Leatherface is back (again): TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (David Blue Garcia, 2022)

Netflix released the latest Texas Chainsaw instalment (the ninth!) on February 28th. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Easter (as in: how many ways can you tart up hot cross buns?) but there are some nice features to this one. For a start, well, it’s on Netflix, so a bit less likely to disappear into the Texan mud without trace, like some of the earlier versions. There have been eight sequels and prequels and unrelated but similar-named movies in this franchise, as well as comics (sorry, graphic novels) and a video game of the original.

The original film, in which “chain” and “saw” were two words, is still widely acknowledged as the best, despite its paltry budget and apparently impossible working conditions for the crew. It was released in 1974 by Tobe Hooper, who made a somewhat light-hearted sequel in 1986. It was a pioneer in “slasher” films and drew cannibalism out of the gothic into the sunlight, showing an alienated workforce in “flyover” states turning their (now unwanted) skills in killing steers toward killing tourists instead. It finished with Sally, the “last girl” escaping from a frustrated Leatherface, who was wearing his mask of human skin (fully biodegradable but not much use against viruses) and wielding his chainsaw in a way that buzzed of potential sequels.

This sequel takes place 48 years after the original (yep, now) and blithely ignores any plot points from the intervening movies, comics, etc. Leatherface is back, older but no wiser and still intent on killing teenagers, and so is Sally, the survivor, who is now a Texas Ranger and set on revenge.

And the cute teens, well, they’re everything that the locals hate – inter-racial, trendy, Gen Z “Influencers”, what the creepy gas-station owner (and there’s always one to set the scene) calls “gentrifuckers”.

They want to gentrify the town and set up a trendy area of gourmet cafes and authentic looking but modernised shops and galleries. Leatherface is in retirement in an abandoned orphanage, and Sally, well, she’s been looking for him for a long time apparently, although when last seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (not an episode of Star Trek), she was catatonic and strapped to a gurney. But now she’s hardass. When we first see her, she’s gutting a pig, just as Leatherface is slaughtering humans. The special effects are pretty similar for both, as are the body shapes, and, frankly, the characterisations. The original actors who portrayed Leatherface and Sally are both dead; the only original cast member is John Larroquette who does the voiceover, which half-heartedly tries to sound like a true-crime documentary, as he did in the original. The new Sally is Olwen Fouéré, the Irish actor, although this Sally seems to be more based on Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode in the 2018 reboot of Halloween.

The class struggle of the original Chain Saw has been lost here. The Texas of the original was filled with pockets of people abandoned by modern capitalism and so falling into degeneracy and violence. The new movie seems to valorise the “ordinary” folks who brook no bullshit from the “me generation” and defy the dehumanising effects of capitalism. It’s hard to feel sympathy for the influencers with their real estate auctions and cutesy town planning, or to feel terror at the thought that people might chop you up, but only if you insist on being a dick.

The terror of Leatherface himself revolved not around his nasty dental problems, badly fitting masks and noisy chainsaw, but around his family, the Sawyers, a group of odd but not obviously psychotic individuals who nonetheless were more than happy to chop up and eat innocents from the outside world, which had forsaken them. It felt like this could be any of us, screaming and dying and becoming the family’s dinner, should we venture into the wrong part of the Badlands. This new version is all Leatherface. Somehow, he now has a “mother” who looks after him in an abandoned orphanage, and she dies of a heart attack when the trendies tell her she has to move out, leading to his much delayed rampage. But Leatherface was always the weapon, not the villain, sometimes killing, and sometimes donning an apron and cooking for his dominant family. He doesn’t really work as a lone psycho, particularly when we sort of sympathise with him – he’s just lost his mum, weeps as he wears her face as a mask and then applies her makeup like Norman Bates in Psycho. Who can stay mad at that?

Tobe Hooper’s classic broke new ground in cannibal films and in horror generally. It encapsulated the early 1970s as the endless war in Vietnam and the demise of the hopes of the flower power generation ran into the chainsaw that was Nixon’s silent majority. The new one seems to reflect our time, where the young and idealistic are capitalistic exploiters and Leatherface and the Texan gun-toters are just being pushed too hard into the chainsaw of QAnon. Politics and war are no longer about truth and justice but just fake news in pursuit of tribalism. The film sums this up sardonically in the climactic scene where the busload of influencers are confronted by Leatherface and his chainsaw and respond by pulling out their phones and live streaming the whole massacre.

As Marx said, great historical entities (like Leatherface) appear in history twice – the first time as tragedy, the second time (or perhaps the ninth) as farce.

But here’s my problem with this film. After 83 minutes (which seemed much longer) I looked up from the screen and screamed (internally) “where’s the cannibalism?” Yes, there was a lot of flesh on display, and broken bones, and the occasional internal organ. But none of it got eaten, which, if I had more time, would have disqualified it from this blog. The thing is, cannibalism is not just one more nasty thing that mean people might do to you and me. It is the ultimate act of dehumanisation. Sally’s friends and family in the original were turned into slaughter-animals, chopped up, eaten, and presumably ended up in the family’s outhouse. That’s what we do to those we objectify: pigs and sheep and cows, and we do it to distinguish ourselves from other animals as somehow non-animal, part-god. The slasher might kill us, but the cannibal converts us into shit. Otherwise, we are all potential wielders of the chainsaw.

Without the cannibalism, this is just another slasher with too much emphasis on special effects rather than characterisation.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 has a 33% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with one audience critic summing up:

“it isn’t very scary — and it definitely doesn’t help that the story hardly makes any sense.”

Cannibal Romcom: FRESH (Mimi Cave 2022)

If you’ve heard about this new movie, you’ll know it’s a sort of cannibal romcom.

Perhaps the first romcom was Adam and Eve – she was created from his rib, as “an help meet” (Genesis 2:18-21) because he was incapable of looking after Eden on his own. And he was, you know, horny. Ever since, relationships have been tricky – they’re about status, property rights and, above all, appetites. Feudal lords sealed alliances by betrothing their children, often marrying their small child off to a complete stranger. For most of human history, women were property, owned by their fathers until ownership was transferred to their husbands. What happened to them after that was up to the appetites of the man. It often still is.

Modern dating has in many ways returned to the realm of the unknown betrothal. Pictures appear on a phone screen and are assessed in an instant. If a candidate is deemed possibly sponge-worthy, a meeting is arranged and may lead to casual sex, long-term commitment or, in unfortunate cases, cannibalism.

What do we know about the person on the dating scene? Each click, each drink, is a contract, the person being (inter)viewed is already objectified by the algorithm that has decided he or she may be suitable. Relationships are chosen in the same way (and often with less forethought) as an Uber-eats meal. The app reduces us to our basics – appearance, tastes – we’re just meat.

This movie, Fresh, the first film by director Mimi Cave and writer Lauryn Kahn (good interview here but beware of spoilers) and produced by Adam McKay (Don’t Look Up), takes the metaphor to its logical conclusion. Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones from Normal People), finds herself dating boors who feel entitled to comment on her appearance, are interested exclusively in themselves, and abuse her if she dares to refuse sex. As a woman, her body is their entitlement.

Noa meets Steve (Sebastian Stan from Winter Soldier), not on her dating site, which has been a huge disappointment to her, but in a supermarket. Steve seems charming, clever, and doesn’t press her for sex. When he draws back from sex on their first date, the first time a man has done that in her experience (maybe in history) she asks him if he wants something to drink or eat, and he says “no, just you”. He ruins her enjoyment of her spare ribs by saying “I don’t eat animals.” He means non-human animals, but it’s a common piece of lazy language; he eats humans, and humans are of course animals.

Noa agrees to a weekend getaway with Steve after only a few dates. Bad idea. This starts as a romcom but ends up covered in blood and body parts. Images of other animals waiting to be eaten reinforce the point.

Steve wants to know whom Noa has told. Who knows she is going away with him?

Steve drugs Noa (another common dating strategy) and only then do the credits start, some 33 minutes into the film, as she collapses to the floor.

Steve imprisons her, finally revealing his plan: to keep her alive and slowly sell her meat to his wealthy cannibal clients, keeping the rest of her alive and “fresh” (thus the film title) as long as possible.

Sounds grim? Sure, but also darkly funny. Steve is witty and charming apart from the, you know, kidnapping and cannibalism, and Noa is smart and tough, as she has to be in this dog-eat-dog, or man-eat-woman, world. She has to woo her abuser, as so many women do, in order to escape, even if that means eating human flesh, even perhaps her own.

This is a smart and gripping cannibal film from – wait for it – Disney! Produced by Searchlight, the studio of Nomadland and The Shape of Water, it premiered at Sundance in January this year and was released on Disney+ in the UK but Hulu in the US. It certainly is a long way from Mickey Mouse and Snow White. Yet, like them, it has a moral of sorts. As one reviewer put it:

You will want to become a vegetarian after watching “Fresh.”

Another reviewer (beware of spoilers in this link) wrote:

I don’t know about you, but I, for one, am never eating meat again.

Noa is the protagonist, and the main plot involves her predicament and her attempts to escape (no spoilers!) But Steve is a fascinating character in that he really likes Noa, feels a little bit bad about what he does, but likes the money more. Does that remind us of the farmers who claim to “love” their animals, even as they fatten them up for the abattoir? How many stories have we heard of country kids who befriend a baby lamb or calf or piglet and weep when dad appears with a cleaver, only to get over it and become killers themselves. Steve is the same, but his “livestock” are young women. He likes them, but it’s a business – he packages up their meat, their hair, even their underwear for those who want them. His cold room is full of chilled meat, carefully labelled with the names of the women it came from.

Steve’s wife, who knows exactly what he does, asks him “how was work?” He replies that he is very busy with the “new product”.

He can’t afford to care. Nor can his wife, who is missing a leg. She is a “product” whom he adopted. She knows the answer to the header of my blog “what’s it like to be edible?

It reminded me of an interview with a slaughterhouse worker in Gail Eisnitz’s extraordinary book Slaughterhouse about the workers who kill for a living and the animals who we choose to eat, the ones that are least aggressive, the gentle and friendly species:

If you work in that stick pit for any period of time, you develop an attitude that lets you kill things but doesn’t let you care…. You may want to pet it. Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them – beat them to death with a pipe. I can’t care.

This is not a dystopia, it is our world, now, a world in which the rich can buy anything they want including the labour, homes and bodies of others. Steve describes them as the “one percent of the one percent” – they want what no one else can have.

And it’s women they want to eat, because it’s all about ownership and power.

Think of Jeffrey Epstein who supplied underage girls to the rich and powerful. Gary Heidnik started a church which made him a lot of money and then, like Steve in this film, kidnapped, tortured, and raped six women, killing two of them and allegedly feeding the survivors with the flesh of one of the dead. Patrick Bateman was a (fictional) cannibal in the book (if not the film) of American Psycho, consuming human brains because there were absolutely no limits to his appetites.

Is there really anything to stop the “one percent of the one percent” paying to satisfy their cannibalistic appetites? If they are tired of beef and lamb, what meat is next? Millions of people disappear each year, and many are never found. Could some of them be ending up on the plates of the rich?

What Steve does to the lonely women he kidnaps is shocking. But so is what we pay minimum wage workers to do to other species. As Hannibal said, “It’s only cannibalism if we’re equals”. Eating other mammals such as Bos taurus, Ovis aries or Sus domesticus is only one thin red species line away from eating Homo sapiens.

Fresh is currently showing 81% fresh (has to really) on Rotten Tomatoes.

“I’m so sorry, Jack”

The Cannibal Guy is on the road because of the floods in the Northern Rivers of NSW. I feel a bit like Hannibal in season 3, without quite as much gore. Blogs will, hopefully, resume next week, or whenever the flood waters recede. Until then, please check some of the 236 previous posts that can be searched at www.thecannibalguy.com.

Thank you for your patience!

CANNIBAL SCHOOL – Mexican cartel recruits are being taught to eat rival sicarios

In the past 18 months, the war between CJNG (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion) and the Sinaloa cartels has been intensifying. Sinaloa is the largest, while CJNG is arguably the most violent.

The Mexican state of Zacatecas is their main battleground.

Sicarios (cartel assassins) on both sides fight for territory, and the profits from the production of synthetic drugs, particularly fentanyl, in that region.

They also profit mightily from kidnapping refugees trying to cross into the USA, and cooking the ones whose ransoms are not paid.

Violence in this war is not just done, but is seen to be done, with videos being released onto social media showing various atrocities, in order to demoralise the opposing cartel members. An earlier video involved a CJNG soldier using a spoon to remove the eyes of a captured rival.

A new video (widely and ironically known as “Sponsored By Adidas” due to the killers’ love of that brand of shoe) is circulating on the Internet now. It shows a soldier from the CJNG crouching over the disembowelled body of a man from a rival cartel, supposedly the Sinaloa. The man opens the corpse’s chest and removes an organ, either the heart of liver (some say a lung), and bites into it, then seems to offer it to the corpse to see if it wants a bite.

This seems to be the latest escalation of cartel violence. Before 2006, beheadings were unknown; but now there are dozens of beheadings every year in Mexico. How do you up the stakes from beheading? The previous video from a cartel, called “Funky Town” showed a live and conscious prisoner having his face flayed from his head, later to be sewn onto a soccer ball. But the big new thing for the cartels now seems to be cannibalism.

Man-eating appears to have become a requirement for new recruits to CJNG at its training camps or “cannibal schools.” One member of CJNG told a journalist that there is widespread cannibalism at the camps. Recruits are taught how to cut fingers and toes, and eat them They then graduate onto larger internal organs. He reported (anonymously) that:

“You have to do it without reacting or vomiting or you are beaten. If you didn’t want to [eat human flesh] they wouldn’t let you leave, they had you there.”

The video in question can be found on the Internet if you look hard enough. I am not posting links, because those who don’t want to see it might accidentally click, and those who do are gorehound enough to find it.

Why is cannibalism such a popular strategy for terrifying the enemy? Because there is no higher form of humiliation, no greater insult, than being killed, eaten, and then crapped out of the anus of your enemy.

Issei Sagawa: THE CANNIBAL THAT WALKED FREE (Toby Dye, 2007)

The Cannibal that Walked Free (AKA Cannibal Superstar) is a British documentary produced by Visual Voodoo for Channel Five which explores the case of Japanese cannibal Issei Sagawa. It uses dialogues with police and psychiatrists and, most intriguingly, extensive interviews with the cannibal himself.

Sagawa murdered a young Dutch woman, Renée Hartevelt, a fellow student at the Paris Sorbonne, then mutilated, cannibalised, and performed necrophilia on her corpse over two days.

The mellow voice of the narrator, Struan Rodger (Chariots of Fire), announces:

“This man murdered and ate a woman in Paris… he has never stood trial. Today he walks the Tokyo streets a free man, a free man with an ongoing appetite for human flesh.”

Around midnight on June 13 1981, 32 year old the Japanese exchange student, Issei Sagawa, emerged from his apartment at 10 Rue Erlanger in the 16th arrondissement of Paris with two large suitcases, hailed a taxi and travelled the short distance to the Bois de Boulogne. His hopes that the park would be empty at night were in vain, and several witnesses saw this 4’9” (145cm) smartly dressed Asian man trying to drag two large suitcases to the lake. Worn out (and probably full of meat), Sagawa fell asleep on a bench and woke to find an old man opening one of the cases. When the old man began to scream, Sagawa walked calmly away.

The police found that someone had removed flesh from parts of the body. During the autopsy, they discovered there had been post mortem sexual intercourse – necrophilia.

Within four days, the police tracked Sagawa through the taxi driver, and he confessed immediately. In his refrigerator, they found a large quantity of human flesh.

On the table was a plate with pieces of cooked human flesh, condiments and mustard.

The case was reported globally with the press expressing horror and disbelief. Patrick Duval, Author Le Japonais Cannibal interviewed Sagawa for several hours.

Sagawa said that the feelings began when he was very young: “I was very weak, very ugly, like a small monkey.” He described as an important memory from his childhood a game in which his uncle would play a ravenous cannibal, out to gobble up Issei and his brother.

As he grew up, he felt unable to attract the kind of women that he desired:

“Object of my desire is definitely the white girl, beautiful blonde hair, blue eyes.”

Jean-Pierre Van Geirt – a journalist from Paris Match, said “Sagawa was deeply in love with Renée, and his love was so mad that he thought the most he could love her was to eat her.”

Sagawa had invited the young student to his apartment to discuss literature. He said he asked Renée to read a German language poem he had chosen, a poem about cannibalism, and that she was unaware that he was standing behind her, holding a rifle. He shot her in the back of the neck.

“I had decided before that the first bite would be the buttocks. I was able to cut through the skin, I’m a fool so I didn’t have a clue about human body structure. I thought that red flesh would appear straight away but it wasn’t like that, and this layer that was like sweet corn just carried on for ages, however deep I cut through. I couldn’t reach with my knife so I ripped out the flesh with my fingers and put it in my mouth. After I had sex with her, I tried to kiss her I said out loud I love you, in French. And I felt a huge shiver.

He had a tape recording of the murder and a camera with which had recorded the stages of what he did to Renée after her death; police found both in his apartment after his arrest. He had also saved a good deal of her flesh in his fridge, before packing up her remains in two suitcases.

Just 34 months after his confession, Sagawa would be a free man.  Found to be insane and unfit to stand trial in France, his father employed an influential French lawyer who argued successfully that it was unfair for the French taxpayer to pay for indefinite confinement in a mental hospital, and that he should be sent back to Japan to be cured. Accordingly, less than three years after his confession, Sagawa was put on a plane and sent back to Japan. The only condition was that he could never come back to France. He spent 18 months in a Japanese mental hospital but then checked himself out, and has been free ever since.

The interviewers tracked down his psychiatric report: it said

“He was hung up by his height, not self-assured, over-sensitive and most of all emotionally cold and self-satisfied when he talked about the murder. Someone who is capable of feeling guilty wouldn’t commit such an act. You have to be completely devoid of some human emotions. Among which is the sharing of the universal taboo of cannibalism.”

The interviewer visited Sagawa’s Tokyo apartment where he lives under a false name and found him enjoying Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – the second movement, popularised in the film Clockwork Orange. He claims that he wept for the victim’s family and for his family, who were devastated – his father lost his high-powered job, his mother attempted suicide.

Despite his alleged distress, in the mid-1980s he wrote a book “In the Fog”, against the express wishes of both his and Renée’s family. It is the story of his crime, written from his perspective. It sold out. He wrote a further 19 books about his crime, became a columnist in magazines, joined a symposium at a Japanese university and appeared in two stage shows, finally appearing in torture porn, including recreations of his crime, using tall, Western actresses.

Under his false name, he told the interviewer, he meets up with Western sex workers.

“My final desire is just the same – when I see all the beautiful girls’ legs, I want to eat. So I’m not cured at all.
But now, I’m not interested in at all the white women. I hate them. I found that Japanese women are the most beautiful in the world.”

Sagawa now feels the urge to cannibalise young Japanese women.

At the programme’s request, Sagawa agreed to attend his first psychiatric assessment in over ten years. In the documentary, he tells the Criminal Psychiatrist, Dr Susumu Oda:

“My libido and appetite are connected. This is very important. For instance, you see the beautiful girls on the train in summer, and you see their legs, don’t you. I think they look delicious.”

He says that he masturbates to make his feelings disappear.

Oda reported:

“A child suckles on his mother’s breast. A child survives eating breasts. So it is not that strange that a child would want to eat something he loves.”

Sagawa was small, weak and spoiled, so he never learnt to suppress those desires.

“Deep down, he doesn’t regret what he has done. He has a tendency to slowly turn the other person into an object. I think this is very dangerous.”  

The doctor’s conclusion:

Freud maintained that there are two “pregenital” forms of sexual organisation in very young children not yet predominantly motivated by their genital zones. The first of these he called “oral-sadistic” or “cannibalistic”, in which sexual activity is not separated from ingestion (the second was “sadistic-anal”), and he suggested that these were “harking back to early animal forms of life”. In this “cannibalistic” stage, “the object that we long for and prize is assimilated by eating and is in that way annihilated as such.” It is not surprising, therefore, that Sagawa wanted to eat his ideal woman, and he made a particular point of eating her breasts.

“Too Much Blood”, a song on the Rolling Stones‘ 1983 album Undercover, is about Sagawa and violence in the media. His crime also inspired the Stranglers‘ 1981 song “La Folie”. The Noise Black Metal band Gnaw Their Tongues released an EP titled Issei Sagawa in 2006.

The documentary is available in full on Youtube at the time of writing. The link is at the top of this blog.

Dear Meat (J. Snow, 2020)

This blog has laboured mightily to keep up with the constantly growing catalogue of cannibalism movies and TV shows, as well as the increasing number of actual cases reported in the media. So this week we are taking a rather exciting side-trip into the wonderful world of short stories, a place where the sets can be as lavish as the author wishes since there are no Producers cutting budgets, the protagonists can do anything the mind can conjure up without the need for stunt persons or insurance, and the whole thing requires no masks or social distancing.

The story considered in this week’s cannibalism blog is called DEAR MEAT, and it appears in the third Women of Horror Anthology, titled THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY.

The anthology contains an amazing assortment of thirty fresh looks at the wonderful world of horror. I have, naturally, chosen to review the cannibalism story by J Snow, since that’s what I do, for reasons best known to myself and the Department of Culture and Communications at the University of Melbourne.

Ms Snow has written and published five cannibalism stories; reassuring to know that others also labour in these fields. For those of you who wish to know how (or why) she writes, there is an interview at Paula Readman’s Clubhouse.

Dear Meat was written a few years before the pandemic, but reads like it could be taken from tomorrow’s newsfeed. It involves a small elite group of rich and powerful men who have decided that human population growth is threatening to destroy the biosphere, and so must be stopped and reversed. More than two thirds of the population, billions of people, must be “eliminated.”

Various ingenious and possibly prophetic strategies are mentioned such as introducing viruses and tainted vaccines, genetically modified foods and contaminated water supplies. Free tubal ligations and vasectomies are encouraged, and abortions allowed up to two months after birth. But the key plan in this story is to set the populace at each other’s throats, or more precisely at the barrels of guns. Yes, hunting season for humans becomes the only way to feed the family. Tags are issued, which is apparently the way hunting works in the USA, and the distribution is weighted according to the discriminatory preferences of these shadowy rulers – the “unworthy and unholy” are allotted the most tags meaning the poor and the non-Christians are most likely to be hunted and cooked. Illegal immigrants are always open season. The rich and the politicians, however, don’t ever seem to end up on the butcher’s slabs.

English cleric and economist Thomas Malthus pointed out in 1798 that population increases geometrically, but food availability increases only arithmetically. All things being equal, this means we must run out of food, unless there is a disaster or an intentional reduction in human population growth. Too many people and not enough food is likely to lead to cannibalism, although Malthus did not venture into such abject speculations. The ethologist John Calhoun crossed that bridge in his study of rats, where he found that putting rats into a utopian environment, with no shortage of food or shelter, and letting them breed unconstrained, ended up in a chaotic maelstrom of sexual deviance and cannibalism. A Malthusian/Calhounian scenario is the basis for the film Soylent Green which is set (honest, I’m not making this up) in 2022, when overpopulation has led to a situation where the enormous population of poor people can only be fed by recycling the bodies of those who die or can be persuaded to accept euthanasia.

Not so in Dear Meat. The people running the government know one thing that has been true since the start of humanity: when there is hunger,

“People turn on each other, become monsters, all for one tiny morsel.”

The people turning on each other in this story are from a family; a man, a woman and a child. Not even close to a large family by today’s standards, but in the world of the story, any increase in population (child) must be balanced by a decrease (a hunted tag). One person must die, be carted to the butcher and carried home as meat, just as the odd hunter does now to deer or kangaroos or anyone else that happens to move at the wrong moment.

I am introducing some levity because this is a grim scenario, skilfully crafted, beautifully written and with an ending that I absolutely will not spoil. The wonderful thing about eBooks is that they are ridiculously affordable and offer hours of reading pleasure. This collection, and particularly Dear Meat, is highly recommended.

Here’s a review from Goodreads:

And here’s one from Amazon:

The author’s details are here, and the book is available at on line retailers including Amazon.

TALIBAN OR TANIBAL: Afghan addicts turn to cannibalism?

In The Tempest, Shakespeare created a monstrous, malformed semi-human character named Caliban, the son of a witch, who is accused of trying to rape Miranda, the daughter of Prospero, the magician that took over Caliban’s island after losing the dukedom of Milan. Caliban has fascinated scholars over the years, with his name often taken to be an anagram of “canibal”, which was then starting to become the preferred term for humans who ate other humans, formerly known as “anthropophagi”. The word “canibal” or “cannibal” came from Christopher Columbus’ clumsy rendering of the name of the Caribs, a tribe he came across in the Lesser Antilles, and who, he was told, were man-eaters. Caliban, then, can perhaps be seen as a satire on the way colonial people were misrepresented and slandered by the imperialist explorers of the time. Post-colonialist versions of the play, including Julie Taymor’s version (you might remember her superb version of Titus), showed Caliban more as a “noble savage”, representing the indigenous inhabitants so rudely displaced from their homes during the period of European expansionism.

As Elvis said, “I said all that to say all this”. The semi-human monsters of our time are plentiful, and include neo-Nazis, whoever is on the other side of your political divide, and all the world’s various terrorist groups. One group that we (the West) went to war with (and lost) was the Taliban, who have taken over Afghanistan, a country now sliding into economic ruin and famine, since the withdrawal of international relief funds. This is not to say that there is anything noble about the Taliban – they are bunch of vicious thugs who apply mediaeval forms of punishment in their courts and slaughter, starve or otherwise deny basic rights to women and ethnic minorities. They are, in a sense, Caliban, and the media never tire of detailing their atrocities and transgressions, whether proven or dubious. The latest is, of course, the old favourite, cannibalism. Yep, the fourth cannibalism case we’ve reported so far in 2022.

Al Jazeera reported back in October 2021 that the Taliban, back in power after being routed by the US and its allies twenty years earlier, were arresting drug addicts and locking them up to make them go “cold turkey” (what they call “detoxification”). Former guerrilla fighters now raid Kabul’s drug-ravaged streets and bridges, rounding up hundreds of homeless men addicted to heroin and methamphetamines. They are beaten and marched to treatment centres as part of the Taliban’s pledge to clean up the drug trade.

Most of the world’s heroin comes from the vast poppy fields of Afghanistan and, while the crop has financed the Taliban for decades, it has also supplied cheap drugs to the domestic market, leading to a major problem of addiction. The Avicenna Medical Hospital for Drug Treatment, formerly the US military base Camp Phoenix, is chronically short of the alternative opioids, buprenorphine and methadone, typically used to treat heroin addiction. There is no money; the doctors have not been paid for months.

And there is little or no food. The Daily Mail has reported, via a Danish journalist who asserts that he spoke to a recovering addict, that the patients are sleeping three to a bed. They are forced to eat grass just to stave off hunger pangs, and there are “rumours they have resorted to eating cats and even cannibalism in order to survive.” One addict told the journalist:

“They killed a man and made a fire. They took his intestines and ate them.”

In scenes reminiscent of last century’s genocides, men in prison uniforms sit in despair. Denmark Radio reported that a prisoner told them that:

“People ate cats out in the park yesterday. One cut off the cat’s head and ate it.”

Of course, one report from a tabloid does not a cannibalism outbreak make. But it is undeniable that the sudden collapse of the old regime and sweeping to power of the Taliban has been followed by political and economic chaos as Western funding was suddenly withdrawn, and relief agencies struggle with ways to supply support without simply enriching the new Taliban Calibans. Where there is starvation, be it on a shipwrecked lifeboat, a crashed plane, a region facing famine, or a future post-apocalyptic landscape, there will eventually be cannibalism. People will do what they must in order to stay alive, be they Caliban or Prospera.

Wouldn’t you?

Women’s Health and Cannibalism – DIE WIEBCHEN (Zbynek Brynych, 1970)

In 1967, Valerie Solanas self-published the SCUM Manifesto, a document which began:

“Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.”

SCUM stood for Society for Cutting Up Men, and its manifesto was considered on its release something of a parody, satirising patriarchy; an exaggerated propaganda diatribe for Women’s Liberation, which was making men a little nervous by then (or at least making us reassess some of the previously unquestioned societal beliefs). That changed in 1968, when Solanas bought a gun and shot Andy Warhol in The Factory, his studio in New York City. Apparently, she really did want to cut up men.

This German-language German-French-Italian made film Die Wiebchen, translated variously as “The Females” or “The Bitches” or “Feminine Carnivores” came out a couple of years later, and was certainly influenced by Solanas and her manifesto, and her gun.

Zbyněk Brynych was a Czech director of the New Wave, which emphasised improvisational film-making rather than punctilious adherence to narrative scripts. Die Wiebchen starts with Eve (Uschi Glas) suffering from anxiety attacks. She is sent off to the Van Marens psychiatric retreat, which turns out to be staffed almost exclusively by women, except for a giant who is the gardener, an almost archetypal monster, toothless and with a long scar on his face. Incidentally (fun fact time), When Eve arrives at the health spa, the first woman to greet her is carrying a German translation of Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto. She is examined in stirrups by the head of the clinic, Dr Barbara (Gisela Fischer from Torn Curtain, in which she was also a doctor).

Drugged and disorientated, Eve wanders out of her room and opens a cupboard, out of which falls a man with a knife in his back. Yep, SCUM it is. Men are welcome though – particularly an extremely sleazy guy with open shirt and gold chain who thinks he’s landed in heaven, only to end up in male hell, and a hot oven. Men are lured in for sex and then killed, in the manner of the praying mantis or black widow spider.

Eve wants to warn the other men about the female man-eaters, but, of course, no one believes her. The police chief is, admittedly, male, but also chronically alcoholic, and certainly not interested in investigating murders. “I have three murders a day; they have to wait their turn.”

Dr Barbara diagnoses Eve as suffering from post-traumatic hallucinations and we, the audience, can never be sure whether this is actually the case. There’s certainly meat on the dinner menu, but from which species of animal? No spoilers, but the question of reality is settled at the conclusion, with a surprisingly graphic scene for 1970.

Just in case we haven’t got the point, the women hold a joyous bra-burning ceremony. This movie really has something for everyone. The music is jazzy sixties and the photography tends to the gimmicky with extreme fisheye lenses and trippy montages. It gets a bit annoying, but overall it’s a lot of fun.

Die Weibchen is an interesting entry in the all too brief list of female cannibal films because, while the male reaction against feminism or “women’s lib” as it was known in 1970 is obvious with every slash of the knife and every burnt bra, nonetheless the protagonists are all strong women, with the only men being drooling idiots or sex-obsessed sleazebags.

Uschi Glas wrote in her memoir Mit einem Lächeln (With a Smile) that she was glad to be able to play a new type of woman for the first time, a “beautiful change”. But she regretted that the film never became a big success.

The website Girls with guns summed up:

“If ever a film were guilty of sending out mixed messages, this would be it – but, surprisingly, I didn’t feel that hurt it much.”

My preferred title was the Italian version: Femmine Carnivore: Carnivorous Females. Eating meat is usually considered a male pursuit (strange, in that men don’t menstruate), yet there is a terror of the female, and particularly the fact that we emerge from the womb, and subconsciously fear that we could be reabsorbed into it. Professor Barbara Creed writes about the archaic mother as a “primordial abyss”, the place we all came from, and to which we fear we will return. Unlike Freud’s insistence that boys are terrified of what they see as their potential castration when they perceive their mother’s genitals as “a lack”, the female cannibal with her knife or teeth or her vagina dentata (toothed vagina) demonstrates the real fear felt by men – their cannibalisation by the strong woman. Often she is presented as a monster or possessed by an evil entity, such as in Inseminoid or Jennifer’s Body, or turned into a zombie by some contagious virus such as in Doghouse. But it’s nice to see a movie like Die Wiebchen, where the female cannibals are just – enjoying their dinners.

Two more cannibalism arrests in the FIRST TWO WEEKS of 2022

Last week we looked at the case of the German cannibal Stefan R. who made the early 2022 news when was finally sentenced to life imprisonment for killing and probably eating a man he met on a dating site in September 2020. Justice takes its time. That was our first cannibalism news story for 2022.

Two weeks before THAT, I reviewed 2021 and declared it “THE YEAR OF THE CANNIBAL.” I guess that was tempting fate, since we now have three cannibalism stories in the news in the first two weeks of 2022. Looks like in 11.5 months, we may have to call 2022 the YEAR OF EVEN MORE CANNIBALS.

The German cannibal

Stefan R and mystery of the missing penis. Read about it here.

The Brazilian cannibal

Serial killer who ‘ate eyes and ears of victims’ captured in Brazil.

Djalma Campos Figueiredo, 46, was arrested in Brazil this week.  Figueiredo had already been sentenced to 42 years in prison for several other murders and was on the run.

9th Military Police Battalion officers (Brazil’s preventive police force) captured Figueiredo, 46, in the city of Cuiaba in Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, on Tuesday night, January 11. He had already been sentenced by the Court of Justice of Rondonia in the city of Porto Velho to 42 years in prison for several counts of aggravated murder. An arrest warrant for a pending sentence of 26 years and four months in prison was issued against him on September 30 last year. The total number of his victims is still unknown.

According to the Civil Police (Brazil’s investigative police force), Figueiredo would eat his victims’ eyes and ears and drink their blood after killing them. Most of the killings took place in and around the city of Ji-Parana, in the state of Rondonia.

The Nigerian cannibal

Meanwhile, the Zamfara (NW Nigeria) State Police Command arrested a 57-year-old man, Aminu Baba, for allegedly eating and selling human body parts.

Ayuba Elkana, the state Commissioner of Police, paraded the suspect before journalists on Thursday, where Baba stated that he had conspired with three other people, who usually sold the parts to him at the rate of 500,000 nairas per body (about $1,200 US).

The suspected accomplices were identified as Abdulshakur Mohammed, 20; Buba, 17; and Tukur, 14. The suspect and his collaborators were apprehended based on information from the public. Elkana said,

“On December 12, 2021, around 2pm, one Ali Yakubu Aliyu reported at the Central Police Station, Gusau, that his son, Ahmad Yakubu, 9, was missing. On December 28, 2021, around 9.30am, police detectives received an intelligence report with regards to the earlier report, that on the same date around 9am, the corpse of a human being was found in an uncompleted building at the Barakallahu area, Gusau, with the two hands and legs tied with rags, and the head covered with a polythene bag.”

An autopsy on the body found that some of the little boy’s body parts had been removed. Baba was arrested on January 4. The second suspect, Abdulshakur Mohammed, confessed that he had procured the body for Baba and received N500,000, the third time he had done so. Mohammed, Buba and Tukur had tricked a victim into going with them into an uncompleted building, where they killed him and removed his intestines, oesophagus, genitals and eyes.

Mohammed claimed that the parts were taken to Baba, who gave them N500,000.

Aminu Baba is a father of 19 and husband of three women, and a prominent businessman dealing in cars and other vehicles at Aminchi Motors Gusau. The police commissioner said Baba had confessed to the crime, adding that his admissions were assisting the police in the arrest of other members of his gang. He added:

“The suspect further confessed that he usually ate the body parts and identified the throat as the most delicious part. He also sold some of the human parts to his customers. Exhibits recovered from the suspect included intestines, oesophagus, penis and two eyes.”

The Nigerian daily Blueprint Newspaper thundered:

“By being vigilant, we could save lives of those who may be lured into the abyss and also protect the main victims whose blood will be used to water the fortune of their prosecutors.”

The carnival of cannibals

Brazil has been a centre of cannibal stories since the term was invented by Columbus, mispronouncing the name of the Caribs, a little further north in the Lesser Antilles. Brazil is the home of the Tupinambás, a nation for whom cannibalism has never been a source of shame. They were depicted in the film Como Era Gostoso o Meu Francês (How tasty was my little Frenchman) and, rather less sympathetically, in slasher cannibal soft-porn movies like Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals. Cannibalism as a metaphor for the rich exploiting the workers was presented in a Brazilian context in the 2018 movie The Cannibal Club. Away from the silver screen, a gang of people calling themselves “The Cartel” were sentenced recently for killing young women and selling their flesh in salgados (salty, deep-fried pastries).

Africa is also a favourite site for fantasies of cannibalism since colonial times. The movie District 9 portrays Nigerian criminal gangs who trade with captive aliens from another planet, and hope to learn how to use their weapons. They want to eat the protagonist of the movie, because he is turning into an alien. From the newspaper headlines, we had reports last year of a commercial driver in Ebonyi biting off and swallowing the fingers of a urban planning inspector, as well as a propaganda war over who was responsible for the cooked human carcasses found at the camp of a separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra.

Why are there so many reports of cannibalism these days? As we lurch from crisis to crisis, is our faith in the modern religion of humanism being eroded, so that we become just another prey animal for those who seek flesh? Is the voracious hunger that is the heart of modern consumerism overflowing the artificial walls of species?

CANNIBALISM NEWS January 2022 – German killer who had ‘cannibalism fantasies’ jailed for life

‘Cannibal teacher’ hid his victim’s penis to avoid being outed

A man dubbed by the press a ‘cannibal teacher’ has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. The judge said the murder was carried out as part of his “cannibalism fantasies”. The 42-year-old, identified only as Stefan R, was also convicted of disturbing the peace of the dead, after a trial that opened in August 2021 and concluded this week.

German prosecutors described evidence of cannibalism in the killing of 44-year-old high-voltage technician, Stefan Trogisch, on 6 September 2020.

Stefan R. allegedly ate parts of his lover after sex, and subsequently concealed somehow the victim’s penis, so he wouldn’t be “outed” as gay. German police arrested the 41-year-old maths and chemistry teacher in November 2020 on suspicion of “sado-cannibalism for sexual gratification” after they found human bones stripped completely of flesh in a Berlin suburb. Under German law, the man’s surname cannot be revealed, yet there are pictures of him everywhere, so I’m guessing this is not a serious privacy issue.

A Berlin prosecutor’s office spokesperson said

“The suspect had an interest in cannibalism. He searched online for the topic.”

Well, hello! So do I, and maybe you, dear reader. I also look up COVID and cricket, but that doesn’t mean I caught one or played the other. Maybe he was writing a PhD thesis?

No one knows whether the victim, the other Stefan, had an interest in cannibalism, but we know that the two men were communicating on a gay dating website called Planet Romeo, according to a report in Der Spiegel. Stefan R. called himself “Spieltrieb1976” (roughly translated as “instinct to play”) and Stefan T. (now deceased) was “Dosenöffner79” (tin opener). Stefan R. also used the handle “Masterbutcher79” which prosecutors claimed was a reference to Armin Meiwes, who was dubbed the “Master Butcher of Rotenberg.”

The bones of Trogisch were found a couple of months after the murder, and showed signs of bite marks, although having been out in a field for a couple of months, it’s hard to say what species of animal had been biting them. A police officer told the newspaper Bild:

“Based on the bones found, which were completely stripped of flesh, and further evidence, we strongly suspect that Stefan T was the victim of a cannibal.”

Sniffer dogs led police to the apartment of the suspect, where they discovered knives, a medical bone saw, and a large freezer. Investigators also discovered 25kg of sodium hydroxide, a reagent that can be used to dissolve bodily tissue. It can also be used to make soap, which the accused claimed he bought it for. Traces of blood were discovered in the hallway of the suspect’s flat. The defendant had previously erected a sex swing in the living room and had a sign on the window ledge that read: “Instructions for emasculating and slaughtering a person.” He reportedly searched terms associated with cannibalism on the dark web such as “long pig” and “fatten and slaughter people” before Trogisch arrived at his residence. According to German newspaper Bild, he had also previously searched whether or not a person could survive after having their penis cut off.

Stefan R. told the court that Trogisch had died in his sleep on the sofa after a (presumably vigorous) sexual tryst. He claimed that Trogisch had consumed a cocktail of drugs and alcohol, and that he tried to revive him, but did not call emergency services “because it would have come out that I am homosexual”, according to Bild.

He said he decided to dispose of the body, and opted to separate Trogisch’s genitals “since my DNA could still have possibly been present due to the oral sex I performed”. But hours after the death, he logged back into the human slaughter forum where he proudly told a man from the city of Bremen: “I have it [the penis] now!”

In the sensitive style that we have come to expect from British news media, The Sun wrote

“the victim’s manhood has not yet been found.”

Judge Schertz said that, in 30 years as a judge, “nothing like this has come across my desk before”. He added that the defendant’s version of events was “unbelievable from start to finish”, noting the “very careful separation of testicles and penis” as evidence of a cannibalistic ritual.

The trial began in August 8 2021 and heard an autopsy report which revealed that the cause of death was a fatal loss of blood from the pelvic area due to a severed artery. This would seem to indicate that Trogisch bled to death after his penis was chopped off. The autopsy also ruled out the defendant’s claim that the victim was affected by alcohol or drugs, causing his death.

It’s a sensitive subject in Germany, where cannibalism was not uncommon between the world wars and was made into the subject of Fritz Lang’s masterpiece – “M – EINE STADT SUCHT EINEN MÖRDER” one of my favourite cannibalism movies. More recently, Armin Meiwes in 2001 met Bernd Jürgen Brandes on a site called Cannibal Café, and after a romantic interlude, agreed to Brandes’ request to kill him and eat him. The first act of the killing (all captured on video) was Meiwes cutting off Brandes’ penis, which he then cooked and the two men attempted to eat, very unsuccessfully. Meiwes subsequently killed Brandes and ate an estimated 45-65 pounds of flesh (20-30kg) from him.  Meiwes is still in jail, and Brandes is still in Meiwes (well, only in spirit, unless he has a very slow digestive tract). Unlike Brandes, there is no evidence that Trogisch had “consented” to his killing.

Then in 2013, Detlev Guenzel, a German police forensic specialist (you couldn’t make this stuff up), chopped up a man he met on a cannibalism fetish website and buried the pieces in the garden, taking a picture of himself standing next to a skeleton and holding an axe, wearing nothing but socks and sandals. There is little evidence to show that Guenzel ate any of the victim, although the victim’s penis and one testicle were not found in the flowerbed where the other pieces of the puzzle were unearthed.

There is probably another thesis to be written on the proportion of cannibalism reports that involve queer sexuality. Meiwes, of course, and Jeffrey Dahmer, who collected young men and killed them to keep them close. The film The Silence of the Lambs was heavily criticised when it was released for showing the serial killer Jame Gumb (“Buffalo Bill”) as a transsexual, although the plot was all about how he wasn’t authentically trans, and was killing women because he was rejected for gender reassignment surgery, and so was making himself a woman suit out of the skin of his victims. The film’s cannibal, Hannibal Lecter, was not gay in that series of films and books (he fancied the hell out of Clarice Starling), although Krendler, the nasty dude from the Justice Department in the book Hannibal, said he “figured he [Hannibal] was a homosexual” because, you know, he had good taste in food and wine and music – “artsy-fartsy stuff”. Krendler’s brain is later eaten by Hannibal and Clarice, so we have no reason to take him too seriously. But there was certainly plenty of homoerotic interaction in the twenty-first century reboot of Hannibal on TV, particularly when Hannibal is holding Will tenderly while cutting him up.

Is this tendency to depict cannibals as queer a reflection on the traumas experienced by gay youths and where they may lead behaviourally, or simply a noxious reaction against the lifting of restrictions on gay couples? Someone will write a paper on that one day. They probably already have.

The other issue raised by this case if of course the persistent theme (Meiwes and Guenzel again) of the chopping off and consumption of the male penis. Stefan R. discussed on one forum whether it was possible to survive a genital amputation – saying that some people desired it in order to feel like women, or else take masochistic pleasure in it. Prosecutors argued that Stefan R. had cut off the victim’s genitals with the intention of eating them, and the judge agreed, but it could not be established whether he had carried out that plan.

Freud had a lot to say about this! When little boys discover that their mothers or sisters have no penis, they assume the women were castrated, and as a result fear their own castration by their father (whom they suspect of the act). This is supposed to be the basis of the repression that eats away at the male mind and drives us to our various deviant behaviours.

Subsequent psychological studies as well as feminist analyses have demolished much of Freud’s speculative theories, but there is one thing we still don’t know – where is Stefan Trogisch’s penis?

The presiding judge, Matthias Schertz, told Stefan R. “What you did was inhuman”. But another German, Friedrich Nietzsche, might have called it “Human, all too human”.

“Egoism is not evil, for the idea of one’s “neighbour” (the word has a Christian origin and does not reflect the truth) is very weak in us; and we feel toward him almost as free and irresponsible as toward plants and stones. That the other suffers must be learned; and it can never be learned completely.”