(Kevin Connor, 1980) MGM
"Meat's meat, a man's gotta eat," chirps Farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun in a wildly over-the-top performance), the proprietor of Farmer Vincent's Fritters. It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent's fritters, none tastier than the briny tourists who happen upon Motel Hello. Taking a cue from Psycho, the guests of Vincent and his creepy-tubby sister Ida (Nancy Parsons) check in but never check out. Instead, they're planted up to their moaning necks in his secret garden — sowed, ripened and harvested — for another batch of his world famous fritters. Yum!
(Paul Bartel, 1982) Sony
Reaganomics and a robbery nearly cost the nondescript but content Blands (Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov) their dream of opening a restaurant. A happy accident provides economic boon — the Blands make a killing by offing "rich weirdoes" and selling their bodies to Doggie King as food fodder.
(Bob Balaban, 1989) Geneon
Skewering the mandatory McCarthy normalcy of 1950s American suburbia, Parents is a nightmarish tale offset in candy colors and exotica tunes. The picturesque ideal of dad (Randy Quaid) cooking out while mom (Mary Beth Hurt) mixes drinks for the neighbors turns sour when their son suspects that the main course may not be what it seems. Childhood angst gives way to full-out paranoia in this delightfully grim film.
Cannibal! The Musical
(Trey Parker, 1996) Troma Entertainment
There's no love more pure than that between a man and his horse. Yes, the love that dare not speak its name is at the bloody, beating heart of Trey Parker's feature film debut. The future South Park co-creator stars as Alfred Packer, notorious Colorado murderer. Parker plays Packer's story for laughs, pitting him against misplaced Japanese Indians, a bloodthirsty Cyclops, and buff trappers — all set to a sunny, toe-tapping score. Shpadoinkle!
(Antonia Bird, 1999) 20th Century Fox
When he's not feasting on human flesh, Robert Carlyle spends his time chewing up the scenery as Colonel Ives, an unstable army officer who's convinced it's a man-eats-man world. Inspired by the tales of Alfred Packer and George Donner, Ravenous pits Carlyle against Guy Pierce in a muddy, bloody battle of swaggering macho posturing that puts a new spin on "you are what you eat.
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
(Peter Greenaway, 1989) Anchor Bay
Mired in controversy upon its release, Peter Greenaway's most accessible film was branded pornographic for its frank full-frontal nudity. Michael Gambon plays loutish gangster-gourmand Albert Spica who takes over a restaurant to front his nefarious deeds. In the end he gets his just deserts. Like a fine beef Wellington, the bloody film is aptly wrapped in a shell of rich colors.
(Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, 1991) Miramax
Before stealing hearts and awards for Amelie, Jeunet and Caro captivated audiences with the post-apocalyptic cannibal-comedy Delicatessen. Dominique Pinon is Louison, former clown, current handyman, and future fare for the residents of an apartment building run by butcher Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus). Breakneck editing and black humor make this the most palatable of all cannibal art films.
The Silence of the Lambs
(Jonathan Demme, 1991) MGM
Old Hannibal Lecter talks a big game. Expertly played by Anthony Hopkins, the character exudes malice; his deadly nature is revealed but once during Lambs. The characters mostly speak of his cannibalistic excursions, weaving a grisly, dark shroud, which Lecter gladly wears. When Lecter finally shows anything other than his cool manipulation, we're shocked at the viscera ruining his normally spotless attire. The red of stage blood was never brighter than when it covered Lecter's T and round pale face.
(Frank Marshall, 1993) Buena Vista Home Entertainment
The pitch for this film must have been interesting: "We'll take some of the hottest young hunky stars in Hollywood and have 'em eat one another!" That's the long and short of Alive, a dramatization of the 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. More than the harrowing adversity faced by the rugby team stranded in the Andes, the most terrifying aspect here is the plane crash scene, ranking along with Fight Club, Fearless and Castaway as one of the best.
Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street
(Tim Burton, 2007) Dreamworks Video
Surprisingly, while the adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's musical play was often drenched in gore, the aspects of cannibalism were rather minimal in Tim Burton's take. One would have expected more dark humor surrounding the idea of serving the denizens of Fleet Street with their fellows to be shown in lipsmacking close-up. However, apart from the song "Try the Priest," the cannibalism of Sweeney Todd is downplayed in favor of the melodrama of the titular character and the cruel tricks fate has played upon himMike White is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]