Issei Sagawa, in your face: CANIBA (2017)

In 1987, Japanese student Issei 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 a period of two days.

Sagawa was declared insane in France and returned to Japan, where he could not be tried for murder as no evidence had been sent by the French. A free man, he became something of a celebrity, making torture porn movies, selling paintings (many of them nudes), writing books and manga showing his crime, and even becoming a food critic. The fascination so many people feel with the life and crimes of Issei Sagawa is shown by the number of documentaries made about him:

  • Cannibal Superstar (Viasat Explore, Sweden, 1986, 47 minutes)
  • Excuse Me for Living (Channel 4, UK, 1993, 60 minutes)
  • The Cannibal That Walked Free (Channel 5, UK, 2007, 46 minutes)
  • Interview with a Cannibal (Vice, US, 2011, 34 minutes)

And, most recently, this one: Canniba, made by two artists/anthropologists, Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor from Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab. Unlike the more standard documentaries which deal in psychoanalytic speculations and dramatic narration, this one is an extreme close-up of the cannibal himself, in his declining years. The only characters shown are Sagawa himself, his brother Jun and a young woman carer, who is inappropriately dressed in a maid’s uniform and happily tells him zombie stories as she prepares him for bed. Sagawa was hospitalized in 2013 from a cerebral infarction, which permanently damaged his nervous system, and due to this and severe diabetes is largely unresponsive through most of the filming, becoming animated only when discussing his murder of Renée. Jun sums his brother up:

“Cannibalism is really very much nourished by fetishistic desire. The desire to lick the lips of your lover, and things like that, are based on primal urges. Cannibalism is just an extension of that. Both extremes exist within him. Cannibalism is a totally different world for him.”

The film seems to ask us to consider our own fetishes (you don’t have any? That would make you unique) and asks whether we are repulsed by Sagawa’s acts, or by the abjection in ourselves which he forces us to confront.

The first thirty minutes are a gruelling close-up of the two men – Issei and Jun and their desultory interactions, with the camera so close you can see every pore, except when it (blessedly) goes out of focus. Issei is largely catatonic, staring sightlessly as we, in turn, stare in extreme close-up at his face, which looks almost like a death mask. The only signs of animation are when he is offered chocolate, of which he seems inordinately fond, perhaps as a substitute for the human flesh he so craved. Probably not great for his diabetes, but we’re not really hoping for a happy ending to this story.

Unable to see a future, Issei dwells on the past. He remembers his mother telling him in graphic detail about falling down some stairs in a department store and miscarrying.

From this glimpse of the behavioural background to his subsequent actions, we are suddenly catapulted to a clip of a much younger Issei in a porn film, biting a woman’s buttocks, as he did to the dead victim, then being urinated on and finally masturbated by her.

The horror of his ruined visage is contrasted to the prudish pixilation of the debauchery.

If we haven’t walked out by now, as many of the audience did at the early screenings in the Toronto and Venice film festivals, we are then treated to his commentary, now quite animated, on his manga – a comic-book format showing his murder, rape and cannibalisation of the young woman. His brother tut-tuts throughout, saying he doesn’t want to see such things, while Issei explains what he did, and what it meant to him.

“For a hideous person like me, she was out of reach.”

A bullet in the back of her neck was the only way he could think of to bring her into his reach.

“Finally the thing I was craving to eat was right in front of me! The stench doesn’t matter. I started with the richest part of her right buttock.”

The murder and cannibalism turned a shy, diminutive man-child into a fierce Samurai, in his own mind.

He describes the eating the flesh (the harvesting of which is shown in detail in the manga) as “an historical moment!” For that brief time, the woman was entirely his, and what Derrida called carnivorous virility gave him an absurd sense of masculine power as he “dominated” the woman’s corpse for his sexual and gastronomic pleasure.

There’s heaps more, but you’ll have to watch the film or get the manga – my blog has its limits.

The film then disconcertingly lurches into home movies of the two men when they were cute little boys.

We are not given a commentary, but we know from other accounts that their uncle would dress up as a cannibal and capture them for his cooking pot. The psychoanalysts would eat that up, but we should consider that many of us are chased by various demented relatives in our childhood games without going on to become monsters in their likeness.

Issei’s brother Jun, now his carer, appears as the sane one in the family, but we are quickly disabused of that as we see his own self-abuse – he likes to wrap his arms in barbed wire, and cut his arms with knives. Everyone needs a hobby I guess. Issei is not impressed – compared to shooting a woman from behind and then having sex with the body and eating parts of it, a bit of cutting would seem fairly tame to him.

Finally we meet the carer, a young, attractive women dressed as a maid. This is actually Satomi Yôko, an actress playing a maid playing a carer, a further jolt to our fragile sense of reality. She giggles over Issei, telling him, as he stares into her breasts (a particular fetish of his):

She asks him if he wants to cosplay a zombie, and tells him a convoluted story about a zombie woman who eats the old man who keeps her in chains, a reversal of his history, and another fetish of Issei’s, who early in the film says “I want to be eaten by Renée.” She tells him:

“For the zombie to survive, I have to keep eating live humans… I’m alive, but I can’t be with normal humans.”

It’s a perfect summation for the fate of Issei Sagawa.

The only soundtrack is at the very end, The Stranglers’ 1981 song “La Folie” (“madness”) which concerned Sagawa’s crime.

It’s in French, but the partial translation is:

He was once a student
Who strongly wanted, like in literature,
His girlfriend, she was so sweet
That he could almost eat her
Rejecting all vices
Warding off all evils
Destroying all beauty

The film managed 53% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, while the New York Times called the movie “an exercise in intellectualized scab-picking.” IndieWire summed up:

“Caniba” ranks among the most unpleasant movies ever made, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it.

There is another review of an earlier Sagawa documentary, The Cannibal That Walked Free on my blog. The film Caniba is available, if you are so inclined, from https://grasshopperfilm.com/film/caniba/

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.

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?

2021: THE YEAR OF THE CANNIBAL

What a year it was – if a virus wasn’t invading your body, your neighbour might well be.

Thank you!

First of all, a big thanks for reading and sometimes commenting on my blog. Eighteen months ago, I was very excited at seeing over 1,000 views in a month. In December 2021, we had over 6,000 views.

The year by year growth of readership (59,002 in 2021) has been going, pardon the term, viral. So, thank you!!

Cannibals and rumours of cannibals in 2021

I decided to postpone this blog post until January 2022 because, at the end of 2021, new cannibalism cases were still being reported. In the previous year’s summary, I had missed THE GRANNY RIPPER, because she died of COVID on December 29 2020 while awaiting trial. So we’re sneaking her in to the section at the end – cannibals sentenced in 2021, although her judge and executioner was a tiny virus.

There were so many cannibal stories in 2021 that I am listing them alphabetically by country. I should point out for my American readers that the good ol’ USA won gold in the number and strangeness of cannibal acts last year, with Russia, Mexico and Nigeria tied for silver.

Australia

A Tasmanian man pleaded guilty to assault and attempted abduction of a five-year-old girl, telling the court that he just wanted a cuddle (albeit from a screaming child, whom he had just attempted to strangle) and later telling prison officers that he had wanted to eat her, and that he had been wanting to eat people since he was a child.

Bolivia

A woman chowed down on a burger in Santa Cruz de la Sierra only to find that she was chewing on a severed and decomposing human finger. The unfortunate incident (you’d have to call her an innocent cannibal) was the source of some semi-amusing puns from the world’s press, plus a hilarious unintentional pun from the burger company who told her “the issue is out of our hands”.

France

A man in Tarascon, a town between Avignon and Arles, was shot by police after the decapitated and partly consumed corpse of young boy was found in his apartment.

Ghana

Richard Appiah of Abesim near Sunyani in the Bono Region, allegedly lured three boys to his house, killed them and kept their mutilated bodies in his fridge. He is said to have cooked for them, before cooking them.

Indonesia

A family in Gowa allegedly gouged out their six-year-old daughter’s eye as part of a black magic cannibal ritual that was supposed to bring them wealth, before her mother ate her eyelid. Police also arrested a shaman, who allegedly convinced the family to sacrifice children.

Malawi

Patrick Gome from Ntcheu was allegedly found biting a nine-month old baby on her cheek and thigh. A police spokesperson said Gome acted “like a wild animal”.

Mexico

David Sanabria and his young daughter, trying to cross Mexico from Honduras in the hope of entering the United States, was kidnapped by a Mexican cartel and held for ransom. Those refugees who did not pay, he later told Noticias Telemundo Investiga, were murdered and cooked and the surviving migrants were made to eat the meat.

Andres Filomeno Mendoza Celis, 72, was arrested in Calle Margaritas, in the municipality of Atizapan de Zaragoza. Detectives arrived at Mendoza’s home to interview him about the suspicious disappearance of a woman, Reyna González, a mother of two, only to find her mutilated remains on a table. Mendoza reportedly admitted to slaughtering and eating parts of around thirty women over the last twenty years.

Nigeria

The cannibal of Ebonyi was the name given to a commercial driver in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, who reportedly bit off and swallowed the finger of a member of the taskforce raised by the state’s Ministry of Capital City Development to enforce compliance with urban planning regulations.

A video has surfaced online purporting to show the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the security wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), celebrating the abduction, beheading and cannibalisation of two police officers. The Director of State Security said “We saw human flesh being roasted, it was an eye-sore.” An IPOB spokesperson, Emma Powerful, denied claims that their members eat human flesh and engage in barbaric acts, saying that the claim by the DSS was meant to demonise IPOB and ESN operatives and tag them as criminals.

Russia

Vladimir Yadne killed three people in Siberia and ate their flesh, washed down with vodka.

On the other side of Russia, Yegor Komarov was seen running from his car, which he had crashed into a road safety barrier. The problem was not the accident, but the headless body which fell from the car boot. Komarov admitted to being a cannibal and stated that he ‘likes killing people’. He confessed to stabbing and killing another man in a park in St Petersburg last year for the sole purpose of tasting human flesh, and said he had sliced off the tongue and fried it in butter.

South Africa

A community leader told the Financial Times newspaper that rioting and looting have caused food shortages which have led people to consider cannibalism.

Spain

National Police officers in Sevilla were deployed on Saturday, September 18, to deal with what they have described as one of the most bizarre incidents in the history of the force, a case involving African witchcraft and cannibalism. Allegedly, a fight had broken out between two women after one threw a bottle of water containing salt at the other, and accused her of witchcraft. Believing that her roommate was possessed, she struck her on the head with a stone, and then bit off and ate two of the woman’s fingers. After this, the aggressor, in an attempt to rid the other woman of the supposed demon, inserted the stone into her anus in an attempt to extract her guts.

USA

The biggest cannibalism story in the USA in 2021 was about a man who almost certainly has not eaten anyone. He did, however, boast about it in text messages to some very pissed off girlfriends, who reported it widely. Yep, the actor (maybe former actor) Armie Hammer. Arguably now more famous for his cannibalism posts than for his movies.

On February 9 2021, Chickasha (Oklahoma) police responded to a 911 call. They found Leon Pye dead and his four-year-old granddaughter Kaeos critically injured. She died in the back of the ambulance. Delsie Pye, Leon’s wife, was alive, but had knife wounds to both eyes. Lawrence Anderson confessed to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation that before slaughtering his family, he had broken into the home of a neighbour and butchered the woman who lived there, cut out her heart, and cooked it with potatoes to feed to his family, to release the demons. Apparently unsuccessfully.

Landon Copeland, an Army veteran from Utah who had been accused of assaulting police during the Capitol insurrection, was refused bail after he threatened to “eat the flesh” of a probation officer. He is said to have shouted “I will eat your flesh for nutrients. I don’t think you don’t know what I am!”

James Phelps, 58, and Timothy Norton, 56, were arrested and charged with kidnapping a young woman named Cassidy Rainwater in September. The County Sheriff said that Rainwater was disembowelled and dismembered after she was strangled. Some of her remains were found in a freezer. Conspiracies are floating around that both Norton and Phelps were involved in cannibalistic activities.

Cassidy Rainwater kidnappers arrested

Just squeaking into 2021 before the ball falls in Times Square, Idaho man James David Russell, 39, of Oldtown in Bonner County had cannibalism charges added to his accusations of first-degree murder. Police found pieces of the neighbour, some of which appeared to have been cooked in a microwave oven. According to the supplemental probable cause affidavit, Russell believed that he could “heal himself by cutting off portions of flesh” in order to “cure his brain.”

Sentenced

Some cannibals sit in jail for a while before they are finally sentenced. Here are a few who ate people in earlier years, but were sentenced in 2021.

  • On Friday, 18 June, a Swiss court sentenced 46-year-old Alieu Kosiah, a West African rebel leader, to 20 years in prison for rape, murder and cannibalism.
  • Bulawayo man, Rodney Tongai Jindu, has just lodged an appeal to the Zimbabwean Supreme Court against a High Court ruling which sentenced him to death for murdering two of his friends. Jindu had told the court, in gruesome detail, how he had eaten the men’s livers raw, and cooked and eaten their brains.
  • Alberto Sánchez Gómez, a Madrid waiter, was jailed for 15 years in June. He had told police he butchered his own mother before sharing her body parts with his dog. The 66-year-old pensioner had been chopped into at least 1,000 pieces and her vital organs were missing.
  • Sunil Rama Kuchkoravi (35) of Kolhapur India was found guilty of murder for killing his mother after she refused to give him money to buy liquor. He later chopped up parts of her body and ate them, after frying them in a pan.
  • A Sydney (Australia) woman who cut her 57-year-old mother’s head off with kitchen knives in July 2019 was found guilty of manslaughter in the NSW Supreme Court in March, and sentenced to 21 years imprisonment, after pleading not guilty to murder due to mental impairment. The court was told that Jessica Camilleri – who had a history of refusing to take psychiatric medications – had only stopped the attack when her mother’s head fell off and her eyeballs came out of their sockets. The judge said Camilleri had engaged in “acts of decapitation and cannibalism”.
  • Eduard Seleznev, known as the “Arkhangelsk Cannibal”, who killed and ate the flesh of three men, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Russian Supreme Court. Seleznev admitted the murders, and added that he had then sliced their bodies up, kept the meat in plastic bags, and disposed of the bodies in the Volokhnitsa river. He subsequently boiled and ate the flesh.
  • At the end of the year, we heard that Mark Latunski, who allegedly killed his Grindr date, hung him upside down and ate his testicles on Christmas Eve 2019 (thus missing out on my 2020 update), will go to trial early 2022. Very inconsiderate.
  • Sofia Zhukova, known as the ‘Granny Ripper’, who supposedly gave children sweets made from the flesh of her victims, died in Russia of COVID-19 on December 29 2020, at the age of 81, before the conclusion of her murder trial. You may have noticed that most of the 5,351,812 people who died of COVID up to December 20 (plus millions more whose deaths were not reported to WHO) did not have articles written about them. Sofia had heaps of media coverage though, because, you know, cannibalism.

2022

Well, I hope you can see why I nominated 2021 as THE YEAR OF THE CANNIBAL. But what does 2022 have in store for us? Well, if you follow the prophecies of Nostradamus, which a surprising number of people do, 2022 offers, yep, even more cannibalism, this time because of inflation and the price of food.

 “So high the price of wheat
that man is stirred
his fellow man to eat in his despair.”

Looking further ahead, a professor of astrobiology at Edinburgh University has warned that humans who attempt to colonise other worlds such as Jupiter’s moon Callisto and Saturn’s moon Titan could well find themselves running out of food and resorting to cannibalism.  It happens – think of the “Starving Time” in the Virginia colony of Jamestown in 1609-10, or Sir John Franklin’s 1845 exploration of the Arctic that resulted in the crew cannibalising each other.

https://www.news24.com/witness/news/the-covid-jab-wont-turn-you-into-a-cannibal-kzn-health-mec-20211026

As I stand before you, I’ve never had the urge to eat anyone, and it will never happen. So, what people are saying about the vaccine making people want to eat others… of being part of 5G technology, or linked to the work of the devil, is all nothing but a myth. It is not true.” 

Hope you enjoyed your New Year festivities! Next year you might need a barbeque. Please keep reading and liking, and commenting! If you need some light reading, here’s my complete listing of Hannibal films and episodes.

What’s your favourite cannibal movie?

Of all the (sometimes) wonderful cannibal movies and shows I have reviewed in this blog, my personal favourite is still The Silence of the Lambs with Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal the Cannibal. It was the first film I reviewed on this blog (does that mean I liked the others less each time? Not at all), and interestingly, it does not actually feature any cannibalism, although we hear a lot about it.

Fun fact!

So I was pretty chuffed to find that The Silence of the Lambs is the favourite horror movie of the State of Utah, according to the Horrornews.net website. They used information from Rotten Tomatoes and Google Trends, and partnered with Mindnet Analytics, to analyse how interest in horror movies varied in each US state and the District of Columbia (DC). The results are presented on their website:

Best Horror Movies: Which Does Each US State Love Most?

This survey covers all horror, whereas in this blog we concentrate on the cannibal, so please let us know your favourite cannibal film (or TV show, but if it’s a series, your favourite episode) either in the comments at the bottom of the page (after a few suggestions) or at cannibalstudies@gmail.com. I’ll let you know the results.

The “vampire of Hanover” – DEATHMAKER (Der Totmacher, Romuald Karmakar, 1995)

I expected this to be either graphically violent or else painfully dull, but it was neither. It is quite different from any cannibal movie I have reviewed on this blog.

Deathmaker (German: Der Totmacher) is a re-enactment of the transcripts of the interrogation of the serial killer and cannibal Fritz Haarmann who killed and ate parts of at least 24 homeless boys between the end of the Great War in 1918 and his eventual capture and execution in 1924-5.

Haarmann became known as the “Vampire of Hanover” for killing his victims with a “love bite” that went right through their windpipes. He made a living selling the victims’ clothes and flesh (marketed as “pork”) on the black market to grateful customers who were barely surviving the collapse of the German economy after the war.

There are no flashbacks or re-enactments of violent incidents, just three men sitting in a room, and only two of them speak. Imagine it as a play that has been recorded to film. Or think Louis Malle’s My Dinner with Andre mixed with In Treatment. The great German film maker Ulli Lommel had made a re-enactment of Haarmann’s killing spree some twenty years earlier called The Tenderness of Wolves (Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe). The two films are a wonderful glimpse into the mind of a cannibal, although the characterisation is so different as to be almost unrecognisable

Almost the whole film is set in one room in an asylum, with psychology professor Ernst Schultze (Jurgen Hentsch) interviewing mass-murderer and cannibal Fritz Haarmann (Götz George, who won best actor at Venice Film Festival for this role) to determine if he is sane, or at least lucid enough to be tried and executed. Except for entrances and exits and the occasional visiting doctor, no other people are present, and the only other member of the cast is the stenographer (Pierre Franckh) – whose notes of the meetings this film used as its script – he is variously terrified, fascinated and sympathetic to Haarmann, all depicted entirely in his face, as he never says a word.

The Director, Romuald Karmakar, is known for producing thoughtful films that often follow perpetrators who are responsible for their own downfall. The professor asks unexpected questions about maths or geology, while Fritz plays the clown, but as the questions close in on his life and sexuality, he becomes more lucid, trying to justify his actions, and trying to win the sympathy of his interrogator. The professor has full control over the hulking Fritz, who is soon describing exactly how he killed the boys and young men during sex, with graphic details of how he dismembered them and disposed of the body parts.

“Took out the bowels. And threw them in a bucket. Dumped them in the toilet. It’s all rumpled up. I cut them up and threw them away.”

Haarmann’s boyfriend, Hans, would acquire the boys, sometimes just because he wanted their clothing, and knew he would get it after Fritz finished with them.

The professor, unlike modern psychs, pours scorn on Fritz, contemptuously condemning his homosexuality and violence and dismissing his claim that he will be allowed into Heaven to meet his mother. Would Haarmann have acted as he did if his homosexuality had been accepted? We can’t know that, but we do know that German laws against homosexuality were made more draconian after Haarmann’s case in 1924.

The boys won’t be able to testify against him to the heavenly judge, Haarmann says, because he caved their heads in, and he demonstrates how he did it, smashing his fist into his hand repeatedly.

He laughs, he boasts, he complains, and eventually he cries as he realises that his rampages, which he at first maintained were not his fault, will surely have him condemned to the guillotine.

The subject of cannibalism is barely mentioned, even though that is about all that Haarmann is remembered for now.

The professor tells him there is plenty of evidence that Fritz fried shrimps in human fat, made bouillon, sausages and brawn

We are told that he stripped the flesh from his victims and sold their clothes, and finally we get a quick reference to “Haarmann’s sausages”, almost as a double entendre joke. The ethical debate between the professor and Fritz is not about cannibalism but about the families who lost their sons, and his response each time is that they were just “joy-boys”.

The basis of exploitation, killing and eating others is objectification. A cow or pig can be “just an animal” and a homeless boy can be “just a joy-boy”. Just words, but powerful enough to allow the most despicable acts, as they strip all moral value from the intended victim. Haarmann claimed he did not remember killing them, they would just be lying next to him, dead, next morning. And of course, once they were dead, they were no longer “just joy-boys” and were instead now just meat. Our ability to objectify does not necessarily stop at the species line.

The film received several awards and nominations from the Deutscher Filmpreis in 1996 including Best Feature Film, Best Direction and Best Actor. Götz George is simply superb in the role, for which he also won the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival. Deathmaker was chosen as Germany’s official submission to the 69th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, but did not manage to receive a nomination.

It is not a film for everyone, both because of the descriptions of the dismemberment of human bodies, as well as the fact that, if you don’t speak German, following the dialog in subtitles can be wearing for some people. But it is quite brilliant, and if you can’t find it on a streaming service, it is available on DVD at Amazon. Well worth the effort.

Cannibal news July 2021: DEATH ROW CANNIBAL lodges appeal


Bulawayo man, Rodney Tongai Jindu, has just lodged an appeal to the Zimbabwean Supreme Court challenging a High Court ruling which sentenced him to death for murdering two of his friends, Mboneli Joko Ncube and Cyprian Kudzurunga, in 2017.

Jindu told the court, in gruesome detail, how he had eaten the men’s livers raw, and cooked and eaten their brains.

Rodney Tongai Jindu

The court had heard that Jindu was mentally incapacitated, but a medical examination presented in court declared him fit to stand trial. During the trial, Jindu stated that he was sent by the devil to kill the two men, and threatened to unleash Lucifer onto prosecutors.

Jindu requested assisted suicide after the decision was handed down, but has now changed his mind, and is seeking acquittal on the grounds of mental incapacity. His appeal states in part:

“There was cogent evidence that appellant was mentally incapacitated to appreciate the implications of his actions at the material time of committing the offence. Wherefore, appellants prays that the appeal be and is hereby allowed”

There’s a thorough analysis of the cases on the Amanda and Banele vodcast, at the top of this blog.

No longer a monster or ‘savage’, the contemporary cannibal is hard to tell from anyone else in a suit and tie.

IS ARMIE HAMMER A CANNIBAL?

In case you’re wondering, the above clip is definitely satirical.

So the news media is sure that Armie Hammer either is, or is not, a cannibal. Let us (briefly I hope) review.

Hammer is a young American actor (not yet 35) who found fame with his 2008 portrayal of the evangelist Billy Graham in Billy, the Early Years for which he won a “Faith and Values Award” from Mediaguide, a Christian review organisation. Will the ironies never cease!

Hammer went on to star in several movies (including some bombs like The Lone Ranger alongside Johnny Depp) but he is best known for playing Oliver in Call Me by Your Name in 2017. He was supposed to star in a sequel, based on the novel Find Me, when his world turned to shit. Or didn’t. Because he was a cannibal. Or wasn’t.

While most of us were locked down in our humble homes for much of 2020, Hammer and his family locked down in a luxury villa in the Cayman Islands, where, he told GQ Mag,

“It was a very complicated, intense situation, with big personalities all locked in a little tiny place. I don’t think I handled it very well. I think, to be quite frank, I came very close to completely losing my mind.”

Hammer’s family was, shall we say, a colourful one. His aunt Casey declared “I started watching Succession and I had to turn it off, because it was like, ‘Oh, my God. That’s my family.’”

Close families! Hammer said he felt like a trapped wolf who wanted to “chew his own foot off.” Despite the raging pandemic, he flew back to the US, where he got over his imminent divorce with wild parties and a series of girlfriends.

Unfortunately for him, several of those girlfriends in early 2021 took to social media to describe Hammer as abusive, manipulative and violent. Screenshots of his text messages appeared to show him describing fantasies (or real events) of rape and cannibalism.

“I am 100% a cannibal…. Fuck. That’s scary to admit. I’ve never admitted that before. I’ve cut the heart out of a living animal before and eaten it while still warm.”

“I want to see your brain, your blood, your organs, every part of you. I would definitely bite it. 100%. Or try to fuck it. Not sure which. Probably both.”

“If I fucked you into a vegetative state id keep you, feed you, watch you, and keep fucking you…Till you are so sore and broken…. I can’t stop thinking of [fucking] your actual brain.”

“Brand you, tattoo you, mark you, shave your head and keep your hair with me, cut a piece of your skin off and make you cook it for me…. “Who’s slave/master relationship is the strongest?” We’d win. When I tell you to slit your wrists and use the blood for anal.”

In early March, Armie’s ex-girlfriend Paige Lorenze, 24, said in an explosive interview with Vanity Fair that during their time together she felt “really unsafe and sick to her stomach.” The interview claimed that the celebrity’s ex-partners have “compared him to Ted Bundy” and said he was obsessed with Shibari – a Japanese bondage art form where people are tied up in intricate patterns. Lorenze was horrified to see the accusations of cannibalism,

“Because he would say things to me…weird stuff…like, ‘I want to eat your ribs’.”

Paige Lorenze

She also claimed that Hammer had carved his initial into her pubic area and licked the wound, later bragging about it to friends, and that Hammer was fixated on biting her body, saying,

”If you did not tell me to stop I would eat a piece out of you.” And he was serious too. It was like he actually wanted to eat my flesh away.

The “A” that Armie allegedly carved into Paige

On their first night together, Lorenze said Hammer insisted: ‘You can either call me daddy or sir.’ 

Another woman named Effie whom he dated for about five months in 2020 said that he had told her he wanted to eat her flesh, and would suck or lick her wounds if she had “a little cut on my hand.”

Armie and Effie

But let’s remember that no one has actually accused Hammer of acting on his alleged cannibalistic fantasies — and in fact he has never confirmed that he sent those texts. In any case, texting and sex play, even bondage and sado-masochism (if consensual), are not illegal, and Hammer clearly enjoyed both.

But if he sent these texts, and if they were just fantasies, as they appear to be, he picked the very worst time, the apex of the #MeToo movement, to send them. Hammer subsequently lost leading roles for which he had been preparing, including in the Jennifer Lopez film Shotgun Wedding, and his agency dropped him. In March 2021, Effie, the woman who initially came forward with abuse allegations on Instagram, identified herself and accused Hammer of violently raping her in April 2017. The Los Angeles Police Department subsequently confirmed that he was the subject of a sexual assault investigation, which had been set in motion a month prior. Hammer has vehemently denied any wrongdoing via his lawyer, who stated that “all of his interactions with [Effie] – and every other sexual partner of his for that matter – have been completely consensual, discussed and agreed upon in advance, and mutually participatory.”

Hammer was unable to see his family during the pandemic lockdown, and his marriage fell apart.

In June 2021, Hammer checked into a Florida treatment centre for drug, alcohol and sex issues.

Katharine Gates, the author of Deviant Desires, describes a cannibalistic sex role play that tends to “involve more realistic scenarios…but still fantasy—they’re not actually eating pieces of people, but you will have one person be the meat and another is the preparer.”

Many, many people seem fascinated by cannibalism, and one artist is already turning Armie Hammer’s explicit DMs into NFT art (non-fungible tokens – it’s a long story).

One role play which seems popular on sites like Tumblr revolves around cannibal acts, a ‘paraphilia’ known as vorarephilia (it’s not in the DSM) – sexual arousal at eating, or being eaten by, another person (enthusiasts call themselves “vores”). A few, such as Armin Meiwes, eventually find a willing partner and make the fantasy a reality, but such cases are incredibly rare – Meiwes himself found that almost all the men who responded to his requests for someone who wanted to be eaten were not finally ready to take it to the next level –  actually becoming his meal.

But why this fascination? Cannibalism is an act of domination – there can be no greater conquest of another than converting them into a meal and eventually into excrement. Hammer revealed this need to dominate in wanting to be called ‘daddy or sir’. But this hunger for incorporative power goes back to our earliest experiences.

Freud wrote of an infantile impulse toward “oral incorporation” – a desire not just to feed at the mother’s breast but to consume, possess that source of nourishment, comfort, security and love. He called one of the earliest psychological phases the “cannibalistic pregenital sexual organisation”. This drive is both loving – wanting to unite with the object of desire, and destructive – prepared to destroy the object to satisfy those desires. Infants may generate such hostility when their needs and desires are not satisfied promptly, and may also learn fear from the suspicion that the source will never be enough, or that their feeble attempts to dominate the adult may be met with far more powerful reprisals.

Maggie Kilgour, the doyen of Cannibal Studies, summed up:

“…far from being sublimated into symbolic forms or even sexual desire, our original appetites still move us, so that we remain trapped in a new oral phase of consumption. The work implies that man-eating is a reality – it is civilisation that is the myth.”

So there is a deep vein of cannibalism in our unconscious minds, and it may resurface at times of stress (e.g. being locked down in the Cayman Islands) or as an expression of affection, which in Hammer’s case did not go over well.

Is Armie Hammer a cannibal? He is a rich and handsome movie star from a rich and famous family, who built his career on playing men who can get away with anything. He is certainly a privileged and persuasive abuser of (often much) younger women, a form of exploitative consumption that is uncomfortably close to cannibalistic ingestion.

But is he a cannibal? Almost certainly not in reality. But in his mind, in the deep, dark fissures of his unconscious, he certainly is. We all are.

BLOODY HELL (Alister Grierson, 2020)

This is a ripsnorter of a thriller, and full of surprises. Defiantly internationalist, the film is an Australian-British action/horror film directed by Alister Grierson (Kokoda, Sanctum, Tiger) and written by Robert Benjamin. It is set in a basement in Helsinki Finland with scenes in Boise, Idaho, and features mostly Australian and New Zealand actors, with American or Finnish accents and dialogue as necessary. It was made on the Gold Coast in Queensland (as many blockbusters have been recently).

The main characters are both personas of Rex (Ben O’Toole – Hacksaw Ridge, Detroit, The Water Diviner).  O’Toole is superb (imagine a combination of Bruce Willis and Robert Downey Jr) in two roles: both the physical Rex and his inner voice, the part of him (and all of us) which commentates his life and ordeals, screams abuse, even when pretending to be calm and collected or even unconscious, and debates the best responses, rational or emotional, to every aspect of what is going on around him. O’Toole called this Rex his character’s “conscience”, but it’s not a Freudian split between an ego and a superego (or id) – it is more nuanced, and the invisible Rex (invisible to other characters – the audience and physical Rex can see and hear him) argues about practical and ethical issues all the time, sometimes compassionate, sometimes sneering and violent. That inner voice, as we all know, is exhausting.

Rex and his inner voice are off to Finland. Why? Well, Rex was in a bank, chatting to a teller he fancied, when a gang of heavily armed men came storming in and violently robbed both the bank and the customers. Rex, ex-military, was able to take on the gang and kill them all, but the last one was ready to surrender when invisible Rex screamed:

As the last robber collapsed, dickless, his gun went off, killing an innocent teller who had been hiding in a cupboard. Rex became a media sensation, with half the population calling him a hero, and the rest a “psycho twat”, and a plea bargain saw him in jail for eight years for causing the teller’s death, leading to his decision to emigrate, on his release. In a flashback to his court case, Rex is asked why he shot the bank robber in that particular spot.

“I wanted him down… and I didn’t want him to reproduce… win – win!”

Why Finland? Well, he shot spitballs at a world map in his jail cell, and fate led him to that country. Where, unfortunately, a family of cannibals awaited him, and he wakes up, barely twenty minutes into the film, hanging by his wrists from a water pipe in a dark basement.

With the classic trope of cannibal films, used so well in Texas Chain Saw Massacre – the extreme close-up.

He is missing a leg, blood dripping from the stump, but his inner Rex is still fine and walking around, and furious at their precarious situation. Our imaginary self, after all, is as threatened by our mortality as we are.

It is clear to us, the audience, that Rex’s body parts are a living larder, although it takes the Rexs a bit longer to figure out why his leg is missing.

“Black market limb trade… is that a thing? I’m pretty sure there’s a niche there.”

It’s actually a very funny film – the dialogue between the two Rexs and even some of the murderous Finns is often hilarious. Rex pulls himself up to the huge knot to try to free himself with his teeth, observing that, short of one leg,

Rex’s love interest is Alia (Meg Fraser – Leech) the daughter, who has spent her life trying to escape her family.

Rex offers to “rescue” her (which considering his position is ambitious), and tells her,

“If we get out of here, I’ll tell you the whole story over dinner. I’ll even pay, huh?”

Now Rex has to dump on vegans to the girl whose family is upstairs eating the meat of his right leg; the family are definitely not vegans, nor can they see anything much wrong in giving their oldest son his preferred meat species. Alia explains that her older brother Pati is “the oldest and the hungriest”. Like Rex, he certainly does like a bit of meat, but, like the Wendigo, there is only one source that will satisfy him. Many omnivores will eat any meat except human. Pati will eat any meat as long as it’s human. As omnis like to say “it’s a personal choice.”

“He’s the reason you’re here. And very soon, there will be nothing left of you.”

Cannibal Studies is usually concerned with the anthropological or metaphorical aspects of the act – exposing the outsider as uncivilised, or else dripping irony about our own rapacious appetites. This film manages to do both, as Rex rants about the Finnish family, and how he wants to be back in the good ol’ USA,

Which is ironic, because if you check the “Cannibal News” category on this blog, you will see that a goodly proportion of modern cases of cannibalism occur in the good ol’ USA (and none in Finland*). The USA is the apotheosis of consumer societies where, just like Alia’s brother,

The rest of the film concerns Rex’s attempts to escape – not easy when one leg is gone and one of the family members has just tried to saw off the second one. You’ll have to see it to find out how that goes. It’s well worth it. Film critic Rob Hunter sums it up nicely:

“It’s a serious tale of survival encased in blackly comic humor, maliciously creepy twins, and the most sweetly sensual stump-washing scene you’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing.”

The movie premiered in Australia on October 8, 2020, and in the United States a day later at the Nightstream Film Festival. It has a 91% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with comments like “blissfully, absurdly over-the-top, but in a twistedly charming way”.

This is a blackly humorous horror-thriller, and is quite brilliantly executed by Alister Grierson, particularly as the hero, normally the action figure of such stories, is tied to the ceiling and missing a leg for most of the film. You might think that would slow down the pace, but director Grierson keeps it tearing along. I usually stop and start when reviewing a movie, but this one I gulped down in one sitting, then came back for details.

As for the lead actor, Ben O’Toole, he seems to have got a taste for the cannibal stories. He said in an interview that he’d like to play Titus Andronicus, who was William Shakespeare’s favourite cannibal.

Let’s not forget, too, how much cannibalistic symbolism is involved in sex, such as “I could eat you up” as well as various foodie words for cunnilingus and felatio. And of course the French (or Finnish) kiss, when Rex and Alia finally escape.

And just to prove other people like puns too, here is the last frame of the film.

* Actually, there is a case of Finnish cannibalism – Jarno Elg, a supposed Satanist, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1998 for murdering a 23-year-old man, eating some of the body parts and inciting some friends to participate in a ritual that included torturing the victim while listening to songs from The Cainian Chronicle album by the Norwegian black metal band Ancient. Elg was granted parole in 2014.

The movie is available at Amazon.

   

Cannibal News – THE ARKHANGELSK CANNIBAL sentenced to life imprisonment

The Russian Supreme Court has just confirmed the sentence of life imprisonment on Eduard Seleznev, known as the “Arkhangelsk Cannibal”, who killed and ate the flesh of three men.

Seleznev killed three of his friends aged 59, 43 and 34 between March 2016 and March 2017, getting them drunk and then stabbing them to death. He admitted the murders, and added that he had then sliced their bodies up, kept the meat in plastic bags, and disposed of the bodies in the Volokhnitsa river. He subsequently boiled and ate the flesh.

Psychiatrists advised the court that they had found him to be sane and responsible for his actions, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment, but appealed to the Supreme Court, which has just this week confirmed the earlier sentence and advised that he should never be paroled. He was ordered to pay over one million roubles (roughly $14,000 USD) in compensation to the victims’ families.

The parents of one of the victims had gone looking for their son but found Seleznev living in the man’s flat. After murdering and eating the man’s flesh, Seleznev had decided to stay in the flat and started working at a local meat processing plant. Seleznev told the parents that the man had moved to St. Petersburg, but the family members found odd-looking unpackaged meat lying on the floor. Understandably suspicious, they went to the police.

Seleznev apparently had been convicted for a double murder previously but been released after thirteen years in jail in 2000, and had lived in basements, where he caught and cooked local cats, dogs, birds and other small animals found on the streets. Murder of humans is very often preceded by slaughter of other animals. It is not surprising that Seleznev killed dogs, cats and birds or chose to work in a slaughterhouse.

The sociopathic personality usually develops in early childhood or adolescence and is classified under the diagnosis of “conduct disorder,” which then develops into “anti-social personality disorder” (both of these are listed in the DSM). One of the early signs of a conduct disorder is often cruelty to animals.

Like most jurisdictions, cannibalism is not listed in the Russian criminal code, so Seleznev was charged with murder and misusing the victims’ body parts. To the cannibal, of course, burying good meat is misuse, while eating could be considered – sustainable harvesting?

For more cannibal news, check out https://thecannibalguy.com/category/on-cannibals/