Memorial Day Weekend has come and almost gone. BBQ parties and indulgences in excessive carnivorous activity have been rampant. Naturally, this brings up thoughts about cannibalism. Annual barbecues are a ritual of sorts to carnivores who crave real, juicy flesh between their teeth. I love burgers, but they have to be well done – zero pink. Not dry, but just cooked thoroughly. I can already hear naysayers chortling in aggressive disagreement. While I don’t condone any sort of cannibalism, I do enjoy the partaking of watching wild, people-munching cinema, and what better place to do that than at a summer barbecue?
Now that we’re thinking about tasty burgers and flesh eaters, here are some interesting movies with themes revolving around cannibalism that probably aren’t the first to come to mind. We’ll skip the usual "Leatherface" talk and all the Italian gorefests most cannibal movie lovers have seen. Besides, I haven’t room to write a book on the likes of Deodato! The following might be great to screen at your BBQ parties this summer. Trust me. It’ll go over spectacularly with the family elders, surely? Well, it was worth a try.
Note that these are not typical cannibal films, but random, weird picks that simply contain elements of cannibalism.
We Are What We Are (2010) - Jorge Michel Grau directed this Mexican cannibal drama following the grim story of a poor family struggling to survive in a hopeless situation. When their father passes away, the children have to do the hunting and gathering by themselves, which is harder than it seems. It’s actually a very dark, harrowing, wonderful film.
Ravenous (1999) - Very dark and creepy, yet strangely amusing wilderness survival flick set around the time of the Mexican-American War. Directed by a British woman, Antonia Bird, it stars Robert Carlyle as a mountain man with a taste for human flesh. Guy Pearce and David Arquette also star. It’s another one of those movies where you’re not completely sure if they’re cannibals or vampires for a while. It’s so weird of a film that it’s easy to scoff aside as laughable, but then what happens during the second viewing? You love it. I couldn’t get past the campy music when I saw it theatrically, but now who owns the DVD? Go figure. Great tagline: “You are who you eat.”
Delicatessen (1991) - Quirky, French black comedy by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, who also both directed The City of Lost Children, in a post-apocalyptic setting. Dominique Pinon plays a man who falls for the daughter of a butcher who supplies human meat to fellow tenants in the building, which serves as the film’s primary location. Oddball antics ensue. Highly funny and creatively bizarre.
Trouble Every Day (2001) - Directed by Claire Denis, is a body horror film that isn’t easily categorized. Béatrice Dalle plays a character that's actually even more shocking than her murderous, psychotic stalker in French slasher Inside. She’s basically a victim of libido lab experiments gone wrong, which cause her to fulfill urges to eat the men she sleeps with. Vincent Gallo portrays a man dealing with vampiric urges of the flesh, but he’s mostly unnoticeable in comparison to Dalle’s wild performances, with the exception of one unforgettable scene. While mostly confusing and surprisingly dull at times, there are some very nasty, graphic scenes of sexual cannibalism sure to rock your barbecue. Plus, it’s quite a refreshing jump away from the usual stuff.
Eating Raoul (1982) - You can’t go wrong with Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov. If you see their names in the credits of a film, just buy it. Easily one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen, it’s a black comedy about a prudish couple who inadvertently end up killing random swingers with a frying pan in their apartment for their money. Raoul comes along and everything changes. Even though this isn’t really a cannibal film, it’s hard not to use association, as the entire movie leads up to it.
Cannibal! The Musical (1993) - While I’m hoping everyone’s got this DVD in their collections, that may not be the case just yet. Trey Parker of South Park fame made this outlandish cannibal comedy based on Alferd Packer for his first feature film, and it’s remained a steadfast classic ever since. Follow his tale of searching for gold and love in the Colorado Territory while he waits for execution, and prepare to laugh your butt off. I get the songs stuck in my head all the time. Lyrics for memorizing.
Africa Screams (1949) - Abbott & Costello are searching for diamonds in Africa, but conveniently bump into a tribe of cannibals, let alone the wild animals that scare them.
Dumplings (2004) - Hong Kong flick that you won’t ever forget. Let’s just say someone found a link between mysterious dumpling ingredients and rejuvenating one’s youth. Not for weak stomachs. P.S. I don’t eat dumplings anymore.
Earliest film containing cannibals?: I have no idea, but Why Sailors Go Wrong (1928) by Henry Lehrman seems like a good candidate. I haven’t seen it, but it sounds like a comedy done in the way of The Keystone Kops meets Love Boat. A pair of goofy sailors agree to help a suitor woo his forbidden betrothed on her family’s yacht by sneaking him on board. Naturally, they get shipwrecked on a desert island that is swarming with starving cannibals.
Strangest Title Award goes to: Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989)
“Nothing tastes quite like the hand that feeds you.” - Aaron Haspel