30. The People Under The Stairs (1991)
Director: Wes Craven
Stars: Brandon Quintin Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, A.J. Langer
In the late Wes Craven’s filmography, The People Under The Stairs often gets lost among the likes of the slasher glory of A Nightmare On Elm Street, the game changing meta Scream, and exploitation classics like The Last House On The Left, among many others. Which is a damn shame. Though it certainly has its admirers, especially among the hardcore horror fans out there, this seems to be a largely undervalued title on his CV. It definitely falls into a category all its own, moving deftly from horror to comedy to social allegory, all wrapped in a wonderfully lunatic package.
What makes The People Under The Stairs so unnerving is that it takes the idea of the weirdo family living just up the street and turns it into an ever-descending spiral into the macabre and insane. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is certainly scary, but what if that same family that lived out in the middle of nowhere moved in up the street from you, in a normal neighborhood? That idea is way creepier if you ask us. What horrible things could be happening just over there? If you said, “keeping deformed and mutated children in cages in their weird cavernous basement and also robbing, murdering, and eating people,” then you are correct.
29. Trouble Every Day (2001)
Director: Claire Denis
Stars: Vincent Gallo, Tricia Vessey, Béatrice Dalle, Alex Descas
Shane Brown and June have just married, and they’ve decided to go to Paris for their honeymoon. There, a beautiful but treacherous woman named Core has been leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake when she’s captured by Leo Semeneau, a scientist who spirits her away to his estate. As Core is placed under guard, Semeneau leaves to return to the city for an unnamed assignment. In time, we discover that Shane and Core have something rather unusual in common — both are murderers who regularly feast on the flesh of their victims.
Trouble Every Day is a haunting vision of desire gone haywire. Light on story and big on aesthetics, the film moves silently like a sensual yet terrible dream. This film is lovely to look at and the camera work is quite captivating. The two much talked about cannibalism scenes occur pretty late in the film and are without a doubt worthy of the fuss; they are indeed stunning and hard not to find strangely beautiful.
28. Cannibal (2013)
Director: Manuel Martín Cuenca
Stars: Antonio de la Torre, Olimpia Melinte, María Alfonsa Rosso, Manolo Solo
For spanish helmer Manuel Martin Cuenca, the title of Cannibal is not merely figurative. Its hero kills and consumes beautiful young women, and unlike other same-species carnivores, he pursues his solitary avocation with the same measured deliberation with which he plies his craft as a high-end tailor. Sumptuously shot in carefully composed long takes, the film firmly keeps its butchery off-screen, and given its glacial pace and lack of overt sensationalism, it definitely ranks as a niche item — and a rarefied one, at that. But sophisticated arthouse audiences should eat it up.
It is in this minimalism that the film must be, for lack of a better word, read. Cuenca has stripped the film of any grand gestures. Instead, a formalism within simplicity is there. There is no score, what little music there is is diegetic, and Cuenca instead works mainly with either the natural light of the sun, or those lamps that would naturally fill a space. One shot of the city at dusk shows it as a blaze of red, and if the blood that Carlos has spilled somehow infects it. The camera moves only when necessary; frequently remaining in one position for an entire scene, moving only to show necessary close-ups or shot/reverse shot. It is almost as if the camera is reflecting Carlos, considering every sound and gesture, and taking the audience through all these considerations, to understand how to act with such cold precision.
27. The Neon Demon (2016)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Stars: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Keanu Reeves
Nicolas Winding Refn’s journey into cinematic WTFery is a mad ballet of envy, erotic obsession, necrophilia and cannibalism. We follow Jesse, a 16-year-old newcomer to Los Angeles who hopes to break into a career in modeling. Her virginal, doe-eyed freshness prove irresistible to everyone she encounters – agents, photographers, fashion designers, and even a rogue mountain lion. But Jesse especially catches the attention of makeup artist Ruby, whom she meets at her first photo shoot.
After a series of bizarre events occur, a terrified Jesse calls Ruby, who tells her to come to her place for safety. After Jesse comes to Ruby’s house, Ruby tries to initiate sex with Jesse, who rejects her. Upset, along with two model gal pals, Ruby gets revenge by murdering Jesse by shoving her into an empty swimming pool. We watch Jesse, bones broken, still alive, slowly bleed out. The sight of this unfilled pool suddenly being filled with a pool of blood is both sad and frightening. Not to mention what happens next; namely, the girls eat Jesse and bath in her blood. Because hey, you got to stay young somehow…
26. The Woman (2011)
Director: Lucky McKee
Stars: Sean Bridgers, Pollyanna McIntosh, Lauren Ashley Carter, Zach Rand
The titular female in The Woman is the last surviving member of a family of feral cannibals who resided in the thick forests of the Pacific North West. Chris Cleek is a lawyer with a hankering for hunting who discovers the woman bathing naked in a creek. Chris Cleek is also an oppressive patriarch with some seriously disturbing parenting methods. He decides to bring the woman back to his family’s home in an attempt to “civilize” her. Well, you can take the cannibal out of the woods, but you can take the cannibal out of the woman!
When Chris attempts to see just how uncivilized his visitor really is, she gives him a very clear demonstration of her abilities by gnawing off his finger and spitting his gore-encrusted wedding ring onto the floor with a self-satisfied grin. So begins this country lawyer’s slow descent into madness as he tries to domesticate his new friend while convincing his family that he’s doing the right thing. Chaos, of course, eventually ensues. This is daring, dark material that approaches satire in its exploration of the hideous underbelly of America. It’s American Beauty meets Hostel… and that’s meant as a compliment. This film has a deliciously controversial history that’s definitely worth researching. And the ending is freaking insane!
25. The Green Inferno (2013)
Director: Eli Roth
Stars: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Sky Ferreira
In the grand tradition of Eli Roth’s Hostel films, The Green Inferno follows a group of college kids who get in way over their heads while out of the country. In this case it’s a group of activists, college students who head to the Amazon to protest deforestation that threatens local stone age tribes. But when a plane crash strands them deep within the jungle the kids learn that maybe the tribe isn’t the idealized version of man living in harmony with nature that they thought. Their condescending liberalism never prepared them for a village of red-painted headhunters who don’t fit any of their primitive native as childlike innocent stereotypes.
This film feels like an extended middle finger to everyone begging for political correctness and activism regarding saving nature (or just a stab at PC culture in general). That isn’t to be confused with saying anyone that cares will be set on a collision course with cannibals, but that maybe instead of crying and whining people should research what they themselves are interested in, rather than demanding the entire world come together for their cause. Of course, most of this ends up lost in translation thanks to people being eaten left and right, but the message stands.
24. Wrong Turn (2003)
Director: Rob Schmidt
Stars: Eliza Dushku, Jeremy Sisto, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto
In 2003, we received the first installment of the Wrong Turn franchise, which involved a family of (what else?) inbred backwoods cannibals who made a habit of dining on attractive young people. It was followed with five direct-to-video sequels: Wrong Turn 2: Dead End in 2007; Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead in 2009; Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings in 2011; Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines in 2012; and Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort in 2014.
Wrong Turn had a lot of mixed reviews, to say the least. But for a horror cheese-fest about six ill-fated teens on the verge of brutal maceration by inbred hick monsters, Wrong Turn is surprisingly worth the detour. Gory enough to satisfy jaded horror fans and scary enough to offer a decent, frightening night for everyone else. The Joe Lynch-helmed sequel is actually pretty great as well. After that you probably shouldn’t waste your time.
23. We’re Going To Eat You (1980)
Director: Tsui Hark
Stars: Norman Chu, Eddy Ko, Melvin Wong, Mo-lin Cheung
We’re Going to Eat You is definitely one of the more peculiar cannibal films on this list. It’s a very strange hybrid of kung-fu action, anthropophagite horror, and comedy – with some really off the wall scenes, and its fair amount of gore. The film follows a secret agent, Agent 999, who is attempting to capture a thief named Rolex. Agent 999’s hunt leads him to a village that is inhabited by cannibals.
Even with the occasional lull in the action, the loads of blood and guts, satisfactorily choreographed fights, and unforgettable characters ensure that We’re Going too Eat You is solid trashy entertainment from start to finish.
22. Soylent Green (1973)
Director: Richard Fleischer
Stars: Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young, Joseph Cotten
In case the news has eluded you somehow, Soylent Green is [SPOILER] people! But before our protagonist stumbles — quite literally — upon the truth, Soylent Green is believed to be a plankton-based food product (whether or not you find plankton more appetizing than cannibalism is a matter of taste, we’re sympathetic to both sides of the argument).
Let’s go back. It is the year 2022. We have dying oceans and year-round humidity due to the greenhouse effect, resulting in suffering from pollution, poverty, overpopulation and depleted resources. The cops are as corrupt as ever, and the government is merely a small branch of the Soylent Corporation — the international conglomerate that controls two-thirds of the world’s food supply by manufacturing cheap crackers out of… well, we’ve already covered that. Loosely based on the 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, Soylent Green is a thought-provoking movie that is all the more relevant today, given our present environmental concerns, and political climate.
21. The Cook The Thief His Wife And Her Lover (1989)
Director: Peter Greenaway
Stars: Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Tim Roth
Peter Greenaway’s delectable art house favorite serves up the perfect example of the gourmet cannibal film. Shot, superbly crafted, and stunningly acted, this film explores the extremes of human jealousy, spitefulness, and revenge. Albert is a brutal crime boss who also owns a swanky restaurant with an artisan chef named Richard. Albert’s wife Georgina grows bored with her brutish spouse and strikes up an affair with a kind bookseller.
The cook covers for the lovers who sometimes conduct their covert affair in the restaurant bathroom as Albert consumes a meal. But Albert eventually catches on and murders his wife’s lover. Overcome with rage and grief, she begs Richard to cook Michael’s body, and he eventually complies. Together with all the people that Albert wronged throughout the film, Georgina confronts her husband and forces him at gunpoint to eat a mouthful of Michael’s cooked body. “Try the cock, Albert. It’s a delicacy, and you know where it’s been.” Georgina concludes the film with the line: “Cannibal.” Indeed, this film is a dark and grim morality play about our insatiable appetite for cruelty and power.