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Meat Is Murder: The 10 Best Cannibal Films

Features
by The Playlist Staff
September 25, 2013 2:00 PM
19 Comments
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Eating Raoul

"Eating Raoul" (1982)
More a black comedy than an out-and-out horror movie, "Eating Raoul" walks a fine tonal tightrope and somehow manages to get away with it, mostly because its absurdist sense of humor makes it an always pleasurable romp even when its subject matter becomes rather bleak. Director/co-writer Paul Bartel stars as Paul Bland who, along with his wife Mary (Mary Woronov), play a prudish married couple living in Hollywood who take to murdering swingers in their apartment building for a little extra cash. Robert Beltran plays Raoul, a small time criminal who witnesses the Blands' dirty business before striking up a bargain for his silence, sharing the profits of the murder victims (Raoul also strikes up a sexual relationship with Mary, which might be the most insane part of the whole movie). As the title suggests, the movie climaxes (spoiler alert) with a wonderfully wacky bit of cannibalism in which Raoul is both killed and consumed. Bartel, a graduate of the "Roger Corman School," knows how to keep things lively, and often times the movie plays like some pitch black sitcom gone horribly wrong (at one point Paul tries to sabotage Raoul's lovemaking by slipping him a mickey meant to diffuse his erection). Everything is arch and camp but at 83 minutes, the movie never wears out its welcome and always has something fun and goofy up its sleeve. The characters, in fact, were meant to return for a sequel entitled "Bland Ambition," which Bartel wrote with original screenwriter Richard Blackburn, but it failed to materialize. We did see a brief return of the Blands, however, in the Corman joint "Chopping Mall," which sounds like a slasher movie and not a movie about killer robot security guards running amok and blowing people's heads up (what it actually is).   

Parents

"Parents" (1989)
Like "Eating Raoul," "Parents" walks a fine tonal line between campy and horrifying, but unlike "Eating Raoul," tips more towards the terrifying, especially in a series of prolonged, nightmarish sequences in which our young protagonist Michael (Bryan Madorsky) starts imagining the outlandish horrors he suspects are quietly happening all around him. Michael is just an everyday kid living in '50s suburbia, except that he has a growing suspicion that his parents (played by Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt) are murderous cannibals. And what's more—he fears that he's feeding him their "leftovers" (when he asks his father what the leftovers were before they were leftovers, Quaid quips back, "Pre-leftovers"). Director Bob Balaban does a lovely job with the material, emphasizing the production design's period detail while also pumping up the surrealism whenever the mood suits him (to great effect, it should be noted). When the movie's funny, it's really funny, and when it's scary, it's really fucking scary. It's also a sharply satirical work, as well, showcasing the underlying nastiness of the "Leave it to Beaver" era of housewives and diligent dads. Released by the now defunct Vestron Pictures, it has gained something of a cult life on home video, although a true reappraisal of "Parents" has yet to happen. Unlike "Eating Raoul," we can't imagine this one getting the Criterion Collection treatment anytime soon. Which is a shame. 

Delicatessen

"Delicatessen" (1991)
Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet became instant filmmakers-to-watch with "Delicatessen," their darkly delicious debut. Set in a steampunky, post-apocalyptic Paris, the movie concerns an apartment building and that building's bizarre inhabitants. Caro and Jeunet are obsessed with the interconnectedness of the tenants, which is exhibited brilliantly in the film's teaser trailer, where the squeaky springs of a couple making love echo, in one form or another, throughout the building (a kid inflating the tire of a bike, a woman beating a rug, etc.) The man making love in the trailer is the butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who serves as the de facto landlord of the building and offers up cannibalistic delicacies. Caro and Jeunet are working in full-on comic book mode here, and even the cannibalism is delivered on screen with a dash of zany surrealism. (The "plot" of the movie, involving Jeunet and Caro favorite Dominique Pinon and a race of underground freedom fighters, who also happen to be vegetarian, is less enjoyable than when they just let the characters, who are equal parts Federico Fellini and "Friday the 13th," do their thing.) "Delicatessen" has aged nicely, mostly because of its mixture of gruesomeness and goofiness, and its light touch with such a grisly subject.

Trouble Every Day

"Trouble Every Day" (2001)
Claire Denis’ underrated genre piece centers on two couples, each of them coping with a unique hunger. Americans Vincent Gallo and Tricia Vessey must cope with the fact that their taste skews towards human flesh, but they can’t erase the physical affection between them that intensifies when one of them opts to feed on a third party. These two are diseased in the worst sense, each of them disgusted by their own desires of the flesh: when they gaze upon the gory milieu they’ve just created, both of them know that modern science has to find a cure for them in a hurry. On the other side of the spectrum is the power dynamic between Denis regulars Alex Descas and Beatrice Dalle. Her hunger is animalistic, and it forces him to keep building restraints for her, ones that she continues to break. With minimal dialogue, both of these relationships feature co-dependent people struggling with their vices, caught between doing what’s right for their lover, and preserving the relationship. Denis’ film is memorably gory, and unforgettably gorgeous: there’s an intense eroticism to a moment when a chained-down Dalle has her way with a curious teenager, leaving behind blood-streak walls that resemble a twisted modern art exhibit. Frequent Denis collaborators The Tindersticks contribute their moodiest, most tuneful score, sensual chamber music that gracefully accents the forbidden love happening onscreen.

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19 Comments

  • Phiip | July 23, 2014 5:43 AMReply

    You missed a masterpiece of black humor and comedy : The Green Butchers (it's a wonderful danish film).

  • pig | February 13, 2014 1:35 AMReply

    theres a movie is someone hiding from cannibal. everytime a alarm rang the cannibal will appear and hunt for human. anyone know this movie? or tittle i forgotten :S

  • wr | December 9, 2013 3:29 AMReply

    flesh eating mothers

  • meganre | December 2, 2013 6:50 AMReply

    The best cannibal movie is "Hunger." It seems so real.. and it is well acted and directed. Several people wake up in an underground hole that's finished with cement. They don't know how they got there. They are all confused. The only thing down there with them (5 or 6 people in total, can't remember) is two huge, gigantic barrels of water and some carving knives. They quickly realize that they are going to be down there for a while. One of the women is a doctor. She explains to them the side effects of hunger. As the days pass, they all get tired, weak and delerious. One man even has a heart condition. Slowly but surely, as 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 days pass..they decide to kill off the man with the heart complication and eat him. The whole movie is filmed in a way to make it seem real..no background music, etc. It is a newer movie, I believe, 2009. Check it out. I know you all will love it..I did :)

  • GypsyEyes | January 14, 2014 12:48 AM

    Totally Agree Here!! This is actually one of my favorite movies, and a movie I go to the "more like this" section of when searching for new movies. Also the reason I came looking for this page actually... lol.

  • Kkkk | October 21, 2013 9:09 PMReply

    Definitely the Wrong turns .. Ew so nasty ..

  • Stu | October 2, 2013 4:39 AMReply

    You've missed the best cannibal film ever: Van Diemen's Land about Alexander pierce an Irish convict in Tasmania who ate his fellow convicts. It's a spectacular masterpiece of the highest order.

  • Karloff | September 30, 2013 8:08 AMReply

    And Dumplings !!! Best Cannibal Movie Ever by Fruit Chan.

  • Xian | September 29, 2013 12:54 PMReply

    Not only did you forget to mention the shockingly brief scene of the "meat" cellar (and those sad, partially limbless wraiths hiding in dark corners to avoid being on the menu in "The Road"), but you didn't mention "Quest For Fire"... it features (toward the end) a central man vs. man-meat conflict of cannibalism for the upper-paleolithic trio of men we follow in the film.

  • Pork Chop | September 28, 2013 11:03 PMReply

    2,000 Maniacs

  • Paul | September 27, 2013 10:11 AMReply

    Have you ever seen Titus (or read the Shakespeare play)? "Why, there they are, both baked in that pie which their mother hath fed, eating the flesh she herself hath bred!"

  • yorozuya emma | September 26, 2013 3:06 AMReply

    You forgot a notorious Hong Kong film called "The Untold Story"

  • Lefty | September 26, 2013 2:09 AMReply

    Too bad you didn't mention "La Peau Blanche", great film.

  • cirkusfolk | September 25, 2013 4:59 PMReply

    Ravenous is hands down the best cannibal movie ever made!

  • Mitchell | September 25, 2013 4:33 PMReply

    There's no way that Sweeney Todd (OK) and Hannibal (lousy) are better cannibal films than The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover.

  • Stu | October 2, 2013 4:40 AM

    Couldn't agree more.

  • Brett | September 25, 2013 4:22 PMReply

    The movie Cannibal should have been mentioned.

  • ED | September 25, 2013 3:14 PMReply

    Was introduced to Eating Raoul in high school on a lark. Love that movie.

  • CB | September 25, 2013 2:27 PMReply

    Anders Thomas Jensen's De grønne slagtere starring Mads Mikkelsen is a masterpiece of black comedy.

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