to an eerily sparse soundtrack of echoing hospital sounds and electronic wailings. The mix of deadpan hysteria and spooky ghost story concludes with the most outrageous cliffhanger put on film (to be continued in The Kingdom II). (The home video also includes closing comments by a smiling von Trier himself, unseen in the theatrical version.) Simply put, you've never seen anything quite like this. --Sean Axmaker, amazon.com

      There is no shortage of odd and intriguing subplots as well. Pathologist Bondo (Baard Owe) goes to incredible lengths to obtain a specimen of a rare liver tumor, with unsettling results. Med student Peter "Mogge" Moesgaard (Peter Mygirnd) finds himself immersed in vivid nightmares of ghouls and cannibalism (The nightmare-cannibalism scenes would make George Romero proud) while participating in a sleep study. The severed head of an anatomy-class corpse keeps turning up at the worst possible moments (though is there ever a good moment for a severed head to make an unexpected appearance?) A ghost ambulance makes eerie midnight runs, a bloody hand clawing at its window. Neurosurgeon Judith Petersen (Birgette Raaberg) experiences a pregnancy that makes Rosemary's Baby seem like a blessed event. [...] --Charles Avinger dvdmaniacs.net

    3. Parents (1989) - Bob Balaban [Amazon US]
      In Parents, director Bob Balaban deconstructs our Father Knows Best perception of '50s suburbia, skewing it via moody cinematography and Angelo Badalamenti's sinister score. Ten-year-old Michael Lamele (Bryan Madorsky) thinks his parents (Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt) are cannibals. His constant fear of his folks and their supposedly evil doings begin to warp his view of the world, and he starts seeing a social worker to confront his problems. Are they merely childhood fears intensified by an overactive imagination, or do Michael's parents really crave human flesh? Much in the way that David Lynch approached the sinister underside of small-town America in Wild at Heart, so too does Balaban challenge our notion of the 'burbs as an escape from the harsh reality of the city. If anything, Michael's parents show their true colors once they become wrapped up in the materialistic, socially predatory world of suburban life. Vastly underappreciated, Balaban's Parents is one of those rare modern horror films that uses psychology to freak you out rather than tossing buckets of blood at you (although there are a few in the film, given its theme). This is one horror film that stands up, and deserves repeated viewings. --Bryan Reesman for Amazon.com

    4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - Tobe Hooper [Amazon US]
      This sensational, extremely influential, 1974 low-budget horror movie directed by Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist, Lifeforce, Salem's Lot), may be notorious for its title, but it's also a damn fine piece of moviemaking. And it's blood-curdling scary, too. Loosely based on the true crimes of Ed Gein (also a partial inspiration for Psycho), the original Jeffrey Dahmer, Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a group of teenagers who pick up a hitchhiker and wind up in a backwoods horror chamber where they're held captive, tortured, chopped up, and impaled on meat hooks by a demented cannibalistic family, including a character known as Leatherface who maniacally wields one helluva chainsaw. The movie's powerful sense of dread is heightened by its grainy, semi-documentary style--but it also has a wicked sense of humor (and not that camp, self-referential variety that became so tiresome in subsequent horror films of the '70s, '80s, and '90s). OK, in case you couldn't tell, it's "not for everyone." But as a landmark in the development of the horror/slasher genre, it ranks with Psycho, Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. --Jim Emerson for amazon.com

    5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - Jonathan Demme [Amazon US]
      Based on Thomas Harris's novel, this terrifying film by Jonathan Demme really only contains a couple of genuinely shocking moments (one involving an autopsy, the other a prison break). The rest of the film is a splatter-free visual and psychological descent into the hell of madness, redeemed astonishingly by an unlikely connection between a monster and a haunted young woman. Anthony Hopkins is extraordinary as the cannibalistic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, virtually entombed in a subterranean prison for the criminally insane. At the behest of the FBI, agent-in-training Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) approaches Lecter, requesting his insights into the identity and methods of a serial killer named Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). In exchange, Lecter demands the right to penetrate Starling's most painful memories, creating a bizarre but palpable intimacy that liberates them both under separate but equally horrific circumstances. Demme, a filmmaker with a uniquely populist vision (Melvin and Howard, Something Wild), also spent his early years making pulp for Roger Corman (Caged Heat), and he hasn't forgotten the significance of tone, atmosphere, and the unsettling nature of a crudely effective close-up. Much of the film, in fact, consists of actors staring straight into the camera (usually from Clarice's point of view), making every bridge between one set of eyes to another seem terribly dangerous. --Tom Keogh for Amazon.com

    6. Eating Raoul (1982) - Paul Bartel[1 VHS, Amazon US]
      This is one of those movies that is enjoyable no matter how many times you watch it. Eating Raoul is Paul Bartel's second greatest film. Loaded with humor and fast paced it should not be missed by anyone. Paul Bartel's Best movie is 1972s Private Parts but this one is a very close second. I am also a Star Trek fan and are always on the lookout for early roles of Star Trek players, this one offers Robert Beltran (Chakotay of Star Trek Voyager) in the title role as Raoul and he played the part well. - Marc Black for amazon.com [...]

    7. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover [1DVD, Amazon US]
      This is probably Peter Greenaway's most accessible film. It's a controversial film and has a NC-17 rating in the US. It's a tale of sex, lust, food, gluttony, murder and revenge. The film opens with a vulgar scatological scene, when a man is smeared with excrement by 'The Thief', Albert Spica. Most of the film is set in an elegant gourmet restaurent called Le Hollandais. Spica dines at this restaurant frequently, along with his gorgeous wife Georgina (played by solemnly sexy Helen Mirren) and his group of coarse associates. -- Wayney for Amazon.com

    8. Soylent Green [1VHS, Amazon US]
      Charlton Heston seemed fond of starring in apocalyptic science-fiction films in the late 1960s and early '70s. There was Planet of the Apes, of course, and The Omega Man. But there was also 1973's Soylent Green, a strange detective film (based on Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room!) set in 2022 and starring Heston as a Manhattan cop trying to solve a murder in the overpopulated, overheated city. His roommate (a necessity in the overcrowded metropolis), played by Edward G. Robinson, tries telling him about a better time on Earth before there were no more resources or room left; but Heston doesn't care. Directed by Richard Fleischer (The Vikings), the film has a curious but largely successful mix of mystery and bleak futuristic vision, somewhat like Blade Runner but without the extraordinary art direction. This was Robinson's last film and he's easily the best thing about it; his final scene seems terribly appropriate in retrospect. Joseph Cotten makes an appearance as the man whose murder results in the revelation of a shocking secret. --Tom Keogh

    9. Porcile/Pigsty (1969) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon US]
      Of course, Porcile is infamous for its portrayal of cannibalism. But in fact this is presented (forgive the pun) in good taste. Pasolini goes to lengths to show, in the Wasteland section, that cannibalism is solely a matter of survival. But even as he downplays the titillation, Pasolini finds new dimensions to this theme. Take the scene of Clémenti's duel with a straggling (or is it deserting?) soldier. After scrambling over the desolate hills, they finally lock swords. When the soldier at last realizes that he has lost, he bows down, accepting his fate like prey awaiting the predator's coup de grace. But the ...filmmaker also infuses the scene, between these two attractive men, with a tender homoeroticism. Which is cut short when Clémenti whacks off the soldier's head and then, well, you know what's for lunch.--jimwriter, amazon.com

    Cannibalism in exploitation films

    1. Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977) - Joe D'Amato [Amazon US]
      From the most popular erotic film series of all times! A gruesome cannibalistic slaying at a New York hospital sends the beautiful investigative journalist Emmanuelle into a steamy jungle inferno to track down the last existing cannibal tribe! See Emmanuelle face her greatest carnal challenge. Will Emmanuelle’s erotic charms tame the most savage, flesh-hungry beast? English Subtitles "One of D’Amato’s best, a real corker with enough nudity, sex, and gore to keep genre buffs happy." – Richard J. Taylor, VIOLENT MANIAC’S CAGE --From the Back Cover

      Xavier Mendik's paper, “Monstrous Sex: Horror, Eroticism and Cult Constructions of the ‘Other’ in the Black Emanuelle Films,” will be on Black Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, a bizarre soft-porn and gore-fest movie in one.

    2. Cannibal Ferox (A.K.A. Make Them Die Slowly) (1981) - Umberto Lenzi [Amazon US]
      Italian exploitation legend Umberto Lenzi birthed the cannibal subgenre of Italian horror with Deep River Savages, but he turned out one of the so-called classics of the genre with this 1981 effort, a blunt, brutal story of five New Yorkers who face the wrath of angry Amazon cannibals. Three completely clueless would-be anthropologists set out to disprove the racist myth of tribal cannibalism perpetuated by colonial Europeans. Turning a blind eye to danger at every turn, they join up with a pair of drug-crazed psychos on the run from supposed cannibals (in truth, the reign of terror has been perpetrated solely by greedy Americans) and then wait patiently for the bloody vengeance of the tribal survivors. Lenzi is no stylist, and his attempts at irony are crude at best, but he delivers all he promises (or threatens): evisceration, emasculation, gouged eyeballs, and a sick twist on the initiation scene from A Man Called Horse. His generous budget allowed him to shoot on location in South America and New York (where a police detective searches for the homicidal drug dealer in a subplot) and lavish attention on his carnage, elevating it to near cult status. More than simply gory, this is a sadistic, cynical, mean-spirited film, for hardcore fans of the genre only. Lenzi and star John Morghen (the only animated actor in the otherwise flat cast) offer commentary on an alternate track, but Lenzi is all but unintelligible through his thick accent at times. A supplemental interview with Lenzi is helpfully translated by his interviewer. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com

    3. The Bedroom (1992) - Hisayasu Sato[Amazon US]
      Director Hisayasu Sato's eclectic study of subcultures: fetishism, drug use, prostitution and pornography. Both sensual and unsettling, "The Bedroom" paints a nightmare landscape that is strangely attractive. Kyoko is a member of a club called The Bedroom where all the girls use Hallusion, a highly hallucinatory drug, and then let men do whatever they want to them. One by one, the women in the club are being killed and mutilated. Soon, Kyoko begins to suspect her lover, Kei, of being the murderer. But the truth proves to be far more disturbing. This stylish example of Japanese "Pink Cinema" co-stars cannibal murderer Issei Sagawa, who shot and partially ate his Dutch girlfriend in Paris in 1981. Issei Sagawa, Kiyomi Ito, Kyoko Nakamura, Momori Asano, Takeshi Ito; Dir: Hisayasu Sato. Includes production stills and background information on the Pink Cinema movement and director Hisayasu. --amazon.com

    Eaten Alive!: Italian Cannibal and Zombie Movies (2002) - Jay Slater [Amazon.com]

    1. Eaten Alive!: Italian Cannibal and Zombie Movies (2002) - Jay Slater [Amazon.com]
      Eaten Alive! tells the story of the graphically gory movies created from the late 1970s through the early 1990s by Italian exploitation moviemakers. Jay Slater explains how the myth of the Haitian walking dead (zombies) merged with legends of third-world cannibalism to create such gruesome zombie cult films as Cannibal Holocaust, an acknowledged influence on The Blair Witch Project. --amazon.com

      But the real find here, for me is a guy called Donato Totaro who I’ve never heard of but is another academic. While he intellectualises the splatter genre, you never feel he’s doing it just to apologise for liking this stuff – whether he’s giving us the HP Lovecraft angle on Fulci’s well-worn Gates of Hell films or drawing lines between Michel Soavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore and Hitchcock’s Vertigo, he convinces with his intellect and that he clearly loves these films. --Richard Wilson via amazon.co.uk

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