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You Are What We Eat
(An Introduction To Cannibal Cinema)
By: Mickael
When you think of “cannibal films”, your mind probably leaps immediately to gory images of exploitation classics like Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox, but the reality is that there are just as many cannibal comedies as there are Italian gorefests. Cannibalism has been depicted on film for decades, in numerous ways and from a multitude of cultures. Cannibal films aren’t typically regarded as their own subgenre (now I’m destroying the entire premise of this article) due to this extraordinarily diverse range of methods that directors have used to bring these macabre tales to their audiences. It’s not just horror films that feature cannibals as killers; it’s comedies, thrillers, even musicals and war stories that can contain cannibal characterizations. I guess you could say that just as each culture has their own unique methods of preparing food, so too do they differ in how they depict eating people.
There are three main types of cannibal pictures: the cannibal survival tale (a simple American recipe: BBQ your friends and family to survive), the cannibal savages (a sloppy piece of Italian cuisine smothered in thick, red sauce), and the cannibalistic serial killer (a distinguished European entree without much meat but still plenty to chew on). Now, there can be films that defy these conventions, like Cannibal Apocalypse; a film that was about a viral outbreak in a city that turned ordinary people into cannibals. It was essentially a zombie film, except you didn’t need to die to “turn”. I’ve always said that if you’re a filmmaker preparing to make a zombie movie, but your makeup artist quits right before shooting, you could just replace the word “zombie” with “cannibal” throughout your script and finish your film without missing a beat.
Cannibal survival films typically depict a set of circumstances wherein our protagonists are stranded for an extended period of time without access to food. As the days tick by, they have to make a grisly decision: do they eat the weakest among their ranks to survive, or do they willingly submit to death? Sometimes they’re stranded in a remote location under extreme conditions, as in the classic tale of the doomed Donner Party. Sometimes, a twisted psychopath kidnaps them and keeps them locked away in a secure location, with no hope of escape (a la Saw), watching them as their humanity dissipates and they turn feral for their own survival. These films are always an interesting case study in the human condition and allow us to examine the strength of our convictions when faced with our own mortality. Which will survive: your mortal body or your moral compass?
Cannibal savage films are probably the most beloved among horror and exploitation fans. They typically feature insufferable white people stumbling into a “primitive” culture and getting exactly what they deserve. Cannibal Holocaust, Mountain Of The Cannibal God, Massacre In Dinosaur Valley, and the recent Eli Roth film The Green Inferno are all great examples of this format. While most of these types of films have a jungle setting, which adds to the horror by being stranded in a foreign environment while being hunted by natives that you cannot communicate with, there are many examples of these movies being set in developed nations. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and Wrong Turn franchises (comprising a total of 17 films!!) all feature normal Americans taking car trips which then veer off course and land them in an isolated environment being tormented by cannibal clans.
The cannibalistic serial killer in film is an entirely different animal. They aren’t savages and they aren’t resorting to cannibalism just to survive. These are seemingly normal people that happen to have a hunger for human flesh, and so they ritualistically slaughter others to satiate their urges. Obviously, the most famous example of this would be Hannibal Lecter. Having 5 movies and a TV series over the course of the last 30 years puts Hannibal into the same class of movie icons as The Terminator. Often, these serial killers are based on true crime stories, like the cannibal killings of Ed Gein or Jeffrey Dahmer. For fans of serial killer / thriller films with a cannibal twist, see Lord Of Darkness, We Are What We Are, Cannibal, or even James Roday’s horror comedy Gravy.
As with our Nunsploitation piece, it’s the Italian filmmakers who are the standard-bearers for the cannibal savage subgenre. Rugerro Deodato, Umberto Lenzi, Jesus Franco, and Joe D’Amato are the Mount Rushmore chefs of European cannibalism. American horror icons Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper have found themselves in the kitchen cooking up mankind as well. If you dig deep enough, you’ll discover that everyone from Guy Pearce and Johnny Depp to Bill Maher and David Arquette have been featured in cannibal flicks. If you crave rich, savory characterizations of what it means for someone to lose touch with humanity so fully that they resort to eating their fellow man, then every developed country in the world has contributed a recipe to the menu. Here’s our list of 101 cannibal films to whet your appetite:
PosterTitleYearDirectorMore InfoCountry

Sacrifice!
(aka Deep River Savages, Il Paese Del Sesso Selvaggio, The Man From The Deep River)
1972Umberto LenziIMDb

Buy @ Amazon
Italy

Cannibal Girls

An Ivan Reitman comedy starring Eugene Levy!?
1973Ivan Reitman


Canada

The Cannibal Man
(The Apartment On The 13th Floor, The Week Of The Killer)
1973Eloy de la IglesiaIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
Spain

Soylent Green

The third entry and I'm already cheating! While not a true cannibal movie, technically they were *SPOILER ALERT* eating people. */SPOILER ALERT* So there. Suck on that one.
1973Richard Fleischer


USA

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(aka Headcheese, Leatherface, Stalking Leatherface)
1974Tobe Hooper


USA

The Ghoul
(aka Night Of The Ghoul, The Thing In The Attic)

Starring Peter Cushing & John Hurt!!
1975Freddie Francis


UK

Jungle Holocaust
(aka Ultimo Mondo Cannibale, Carnivorous, Horror Cannibal, The Cannibals, Last Cannibal World, The Last Survivor)
1977Ruggero Deodato


Italy

Emanuelle And The Last Cannibals
(aka Emanuelle e Fli Ultimi Cannibali, Emanuelle's Amazon Adventure, Trap Them And Kill Them, Bloody Track)
1977Joe D'Amato


Italy

The Hills Have Eyes
(aka Blood Relations, The Family That Woke Up Screaming)
1977Wes Craven


USA

The Mountain Of The Cannibal God
(aka Primitive Desires, Le Montagna Del Dio Cannibale, Prisoner Of The Cannibal God, Slave Of The Cannibal God, Mountain Of The Cannibals)
1978Sergio Martino


Italy

Papaya: Love Goddess Of The Cannibals
(aka Papaya Dei Caraibi, Caribbean Papaya, Die Of Pleasure)
1978Joe D'Amato


Italy

Cannibal Apocalypse
(aka Apocalypse Domani, The Slaughterers, Savage Slaughterers, Savage Apocalypse, Invasion Of The Fleshhunters, Cannibals In The City, Cannibal Massacre, Virus, Cannibals In The Streets)
1980Antonio Margheriti


Italy
Spain

Cannibal Holocaust
1980Ruggero Deodato


Italy

Cannibal Terror
(aka Terreur Cannibale)
1980Alain Deruelle, Olivier Mathor, Julio Perez Tabernero


Spain
France

Eaten Alive!
(aka Mangiani Vivi!, Doomed To Die, The Emerald Jungle)
1980Umberto Lenzi


Italy

Hell Of The Living Dead
(aka Virus, Night Of The Zombies, Zombi 4, Zombie Inferno, Hell Of The Living Death)
1980Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso


Italy
Spain

Motel Hell
(aka Hotel Hell)
1980Kevin Connor


USA

Orgasmo Nero
(aka Black Orgasm, Voodoo Baby, Sex And Black Magic)
1980Joe D'Amato


Italy
Dominican Republic

Primitives
(aka Savage Terror, Primitif)
1980Sisworo Gautama Putra


Indonesia

The Devil Hunter
(aka El Canibal, The Man Hunter)
1980Jesus Franco


Spain
France
Germany

We're Going To Eat You
(aka Di Yu Wu Men, Hell Has No Gates, Kung Fu Cannibals, No Door To Hell)
1980Tsui Hark


Hong Kong

White Cannibal Queen
(aka Mondo Cannibale, The Cannibals)
1980
Jesus Franco


Spain
Italy
France

Zombie Holocaust
(aka Doctor Butcher, Zombi Holocaust, Island Of The Last Zombie, Zombie 3, Medical Deviant, Zombie Death Cult)

Cannibals AND zombies! Hooray!
1980Marino Girolami


Italy

Cannibal Ferox
(aka Make Them Die Slowly, Woman From Deep River)
1981Umberto Lenzi


Italy

The Forest
(aka Terror In The Forest)
1982Don Jones


USA

Raw Force
(aka Kung Fu Cannibals, Shogun Island, Special Force)
1982Edward D. Murphy


Philippines
USA

Diamonds Of Kilimandjaro
(aka El Tesoro De La Diosa Blanca, The Treasure Of The White Goddess)
1983Jesus Franco


France
Spain

The Hills Have Eyes Part II1984Wes Craven


UK
USA

Cut And Run
(aka Inferno In Diretta, Amazon: Savage Adventure, Straight To Hell)
1985Rugerro Deodato


Italy

Massacre In Dinosaur Valley
(aka Nudo E Selvaggio, Stranded In Dinosaur Valley, Cannibal Ferox II)
1985Michele Massimo Tarantini


Italy
Brazil

White Slave
(aka Shiave Bianche: Violenza In Amazzonia, Forest Slave, Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Catherine Miles Story)
1985Mario Gariazzo


Italy

Manhunter
(aka Red Dragon: The Curse Of Hannibal Lecter)
1986Michael Mann


USA

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 21986Tobe Hooper


USA

The Offspring
(aka From A Whisper To A Scream)

A Vincent Price horror anthology, containing 4 stories!
1987Jeff Burr


USA

Cannibal Holocaust II
(aka Green Inferno, Paradiso Infernale, Yellow Dram, Natura Contro)
1988Antonio Climati


Italy

Flesh Eating Mothers1988James Aviles Martin


USA

Jungle Virgin Force1988Danu Umbara


Indonesia

Cannibal Women In The Avocado Jungle Of Death

A broad comedy starring Bill Maher, Shannon Tweed, Adrienne Barbeau, and the wonderful Karen Waldron!
1989J.F. Lawton


USA

River Of Death
(aka Alistair MacLean's River Of Death)

Starring Michael Dudikoff & Donald Pleasance!
1989Steve Carver


USA

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
(aka TCM 3)
1990Jeff Burr


USA

Delicatessen1991Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet


France

The People Under The Stairs1991Wes Craven


USA

The Silence Of The Lambs1991Jonathan Demme


USA

Cannibal! The Musical
(aka Alferd Packer: The Musical)

A musical comedy by one of the creators of South Park!
1993Trey Parker


USA

The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer
(aka Dahmer)
1993David R. BowenIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
(aka The Return Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

The one with Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger.
1994Kim Henkel


USA

Ravenous

Guy Pearce, Jeffrey Jones, David Arquette, and many more star in this "Donner Party-esque" period piece. Very much worth a watch!
1999Antonia Bird


Czech Republic
UK
USA

Hannibal2001
Ridley Scott


USA
UK

Kannibal
(aka Head Hunter)

Starring Linnea Quigley!
2001Richard Driscoll


UK

CanniBallistic!2002James Felix McKenneyIMDb


Buy @ Oldies.com
USA

Dahmer
(aka The Mind Is A Place Of Its Own)

Starring Jeremy Renner as Jeffrey Dahmer!
2002David JacobsonIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Red Dragon2002Brett Ratner


Germany
USA

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Michael Bay / Jessica Biel remake.
2003Marcus Nispel


USA

Wrong Turn2003Rob Schmidt


USA
Germany

White Skin
(aka Cannibal)
2004Daniel RobyIMDb


Buy @ Oldies.com
Canada

In The Land Of The Cannibals
(aka Nella Terra Dei Cannibali, Land Of Death, Cannibal Of Death, Horror Cannibal 1, Cannibal Ferox 3: Land Of Death, Cannibal Holocaust 3: Cannibal vs Commando)
2004Bruno Mattei


Italy

Mondo Cannibal
(aka Mondo Cannibale, Cannibal World, Cannibal Holocaust 2, Cannibal Holocaust: The Beginning, Horror Cannibal 2)
2004Bruno Mattei


Italy

Cannibal2006Marian Dora


Germany

Cannibal Taboo
2006Mike Tristano


USA

Grimm Love
(aka Rohtenburg, Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story)
2006Martin WeiszIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
Germany

The Hills Have Eyes2006Alexandre Aja


USA
France

Sweeney Todd

A BBC television adaptation starring Ray Winstone!
2006David Moore


UK

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning2006Jonathan Liebesman


USA

Diary Of A Cannibal2007Ulli Lommel


USA

Hannibal Rising2007Peter Webber


UK
Czech Republic
France
Italy

The Hills Have Eyes II2007Martin Weisz


USA

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street2007Tim Burton


USA
UK

Tooth And Nail

Starring Michael Madsen & Vinnie Jones!
2007Mark Young


USA

Welcome To The Jungle
(aka Cannibals)
2007Jonathan Hensleigh


USA

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End

With Henry fucking Rollins!
2007Joe Lynch


USA

Cannibal Suburbia2008Dave Jackson, Jean-Luc SundikasIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
Australia

The Cook
(aka Cannibal vs. Bitches)
2008Gregg Simon


USA

Vinyan
(aka Vinyan: Lost Souls)
2008Fabrice Du Welz


France
Belgium
UK
Australia

Cannibal Lolita: A Love Story2009Joseph Romano ThomasIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Hunger2009Steven Hentges


USA

Macabre
(aka Darah)
2009Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto


Singapore
Indonesia

Offspring

Based on the Jack Ketchum book.
2009Andrew Van Den Houten


USA

Perkins 14: Cannibal Slaughter
(aka Fright Nights, Jigsaw: Dead Zone, Perkins' 14)
2009Craig SingerIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

The Donner Party
(aka The Forlorn, Famished)
2009Terrence J. Martin


USA

Wrong Turn 3: Left For Dead2009Declan O'Brien


USA
Germany

Bloodwood Cannibals
(aka Bloodwood)
2010Joshua A. Siegel


USA

Cannibal2010Benjamin Vire


Buy @ Amazon
Belgium

Junkyard Dog
(aka Rape Collector)
2010Kim Bass


USA

We Are What We Are
(aka Somos Lo Que Hay)
2010Jorge Michel Grau


Mexico

Donner Pass
(aka Cannibal Rising)
2011Elise Robertson


USA

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings2011Declan O'Brien


USA
Germany

Crowsnest2012Brenton Spencer


Canada

Cannibal Diner2012Frank W. Montag


Germany

Fresh Meat2012Danny Mulheron


New Zealand

Lord Of Darkness
(aka Sawney: Flesh Of Man)
2012Ricky Wood


UK

Taeter City: A Tour In The City Of Cannibal Dictatorship
(aka Taeter City: City Of Cannibals)
2012Giulio De Santi


Italy

Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines
(aka Wrong Turn 5: Bloodbath)
2012Declan O'Brien


USA

Cannibal
(aka Canibal)
2013Manuel Martin Cuenca


Spain
Romania
Russia
France

The Colony

A Sci Fi film starring Laurence Fishburne & Bill Paxton!
2013Jeff Renfroe


Canada

Evil Feed

Sort of an MMA / Kung Fu take on cannibal movies.
2013Kimani Ray Smith


Canada

Texas Chainsaw 3D
(aka Texas Chainsaw 5, even though it's CLEARLY the 7th entry in this series.)
2013John Luessenhop


USA

The Green Inferno
(aka Cannibales)

Famously, this movie made the film festival circuit several years ago but couldn't get released theatrically until 2015.
2013Eli Roth


USA
Chile

We Are What We Are

Remake of the 2010 Mexican film of the same name.
2013Jim Mickle


USA
France

Holocaust Cannibal2014Bill Zebub


USA

Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort2014Valeri Milev


USA

Gravy

A horror comedy starring Jimmi Simpson, Sarah Silverman, Gabourey Sidibe, Paul Rodriguez, and others. Directed by the guy from Psych!
2015James Roday


USA
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