French police fatally shot a 32-year-old man suspected of cannibalism on Monday morning (July 19) following the discovery of the decapitated corpse and partially consumed head of a 13-year-old boy.
Police found the remains on Sunday in an apartment in the southern France town of Tarascon, a town between Avignon and Arles.
Public prosecutor Laurent Gumbau told Agence France-Presse that strips of flesh had been ripped from a shoulder, sparking suspicions of cannibalism.
“The body found may be that of the minor… However, it was impossible at the current time to confirm the hypothesis of anthropophagy (cannibalism).”
The boy disappeared on his way from his foster home in Marseille, about 60 miles away, to see his mother in Tarascon.
Late Sunday night, a neighbour called police and reported seeing a body in a garbage bag. A man, who had previous convictions for acts of violence, fled from his apartment when police arrived by jumping over rooftops, neighbours told the news outlet. Three hours later police found the man and shot him dead, the prosecutor said, adding that the suspect did not appear to have been armed at the time of his death, and had not been formally identified as the killer.
In his apartment, the Bouches-du-Rhône police discovered a dead body in the kitchen, but its right arm and head were missing. The head was later found in a bucket in the bathroom and, according to Le Figaro, had been partially eaten. Satanic cult objects were also found in the home.
Homicide has been with us since the first apeman lifted a bone to beat a rival to death (or actually well before that, using teeth and claws). It is likely that the victor in those early spats would have been loath to waste the resulting meaty corpse.
Accounts of cannibalism still seem to focus on the primitive, the ‘savage’ cannibals eating the unwary missionary who stumbles upon their village, even though there is little evidence that such events ever happened. But in recent years, cannibalism has increasingly been found within our ‘civilised’ cities and towns. 2020 was a big year for cannibalism. So far in 2021, we have had THE OKLAHOMA CANNIBAL in the US and the MEXICAN CANNIBAL who allegedly killed and ate some thirty women. In South Africa at the moment, deadly rioting has led to food shortages that, according to one community leader, has led people to consider cannibalism. Then we have the whole Armie Hammer uproar. These cases, like the one in France, are usually put down to psychotic deviance, the psychological equivalent of a mystified shrug. But economics and politics play their parts too, as does a loss of respect – treating humans as animals (which of course we are) emanates from treating animals as morally valueless, as mere commodities.
Could it be that a toxic mixture of urban loneliness and rampant consumerism, particularly of animal bodies, together with the stripping of humans of their formerly assumed metaphysical superiority to other animals, is leading the murderer to the same conclusion chosen by our pre-sapien ancestors: why waste the meat?
What does it mean to be “treated like an animal”? We humans are, after all, animals, one species of the family Hominid, or great apes. So why should we not be treated like animals, or, if we are averse to abuse, why then do we treat non-human animals “like animals”? The ultimate act of treating humans “like animals” is the killing and eating or the human body, which of course is made of meat, and various other edible parts.
One of the classics of cannibal studies is the film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, made on a tight budget by Tobe Hooper in 1974, and remade and turned into multiple sequels since then. In these films, cannibals capture and slaughter tourists for their flesh. The Farm attempts to push the slaughter metaphor a whole lot further.
The cannibal who dwells among us has been a popular trope since Sweeney Todd the Barber starting cutting the throats of his customers over 200 years ago, carting their bodies to the pie shop of Mrs Lovett, who turned them into very popular pies. There have been multiple versions of this story, the latest being a musical with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Variations on this theme included Motel Hell and the Danish comedy Green Butcher, starring Mads Mikkelsen (21st century Hannibal Lecter) as you have never seen him before.
Early cannibal stories concentrated on ‘savages’ who ate us just because that’s what the imperialists told us that was what primitive peoples did. Sweeney and his ilk looked a lot like us, but happened to be less discriminating when it came to sourcing their meat. Slasher cannibals were a hybrid – a fusion of the foreign savage and the domestic entrepreneur – they were modern, civilised people who had sunk back into voracious savagery. Texas Chain Saw was a progenitor of the slasher films in which a bunch of urban trendies come up against a whole family of degenerate cannibals – people who have dropped (or been thrown) out of civil society and reverted to savagery and cannibalism. Stories about semi-human, savage cannibals waylaying travellers date back to at least Sawney Bean and his incestuous cannibal family in 16th century Scotland, or even further back to Homer’s Cyclops or the various monsters reported by Herodotus.
What slasher and savage cannibal movies had in common was that the cannibals were more of the hunter-gatherer type, setting traps or chasing potential prey, as our ancestors did for a couple of hundred thousand years before the agricultural revolution started, some ten thousand years ago. At that time, we started selectively breeding animals, confining them, controlling their lifecycles, harvesting their bodily secretions, and slaughtering them for meat at our convenience. This movie, The Farm, takes that social evolution into the world of cannibals. What if our backroad cannibals didn’t just chase down tourists, but farmed humans for their meat and their milk?
It’s an intriguing premise, which starts with the traditional horror preamble, a young couple, Nora (Nora Yessayan, who also did the casting) and Alec (Alec Gaylord) stopping for the night somewhere they should know better than to stop, much like Brad and Janet in Rocky Horror Show.
These films have a formula – the sassy, city folk, some of them in an unmarried relationship (and being judged and often punished for it).
The diner with food of an indeterminable origin, the gas station with the weird attendant.
The house or motel with some nasty surprises (e.g. bloodstained sheets), and (yes) the monster under the bed.
But The Farm goes off in another direction after that. The young couple are captured and put in cages.
They are gagged, and so they are voiceless, the way we consider farm animals to be, and treated ruthlessly by the farmers, who are mostly wearing animal masks.
Nora is tied with her legs apart and artificially inseminated, as happens to millions of cows every year.
Alec is confined, knocked on the head and taken off to where human meat is harvested. Somehow, he survives that and comes looking for Nora.
The farm is a catering company, cooking and selling the meat for festive events.
The captured human men are killed whenever fresh meat is needed, the women are fitted to suction machines and their milk is collected.
When they can no longer become pregnant, they are added to the butchery.
I guess we are (most of us) aware that cows, like all mammals, have to give birth before they produce milk. On this farm, as on dairy farms world-wide, the babies are waste products of milk production and are killed soon after they are born. That indifferent killing of the innocent is the most disturbing scene of the film.
Look, it’s BUSINESS. Just as billions of male chicks are minced alive at hatcheries because they can’t lay eggs, so dairy calves are killed if they can’t produce milk, and human babies dashed against the concrete floor in the milking sheds of The Farm. Of course, businesses of all sorts have production and quality problems, and have to deal with unhappy customers.
Nora and Alec escape and seek refuge in a church. How much sympathy would an escaped cow or sheep or pig get in a church? It does give us an understanding of the ideology of the Farm though, with it’s mural based on Matthew 19:14:
Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
Farmed animals are often compared to children in that they are vulnerable, selectively bred to be dependent and of course are mostly slaughtered when still infant or barely adult. The Dean of St Paul’s, William Ralph Inge, wrote in “The Idea of Progress”,
“We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.”
Nora and Alec, at the start of the film, stopped at a café near the Farm, where they were watched as they uncaringly ate beef and bacon burgers. They were, without their knowledge, judged guilty of eating flesh, of cannibalism of their fellow mammals, and the “animals” are now harvesting their bodies in return.
“this is a tough watch for most audiences and is even a little rough for hardened horror fans”
The reviewers either loved or hated The Farm. Very few thought it was just OK; it was either slammed as stupid and badly made or lauded as a brilliant expose of modern animal agriculture, told in a looking-glass world where we are the animals. I tend to the second view, but I hope you will get the chance to decide for yourself. The film seems to be on Amazon Prime.
I won’t tell you the ending, but the poster kinda gives it away…