It’s Thanksgiving and ill-fated turkeys are destined to dress up our celebratory servings of foodstuffs, so I thought it an opportune time to plant tongue firmly in cheek and whip together a putrid platter of cannibalistic sleaze and splatter to satiate your need for taboo-tinged horror, offering a pre-Thanksgiving feast of flesh-eating films to whet your appetite for your upcoming feeding frenzy.
Now most of you movie maniacs eyeballin’ this blood-soaked blogroll are probably familiar with the flicks that helped launch the eponymous exploitive sub-genre, e.g. seminal Italian blood belchers like Umberto Lenzi’s MAN FROM DEEP RIVER, Antonio Margheriti’s underrated urban cannibal Vietnam aftermath flick CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE and perhaps the most exemplary and controversial Italian cannibal film of all-time, Ruggero Deodatos’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. And let us not forget genre classics like the highly visceral and still razor-sharp TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and the more stylistically-driven, totally grimy and sometimes surreal dystopian world of DELICATESSEN.
However, with this hot plate of man-eating horror, I invite you to dine on some of the more low-budget, campier dishes from the biped blood buffet. Some are a little tougher to chew through than others, but all of the following flicks offer up their own flavorful cannibalistic treat that’s sure to stick between your teeth. So, without any further ado, I give you an (un)savory sampling of some the most ridiculous, weird and totally radical cannibal films you may have yet to sink your teeth into…
BLOOD DINER (1987)
This absolutely insane late 80s black comedy / horror flick was originally intended to be a sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis’ landmark gore film BLOOD FEAST, but ended up becoming more of a darkly comedic homage instead. The story concerns two cannibalistic brothers who own a trendy “vegetarian” diner. Their undead Uncle Anwar (a talking brain in a jar!) commands them to start offing immoral girls to assemble and resurrect the Lumerian Goddess Sheetar, and in the meantime they maim multiple undesirables, lure a virgin for sacrifice and use human body parts as their secret ingredient. Directed by cult favorite Jackie Kong (THE BEING, NIGHT PATROL), it’s genuinely tough to overstate the unending (and absolutely awesome) weirdness that permeates this movie.
BLOOD DINER offers up an avalanche of over-the-top (and intentional) crude and campy comedy, a topless aerobics machine gun massacre and a ridiculous wrestling match between one of the protagonists and a wrestler named “Little Jimmy Hitler”. And there’s plenty more madness where that came from, man. Simply put, if you’re a fan of gory B-grade horror with a heaping helping of lowbrow laughs, you just can’t miss this flick.
Set in a quaint 1950’s suburban landscape that is at once ordinary and ominous, this is one oddball horror film that once you see, you’ll never quite forget. Michael Laemle is an undersized and unusual little boy who lives the life of a pariah. His home life consists of a strained relationship with his father and constant (and sometimes scary) concern from his mother, but Michael’s troubles really take shape once he starts to wonder what his parents are actually serving at the dinner table. Fan favorite Randy Quaid gives a chilling performance as the foreboding father, and Mary Beth Hurt offers a nice supporting performance as the obsequious but ultimately retaliatory mother. Lots of nightmarish atmosphere, some truly awesome surreal visuals and subtle yet sharp dark humor are all reasons to catch this underrated late 80s horror, but watch for the scene where Michael’s in class and recites his recipe on how to become invisible. It just redefines weird.
CANNIBAL GIRLS (1973)
An extremely low-budget but now retrospectively seminal Canadian horror comedy, CANNIBAL GIRLS is an early effort from director / producer Ivan Reitman, and features future comedic standouts Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin in their first leading roles. In the snow laden Canadian town of Farnhamville, a couple (Levy and Martin) has their car break down. After they take interest in an urban legend, they’re then lured into the clutches of a cannibal cult featuring a Manson-esque eccentric leader and his murderous trio of sexy cannibalistic chicks. CANNIBAL GIRLS is a little light on gore, but goes heavy on the weird, and packs plenty of sexed up 70s sleaze with some seriously laugh-out-loud sections. Its crude and darkly comedic tone mixed with the standard 70s horror sensibilities offers an unsteady albeit highly entertaining mixture, but perhaps its most powerful aspect is its position in paving the way for more daring and delightfully dubious horror films to be produced out of Canada in its wake including SHIVERS, DEATH WEEKEND and RABID (all produced by Reitman). Beyond its important influence on Canadian exploitation cinema, this is a film that any fan of low-budget sleaze is apt to enjoy. It’ll make you think twice about chasing down urban legends out of diners, too, man.
THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS (1966)
In my humble opinion, this is one of the most underrated horror comedies of all-time. A bold statement, I know; but if you’re at all inclined to experience late 60s cannibalistic cornball comedy, this movie is the ultimate answer. Written and directed by T.L.P. Swicegood, THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS spins the kooky tale of two degenerate diner owners who cook up an alliance with their pal the Undertaker (played with snake-in-the-grass panache by Ray Dannis) and then hit the town on their motorcycles to maim and murder. Select portions of the corpses are served up in the diner and the Undertaker gets to bury the leftovers.
A little racy for 1966, but it’s the treatment of the material that really lets them get away with it. This film overflows with incredible cornball comedy and goofball gags abound. The best part? Everyone in the movie seems to be having a blast with it. It’s just infectious. Aside from the constant flow of tongue-in-cheek comedy, there’s a killer cleaver to the head scene, some stock footage gore and an acid dip death that’s hard to forget. Besides all this, UNDERTAKER offers even more gags like the Undertaker taking an unwanted (and hilariously overdone) trip on a skateboard, a picture that reacts to a murder, and yes, even a classic pie in the face. What’s that? Is the womp womp in there? Do you even have to ask?! This movie was most popular in the late 60s and early 70s drive-in days, but has since received a couple of obscure VHS releases and a slew of public domain DVDs. The print on all of these releases is obviously cut, and those who saw it back in the drive-in days say the theatrical release was way better. That purported drive-in cut has yet to surface, but I do hear whispers that it might be unearthed soon. Until that time comes, UNDERTAKER’s 63 minute runtime will undoubtedly entertain most everyone into weird cinema.
LUNCH MEAT (1987)
Panned as brain-bashingly boring by some and appreciated for being endearingly bad by others, there probably isn’t a more retrospectively influential movie for me than Kirk Alex’s 1987 backwoods cannibal flick LUNCH MEAT. It was the inspiration behind the moniker of my own publication and to this day continues to be a much sought after staple in the obscure horror film world. From the fantastic packaging down to the film itself, LUNCH MEAT exemplifies the kind of unknown horror flick you might end up renting from your local Mom and Pop Video Shop, and chances are you’d either totally dig it, or just want your 2 bucks back.
The plot is fairly simple: a group of teenagers set out to a remote cabin for a camping trip and they’re intercepted by a family of cannibalistic hicks that aim to chop them up for stew meat. Now, is the movie derivative? Yes. Do the chase scenes seem to drag on for-ev-er? At times, yeah, they do. Is the ending almost a straight rip off of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE? It’s close, man. However, all of those shortcomings are part this movie’s unexpected charm. LUNCH MEAT’s outrageous make up and SFX, amusing characters and the presence of future porn star Ashlyn Gere mix with its derivative, sometimes slow and often predictable nature to create what can be seen as an exemplary “bad” B-movie. It’s the kind of flick that’ll play well to anyone looking for a best-when-beer-soaked, sometimes laughable, potentially lovable but firmly fun backwoods cannibal flick. The only problem is, this movie is rare and highly coveted. The Tapeworm VHS release can go for up to $200 or more, and hopes for any kind of re-issue are slim to none. My recommendation? Groove on over to my place and we’ll watch it, man. We’ll get down on some serious snacks, crack open some heady brews and totally party down with Paw and the boys via the almighty VCR!
And if you’re still hungry, here are a few honorable human-munching mentions: CANNIBAL CAMPOUT (1987), EATING RAOUL (1982), RAW MEAT (1972).