20. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007)
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall
It’s kind of remarkable that there are two musicals about cannibalism in existence, but in addition to Cannibal! The Musical there’s also the more famous Sweeney Todd, directed by Tim Burton and based on the popular broadway show of the same name. Of course Tim Burton would want to make this. Sweeney Todd follows a barber who murders people by slitting their throat with a razor and then bakes them into meat pies.
This is one of Tim Burton’s better films that he has released in recent history. It’s first and foremost a musical, with essentially all the characters singing throughout, but it’s also horrific and hilarious. Burton artfully meshes the powerful and beautiful music with stunning visuals. He successfully creates a much more intimate atmosphere than can be achieved on stage and he makes brilliant use of light/dark contrasts and color. All in all, this is a worthwhile film even if you have never heard of Stephen Sondheim (though you really should have, but that’s not the point).
19. Frontier(s) (2007)
Director: Xavier Gens
Stars: Karina Testa, Aurélien Wiik, Patrick Ligardes, Estelle Lefébure
Opening in complete chaos (and never really leaving there), Frontier(s) revolves around four young people who have fled a riot-torn Paris with a bag of cash, and are heading towards Amsterdam. After splitting up into two groups the friends decide to meet at a secluded bed and breakfast near the French border. Soon enough the friends realize that the folks running the establishment are fascist neo-Nazi cannibals intent on creating a superior race and having an unconventional meal.
One of the most obvious things to note about this film is that it wears its influences on its sleeve. The obvious reference point is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You have human remains laid about causally, gun shot wounds, fingers blow away, a throat bit out, and the list goes on. Also, remember in Hot Fuzz where Nick Frost’s character asks, “Is it true that there’s a place in a man’s head that if you shoot it, it will blow up?”? Frontier(s) answers that question with, “Hell yes!”
18. Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Stars: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Lili Simmons
When an idjit criminal defiles the sacred ground of a tribe of savage cannibals, he hightails it out of there and heads for the small frontier town of Bright Home, which, as it turns out, is quite poorly named. The cannibals give chase, because they want to kill and eat the interloper, and when they catch up to him, they take him, along with a few of the town’s residents, back to their cave to be dinner. When Sheriff Franklin Hunt gets wind of this, he and three other men set out to confront the savages, and rescue their people.
Bone Tomahawk is about 80 percent straight western, written and played with a tender, earthy sincerity that’s pretty much a knockout. The other 20 percent, however, is savage, shocking and intensely upsetting, something to gird your loins for. This genre hybrid is one of the most intrepid in recent memory; but what elevates the film is its commitment to character, thanks to a quartet of star performances that veer close to personal bests in each and every case. Witty, beautifully shot and genuinely terrifying, this is an extremely impressive and thoroughly enjoyable horror-western. Future cult status seems assured.
17. We Are What We Are (2013)
Director: Jim Mickle
Stars: Bill Sage, Ambyr Childers, Julia Garner, Ambyr Childers
While the 2010 original is a work of art in its own right, Jim Mickle’s 2013 remake of Jorge Michel Grau’s slow-burn cannibal film about the meaning of family and tradition dispenses with some of the more convoluted plot points of the original film in favor of something much more simpler and quieter.
Set and shot in the Catskills, the film centers on a tightly knit clan whose roots in the area date back to the 18th century. Though isolated, the family is well liked by the locals, who’ve come to accept its members’ eccentricities as a product of their strict upbringing. After their mother is found dead in a flooded ditch, the family begins to unravel; further pressure comes from the local doctor, who has begun to suspect that they are hiding something sinister. (The secret is easy to guess, though that doesn’t detract from the pleasure of watching Mickle slowly reveal it.) We Are What We Are is an ambitious slice of downbeat American gothic which interweaves grim melancholia with pointed satire, doomy portent and moments of gnawing revulsion.
16. Eating Raoul (1982)
Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran, Susan Saiger
Paul and Mary Bland have dreams of opening their own business one day. The problem being that they are flat broke. However, this problem is momentarily alleviated when a drunk man wonders into their apartment and tries to sexually assault Mary. Paul kills the guy and they rob him for everything he’s got on him. A light bulb goes off in their head and they essentially decide to kill and rob “rich perverts” for a living. The couple soon goes into business for themselves selling the corpses to a dog food company.
Now, not only is this film quite hilarious but it also makes a strong statement about everything from swingers, sadomasochism, rape, murder, and cannibalism without becoming tasteless. A surprisingly great satire about achieving the American dream.
15. Blood Diner (1987)
Director: Jackie Kong
Stars: Rick Burks, Carl Crew, LaNette LaFrance, Roger Dauer
Two brothers (and their uncle who looks a lot like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) open up a restaurant that serves the best health food in town. Their secret? It’s all made from the people that they’ve killed in order to resurrect the goddess that they worship named Shitaar. Who’s ready for seconds?
This horror comedy is one of those rare little-known gems that reminds you of what ’80s slasher movies were all about (in this case, a naked kung fu chick and deep frying a woman’s head and knocking it off with a broom). Fun fact: Blood Diner was originally intended to be a sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1963 proto-splatter extravaganza Blood Feast, but when the collaborators couldn’t agree on a scenario the project was changed to a black comedy tribute in the spirit of Lewis’ cult-classic movie. Overall, Blood Diner has no pretensions, a weak story-line, low-budget written all over it, actors who aren’t that great at their profession, weird humor, and lots of blood. In other words, it’s a must-see.
14. Parents (1989)
Director: Bob Balaban
Stars: Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt, Sandy Dennis, Bryan Madorsky
From the point of view of a child, the premise of Parents is simple: young Michael Laemle starts to suspect his parents are cannibals. The film is shot in a strange ‘50s retro kitsch world where Michael’s mother is the perfect housewife, and his father a hardworking supporter of the family. The All American dream with a nasty edge, for behind this facade of domestic bliss lies a dark secret.
For most of the film we’re never quite sure if this is all a child’s nightmare fantasy or reality. SPOILER ALERT: Yes, his parents indeed have a taste for human flesh. The film ends with Michael’s grandparents assuming his care. After placing him to bed, Michael’s grandfather leaves him a midnight snack consisting of a glass of milk and a suspicious looking sandwich, implying perhaps that his parents’ cannibalism was learned behavior. That’s not good.
13. Motel Hell (1980)
Director: Kevin Connor
Stars: Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons, Nina Axelrod
Motel Hell follows a seemingly friendly farmer, Vincent, and his sister as they kidnap unsuspecting travelers and bury them alive, using them to create the “special ingredient” of their famous roadside fritters. It’s nutter butters. And while the humor of it all is quite effective, the horror dimension is still plentiful. The sight of Vincent’s “secret garden,” where he buries his victims up to their necks alive until he’s ready to butcher them, has the irrational power of a nightmare. And the dueling chainsaw climax, which might have inspired a similar scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, is informed by the memorably creepy touch of Vincent’s deranged laughter, which can be subtly heard from underneath the huge and absurd-yet-nevertheless-unsettling pig’s head that he insists on wearing for whatever reason.
Tying the figurative room together, so to speak, is the film’s heightened atmosphere of sleazy, remote, red-light-district woodiness, which is ineffably specific of ’80s horror films and, in this case, suggestive of every weird country burg you’ve ever driven through as quickly as possible.
12. Alive (1993)
Director: Frank Marshall
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, John Haymes Newton, Bruce Ramsay
Alive is a film based upon Piers Paul Read’s 1974 book Alive: The Story Of The Andes Survivors, which details the story of an Uruguayan rugby team who were involved in the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed into the Andes mountains on October 13, 1972. Subsequently they are forced to use desperate measures to survive.
Indeed, this is not an easy movie to watch at times. The injuries are graphically portrayed, the suffering of the injured is very realistic and the ultimate solution to the food problem (which you could probably guess) will upset some people but, in spite of what some will say, it isn’t the focus of the story. On the whole, Alive is an example of horrific acts that had to be done to survive in an impossible situation. Overall, it’s a film that really shows how strong the human spirit undeniably is.
11. The Man From The Deep River (1972)
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Stars: Ivan Rassimov, Me Me Lai, Prasitsak Singhara, Sulallewan Suxantat
Umberto Lenzi’s first cannibal opus, also a cash-in on the popular shockumentarie Mondo Cane, Man From Deep River was the progenitor of the cannibal jungle-bound subgenre, introducing audiences to a fictional world of depravity, ultraviolence and, yes, not-so-fictional animal cruelty.
A photographer on assignment in the rain forest is ambushed and held slave by a primitive tribe, until the chief’s daughter chooses him as her groom. After being initiated by various tortures, he becomes a part of the tribe and helps them against modern dangers and a cannibal tribe they’re at war with. Yeah, the plot is kind of nonsensical, but it does have lots of the elements that would go on to define this genre, and so it’s more than worth a look.