With so much buzz surrounding Netflix’s upcoming Drew Barrymore centric cannibal comedy The Santa Clarita Diet, I thought there would be no better time to examine some of the funnier takes on cannibalism that have come before. Hollywood has had a long history with cannibalism, and while it all falls into the realm of horror, some of it has been hilarious.
That’s interesting, too, because the idea of humans eating each other is inherently terrifying. When we hear news of it actually happening in the world, it’s of the most disturbing things we can conceive of. It’s not something we like to think of as “real.” It’s something we want to push back into the realm of the fantastical like Alien or The Howling.
It’s because of the realistic, wholly disturbing nature of cannibalism that I think it lends itself so well to comedy. With that in mind, here are some inventive and genuinely funny takes on cannibalism.
Spider Baby is such a great movie. It’s fun, funny, completely and wholly unique unto itself. While it’s not always overtly comedic, there’s a offbeat tone and a black wit about it that I really appreciate. The movie has so much to offer in general. Cannibalism is just one of a number of things happening in this weird and quirky house of horrors.
From the director of the iconic cult classic Death Race 2000 comes this delightful, insane, wonderfully weird movie about a couple who realize they could make money by killing rich perverts. It also spends the whole film building to the promise of its title. Directed by, written by and starring Paul Bartel, it also spawned an off-Broadway musical. Bartel and Mary Woronov reprised their characters for a cameo in Chopping Mall.
From Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet comes this black comedy homage to Terry Gilliam about a future running out of food where grain is used as currency. It’s set in an apartment building that happens to house a butcher’s shop where the landlord lures people to use as a cheap source of meat. It sounds like an exploitation flick and basically is one, but it’s so artfully directed that most people don’t really seem to notice.
Microwave Massacre thinks it’s the funniest movie on the planet. Every second, every breath is an attempt at comedy gold. There are jokes upon jokes every minute and many of them just don’t land at all, and that’s kind of what’s so funny about Microwave Massacre. It’s trying unbelievably hard. But it yields results that are both genuinely funny and wholly unintentionally funny at the same time.
A campy dark comedy that took some time to build a true cult following, Parents is about a boy named Michael growing up in perfect, picturesque 1950s suburbia who comes to realize that his parents are cannibals. What’s great about it is that he comes to suspect them after dreaming that they’re cannibals and has nothing outside a dream to go on when he catches them in the act and proves himself right. It’s a really funny, campy comedy that’s definitely a must-see.
Ravenous is probably the one movie on the list that people were least expecting to be as funny as it was. I don’t ever remember it being marketed as a comedy. It looked like it was going to be a dark historical drama/loose take on the Donner party. That’s the way it’s shot, too. It looks like it’s going on within the same world as Dances With Wolves. But it’s so heightened and it gets so bizarre and off-the-wall that it becomes so much more interesting than the generic drama it could have been.
Cannibal! The Musical
Basically Ravenous with a fraction of the budget and the addition of song and dance, Cannibal The Musical effectively introduced the world to Trey Parker and Matt Stone. It’s based on the life of Alfred Packer, who also served as heavy inspiration for Ravenous. The film showcased the duos musical talents long before their Oscar-nominated musical South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and their Broadway smash it The Book of Mormon.
I just love everything about this movie, even if it has little to nothing to do with actually running a motel. There’s something so charming about it. It’s a commentary on the meat industry and the whole process, with humans being subjected to the same things cattle are subjected to and ending with the great deathbed confession of Farmer Vincent: “I used preservatives.” Cannibal comedy at its finest.