I just recently viewed Eli Roth’s long-awaited jungle Cannibal film, “The Green Inferno”, and although I enjoyed the movie it didn’t “wow me”. However, it did get me to thinking…some people will eat anything! Here are 10 Classic Cannibal Culture films that deserve a second helping…I mean look. That is, if you can stomach it…
1. DERANGED (1974)
Directed by: Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen
Produced by: Tom Karr
Written by: Alan Ormsby
Starring: Roberts Blossom, Cosette Lee, Leslie Carlson, Robert Warner
Distributed by: American International Pictures
Released: February 1974
Ezra Cobb (creepily portrayed by Roberts Blossom – who usually plays an old man weirdo in countless films including Christine, and as Old Man Marley in Home Alone opposite Macauley Culkin) endures a lifetime of emotional and physical abuse by his single parent Mother: a jilted woman and incredible religious fanatic. Ezra’s mom spent decades instilling a latent hatred of women in him, as she was forever afraid that he would leave her one day for another woman just like Ezra’s father did many many years prior. Well, Momma suddenly just dies and Ezra is left purposeless as he has served her every demand for years. After a while, Ezra’s complete dependence on his mother causes him to go bonkers out of loneliness having no other connections in his life. He digs up her interred body, believing that she is still alive, and mounts her, fully dressed, in a rocking chair in her bedroom. Having learned taxidermy, Ezra begins robbing fresh graves in order to use various body parts to “put Momma back together.” He uses extra pieces of the decomposed bodies as home decor. But Ezra soon desires fresher specimens and his completely deranged obsessions go beyond the recently deceased, and he becomes a serial killer. Luring women into his grasp, he soon finds various other “creative” ways in which to decorate his home.
Deranged is a quiet chiller that creeps up on you pretty fast with its gory and indescribable acts of depravity. The movie is a close fictionalized account of infamous serial killer, cannibal, and grave robber Ed Gein that isn’t biographical. A few points were altered for storytelling purposes, but generally much of the details of Gein’s heinous crimes are disturbingly portrayed with near perfect accuracy in this film. The scene in the movie with a woman hanging from the rafters of his barn like a slab of beef is sequenced almost exactly like the 1957 Plainfield Wisconsin police file footage of Gein’s atrocities. Many films have used the Gein story as inspiration for their stories (a couple of examples include Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), but Deranged depicts the source material with an almost celebratory zeal.
An added thrill for me personally, is that Deranged was filmed and edited near my house – granted 30 years before I lived here, but it’s still pretty cool to drive by the general store (or what’s left of it) in Enniskillen, Ontario and picture some of the scenes being shot there. Also, many of the interior shots of Ezra’s house and barn were filmed, and edited, at the former Canukr Studios in Mitchell Corners, Ontario near the Supermarket where I shop for my groceries.
2. THREE ON A MEATHOOK (1972)
Directed by: William Girdler
Produced by: John Asman, Lee Jones, Joseph Shulten
Written by: William Girdler
Starring: Charles Kissinger, James Pickett
Released: Fourth Quarter 1972
Uhm….plot synopsis SPOILERS on from here on out…
…WHAAaaaa?? What on Earth is going on in this movie? I have no idea how to interpret this film other than I really really disliked it. It was so horribly written, shot, and paced that the real victims of this movie are the unfortunate saps (like myself) that sat thru the whole thing. This movie was sooooooo low budget that it makes other low budget B-Movies look like Summer Blockbusters. The casting was indescribably inexcusable — the guy who played Billy and his “old man” looked as though they were two years apart in age and could have an older / younger brother dynamic; the girls cast in this movie were so incredibly bad that I couldn’t wait for them to be killed on screen, which saddens me further as a horror fan because the kills take place at the beginning and at the end of the picture — they get offed quickly, and painfully, but the viewer is left to suffer the slow agonizing pain of continuing to watch. Worse still, was how ridiculous and absurd the plot was. It goes a little something like this: Billy happens upon four stranded girls at a beach and he invites them to his home to ride out the night and catch some sleep — the girls decide to go…to a weird stranger’s remote farm where he lives with his widowed Father!?! Are you all nuts!?! — the girls get murdered in a very quick HI-YAaa 1-2 and 3 – 4 succession — the next morning Billy stumbles upon the bodies and freaks out — Billy boy’s accused of it by his dad and told to go into town to see a movie (what?!? Go see a flippin’ movie??!! “You just brutally murdered those four dames, son, but go to a movie and relax while I clean up the mess”. No, idjit, you call the po-lice!) — Ok pa, and off Billy goes to a Bar instead and immediately falls in love with the waitress and mere hours after seeing four girls murdered bodies, and being accused of the brutal murderous act by his “Older Brother” Dad, has beautifully fallen in love with the Waitress after a day on the swings at the park (apparently scored by a Burt Bacarach clone), an excessively lengthy outing at the Duke Tavern watching some bizarre disco corn pone band where the two lovebirds met, and…oh my God I can’t believe I’m still talking about this!
Finally…sigh…a cannibalistic element is shoe-horned-In out of nowhere for an ending. Which I realize was trendy throughout the 1970’s for frying-purple-people-sausages, but this movie didn’t even try to polish it up a bit.
Three On A Meathook? No, it’s more like 78 Minutes on the Crapper!
3. RAW MEAT (1973)
Directed by: Gary Sherman
Produced by: Paul Maslansky
Written by: Gary Sherman
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Norman Rossington, David Ladd, Sharon Gurney, Hugh Armstrong, Christopher Lee
Oh Donald Pleasance and Christopher Lee…how much did they pay you both to star in this stinker? Also, for God’s sake stop hanging out in the sewers with the crazies. “Scenes so shocking that they can’t be shown in this preview”….riiiiiight. More like, “we CAN’T show you any more scenes because the rest are worse than those IN the preview”. Who eats human flesh in the sewers any ways? Go sit at a table with a knife, fork, and a bib like a normal civilized Cannibal. Still, strangely, I really enjoyed this.
4. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)
Directed By: Tobe Hooper
Written By: Tobe Hooper; Kim Henkel
Starring: Marilyn Burns; Edwin Neal; Gunnar Hansen
Released: October 1974
What I Love About This Movie:
Here’s the opening Narration of the movie: “The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history.” This narration, along with the accompanying quick snapshots being taken by Forensic Police Officers set the tone for this movie beautifully. For 1974 this movie was pretty grisly and horrifying. Once the killing starts at the farmhouse it’s a hyper-manic struggle for survival. Leatherface is a distrubing and depraved monster that freaks you out from the first moment you see him on screen. Standout scary moment is when Sally Hardesty awakens tied to a chair sitting at a dinner table being stared at by a family of maniacs. The close ups of her terrorized eyes are truly frightening!
Directed by: Wes Craven
Produced by: Pete Locke
Written by: Wes Craven
Starring: Susan Lanier, Michael Berryman, Robert Houston, Martin Speer, Dee Wallace, Russ Grieve
Released: July 22, 1977
The Hills Have Eyes (1977) tells the tale of an All-American family taking a cross-country trip in an RV that gets marooned in a Southwestern U.S. desert. They are soon plagued, harassed, and brutally assaulted by a family-tribe of cannibalistic mutants hell-bent on destroying this harmless and decent family. The family fights back and what results is an early horrific masterpiece in Wes Craven’s repertoire.
Hills is brutal and unflinching. A family stranded must defend themselves against a roaming band of hideously deformed murderers; which turns out we’re made that way due to exposure to massive amounts of radioactivity.
This part of the desert is where the United States used to conduct their nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s, and the resultant radioactive fallout produced these crazed blood-thirsty maniacs.
The movie has some great, tense moments and also some shocking and brutal assaults — from both sides. Much like Craven’s first effort with Last House on the Left (1972), his early films shared a thematic similarity of having the victims take a stand against their attackers and enacting their revenge in every bit as brutal a fashion as the mutated freaks hunting them.
Shot with an incredibly low budget of $230,000, the movie fared incredibly well; bringing in almost ten times that at the box office. An inevitable sequel was made in 1985, and a remake of the horror classic produced by Wes Craven and directed by Alexandre Aja was released in 2006.
6. ANTHROPOPHAGOUS (1980)
Directed by: Joe D’Amato
Produced by: Joe D’Amato, George Eastman, Oscar Santaniello
Written by: Joe D’Amato and George Eastman
Starring: Mark Bodin, Bob Larson, Tisa Farrow, Serena Grandi,
Saverio Vallone, Margaret Mazzantini
Released: August 9, 1980
Anthropophagus is an Italian offering from director Joe D’Amato and set in the Greek isles. It falls in line with the cannibalistic craze of horror films that were prevalent throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Motel Hell for example. In the film, a small group of travellers make their way to an apparently abandoned island town. They are soon stalked by a towering crazed grotesque killer, that feeds on flesh, and may have been responsible for the brutal slaying of the residents of this island. Now, the bloodthirsty maniac has his sights set on these wayward travellers and he plans on having them for dinner.
This film was so gory – indecent – and disturbing that it was banned for many years from many European countries — most notably in the U.K. where it made the legendary “video nasties” list in the 1980’s. There are several scenes in this movie that will just make your skin crawl. I watched it in Italian with no English subtitles so I had to follow the movie based on what I was seeing on screen. It mostly kept my attention with its intense and over the top kill sequences. It also has an ending you’ll not be soon to forget!
7. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980)
Directed by: Ruggero Deodato
Produced by: Franco Palaggi
Written by: Gianfranco Clerici
Starring: Robert Kerman
Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi,
Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi
Released: February 7 1980
Apparently the Horror world didn’t go vegetarian until Little Shop of Horrors in 1986…oh wait, no that’s not right…that’s more of a man-eating plant. Well, regardless, the years preceding Audrey II, the 1970’s and early 80’s saw an upsurge in films portraying flesh-eating cannibalistic lunatics. One particular of this sub-genre, Cannibal Holocaust (1980) directed by Ruggero Deodato, focuses on an investigative news and research team that travel deep into the jungles of South America in search of a documentary film crew from a previous expedition that has completely disappeared without a trace. When they arrive, they soon encounter a primitive tribe of cannibals and discover the previous team’s fates.
The movie is perhaps one of the most renowned, yet reviled, of the man-meat eating lot. It was painstakingly difficult to sit through. It’s primal, abhorrent (like the rape scene with a beheding), graphically brutal (bodies left skewered and impaled), and brilliantly shot in the Found Footage style of tale, it’s carnal and unforgiving and was banned in dozens of countries around the world and director Deodato was also charged (but not convicted) with breaking obscenity laws. It has been heavily criticized about the mutilation of live animals, and it’s extremely graphic brutality. The movie was Soooo realistic, that people had a hard time accepting that what they saw was just a movie.
See the movie once to pique your disgustingly morbid curiousity. Then go and eat a salad.
8. MOTEL HELL (1980)
Directed by: Kevin Connor
Produced by: Robert Jaffe, Steven-Charles Jaffe
Written by: Robert Jaffe, Steven-Charles Jaffe
Tim Tuchrello (uncredited)
Starring: Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke
Nancy Parsons, Nina Axelrod
Released: October 18, 1980
“It takes a whole bunch of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters!”
Preceding the slasher trend of the 1980’s, this film is more of a light-hearted and down-homey version of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. It is certainly a bit of a tongue-and-cheek parody / satire of the cannibal horror trend that arose out of the 1970’s. Farmer Vincent, and his little sister Ida, run an off-the-beaten-path motel down south. Secondary to this, Vincent is known throughout the county as having the best smoked meat around — people come by during the day to purchase some of the delicious sausages. Unbeknownst to the community at large, they’re eating people! Farmer Vincent sets road traps late at night and abducts the victims, placing them in an ungodly “patch” hidden on his farm behind the motel. Little do these unfortunate souls realize that they are soon going to be the main course! Vincent and Ida’s schemes are threatened when Vincent falls for a young hottie that he decides to nurse back to health instead of cure for jerky. The naïve young lady, and Vincent’s younger brother Sherriff, discover what’s happening on the grounds. But it may be too late to stop the maniacal duo from making them the next special of the day!
3 out of 5 Thumb Sausages!
9. CANNIBAL FEROX (1981)
Directed by: Umberto Lenzi
Produced by: Mino Loy, Luciano Martino, Antonio Crescenzi
Written by: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: John Morghen, Lorraine De Selle, Bryan Redford, Zora Kerowa, Walter Lloyd, Robert Kerman
Released: 24 April 1981
Yum yum yum man meat! “C’mon, Bitch…WHERE’S YOUR STUD?” (slap, slap). I don’t know what’s worse, the gory and bloody visuals, the off-putting disco grooves, or that blonde girl getting repeatedly slapped for apparently just being there.