After accidentally killing a cab driver while protecting his fiancée, a young man spirals further and further into a web of murder in an effort to cover up his crime.
As much as the overly sensationalistic international title would like to infer, Eloy de la Iglesia’s The Cannibal Man has absolutely nothing to do with cannibalism. Instead what is presented to the viewer is an account of one man’s desperate attempt to cover up an accidental crime by eliminating those who threaten to expose him, one by one.
Marcos (Vincente Parra), a young man working at a meat processing facility in some shithole town in Spain is out with his girl Paula (Emma Cohen; Horror Rises From the Tomb) one night when their taxi driver becomes belligerent at the two of them dry humping in the back of his cab. When the ride is cut short and the two lovebirds refuse to pay, the driver starts to slap the fuck out of Paula. Marcos takes exception to this offense by bashing the driver’s head in with a rock. Later, while safely out of harm’s way and learning of the driver’s death, the couple seem to disagree on how to proceed. Marcos would like nothing more than to forget the incident and move on with their lives, but Paula just can’t seem to shut the fuck up about going to the police with what happened. Marcos, unable to convince Paula of her folly, strangles her with his bare hands and dumps her in the boudoir. Things soon begin to spiral downhill as friends and family stop by and discover Marcos’ secret (seeing as he’s clearly too stupid to figure out that a decomposing girl under the bed isn’t just going to disappear on its own) and he offs them one by one. In a way, the bedroom filled to capacity with the carnage of Marcos’ misdeeds becomes a physical manifestation of his conscience. It’s not until Marcos has a house full of flies and air fresheners that he gets the bright idea to start sneaking body parts little by little into work and disposing of them in one of the meat processing machines.
The plot may be pretty rudimentary, but that’s not to detract from the efficacy of the film. The use of ambient sounds rather than a music score in many scenes is used to great result, conveying a feeling of isolation and despair as Marcos agonizes about how to deal with his little cadaver problem while still managing to hold down a job and keep up appearances. The kill sequences are satisfying despite the predictability of it all and are a lot of fun to watch. The violence on display also landed the film on the BBFC’s “video nasty” list back in the 80s; although unsurprisingly none of it is particularly shocking or groundbreaking. Also of note: there is an odd homoerotic element to the film in the form of a creepy neighbor fellow who likes to spy on Marcos through the skylight of his hovel and is constantly sniffing about, seemingly anxious to slip Marcos the tube steak.
The Cannibal Man manages to stay interesting enough to pique the viewer’s curiosity as one stares at the befuddled mess on the screen like a flaming car wreck. The kills are full of variety and the effects are quite convincing despite the occasional implausibility of it all. Ms. Cohen was kind enough to provide the film with some much appreciated naked ladyflesh (in fact I was disappointed that her role in the film was over so quickly), and the performances of all involved are quite competent; Vincente Parra stumbles about looking distraught and/or confused for the majority of the film, a lonely and broken man. To wit, despite the body count/gore aspect on display The Cannibal Man remains a poignant character study of a man pushed too far as he slowly descends further into his own personal hell. Just how far can one man go in an effort to escape his misdeeds? Perhaps Iglesia is trying to illustrate exactly that – no matter how hard or how far we run from our demons, they remain with us perpetually.
The Cannibal Man remains an overlooked gem that will appeal to fans of horror and those looking for something a bit more introspective as well. It’s not going to blow any minds, but there are a lot of layers to discover that are particularly evident after repeated viewings.
Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:
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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.