Immigrants and cannibals: TWO HEADS CREEK (Jesse O’Brien, 2019)

The thread that runs through cannibalism texts, from Homer’s Cyclops to Harris’ Hannibal Lecter, is the social outsider. It is a theme that never seems to age, since humans love to form cliques, united by an irrational hatred of those who don’t belong, even if it’s just because they dress differently or support a different sporting team. The most obvious example at the moment, and for most of modern history, is the immigrant.

Norman is played by Jordan Waller who also wrote the script – you may have seen him appear in the TV series Victoria. He runs his mother’s Polish butcher shop in Slough (it’s a real place, although there is definitely a pun in there). It’s post-Brexit Britain, and the locals scream abuse and paint his windows with dog-shit.

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He’s English, but his shop sells Polish meats, so he is the hated outsider. His twin sister Anna (Kathryn Wilder) is the assertive one, and is totally uninterested in his butcher shop.

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When they discover at their mother’s funeral (held in the butcher shop) that they were adopted, they find a postcard from their mother, postmarked from a small Australian town: Two Heads Creek. Not sure if this is international invective, but in Australia, “two-heads” is pretty much a synonym for “inbred”, and is used to denigrate rural people. The outsider does not need to come from outside – just a different region will do.

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Norman is named after his mothers’ favourite singer, the Australian pop star Normie Rowe, who was enormously popular in the sixties, until the government decided to conscript him to the war in Vietnam as a publicity stunt. Normie’s oeuvre is featured heavily in the soundtrack. Nevertheless, the twins know nothing of Australia as they sell the butcher shop and head “Down Under” to seek their birth mother, except for clichéd English convict stereotypes, so when the customs agent asks if he has a criminal record, Norman answers “is that a prerequisite?” They travel ten hours to the outback town with a group of Asian immigrants, on a bus driven by an Indigenous man, Apari (Gregory J. Fryer) who is treated like dirt by their guide.

This is a blog about movies involving cannibalism, so it’s probably not a big spoiler to mention why the immigrants are being sent to Two Heads Creek.

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Australian governments of both parties have a long-standing practice of locking up refugees in offshore detention and leaving them there to rot or go mad. So far, they have not considered cannibalism as a solution, so we have to hope they don’t see this movie.

There are lots of explicit cannibalism scenes, as well as some cute intertextual references, e.g.

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The movie is far from subtle in its treatment of jingoism, racism, sexism and various other discriminatory practices popular in Australia and elsewhere.

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But an important thing to realise about cannibalism is that it is an ultimate equaliser – although only certain groups may be chosen as victims, once skinned and cooked, we are all the same. Our differences are, literally, skin deep.

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The scenes of cannibalism are accompanied by another soundtrack, this one the Aussie group Skyhooks, with their big hit “Horror Movie” which, in the song, turned out to be about watching the evening news, and so is just as relevant now as ever. Perhaps more so.

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They do get to meet (and almost eat) their mother, yes, she is named Mary (the wonderful Kerry Armstrong from Lantana, Seachange and so much more), who perplexes them by describing their father as “a good man”.

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The final act is a climax of gore, wildly over the top and full of people being stabbed in the crotch, presumably for the 14-year-old-boy market. The main antagonist, Apple (Helen Dallimore) gets shot with an arrow and goes into the giant meat-mincer with her middle finger the final part to be ground up, while screaming the theme of the movie:

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The best line of the film is from their mother, who is hit in the neck by a lethal boomerang studded with nails, but dismisses it as “only a flesh wound”

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Apari, a descendant of the original inhabitants of the land, is left to clean up the blood and corpses that litter the town. With some justification, as he watches the Australians and the English hobble off, he says:

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This well-crafted film is only the second feature from Australian director Jesse O’Brien. He said of the setting, the mining town of Cracow in the Banana Shire, 500km northwest of Brisbane, that

“I think that myth of the outback being ‘a scary place’, which isn’t always true, does fit rural Queensland really well.”

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The cast is great and the film is fresh, funny and still manages to ask some interesting questions about differences and about appetites. It has a 90% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Film Threat described it as:

“A deliciously deranged horror-comedy, overflowing with blood and wit.”

The movie is available on Amazon Prime.

 

Cannibals and Cops: “EATER” (Fear Itself S1E5, 2008)

“Eater” is the fifth episode of season one of the TV horror series Fear Itself, an American horror/suspense anthology television series shot in Canada. This episode, “Eater”, aired on NBC on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008. A later episode featured a Wendigo, and was reviewed last year.

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Officer Danny Bannerman (Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men, Handmaid’s Tale and Invisible Man) is a rookie cop assigned to watch a new prisoner in the Chesterton police holding cell.

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The prisoner, Duane Mellor (Stephen R. Hart), is an “eater” who has murdered 32 people in five different states, killing the men outright but torturing the women before finally killing and eating them, not necessarily in that order.

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In his wardrobe, they found garments made from the skins of his victims. “Just like Hannibal Lecter” says slob cop Marty (Stephen Lee), but Bannerman (her name is straight out of several Stephen King stories) puts them straight – it was Buffalo Bill of course. Hannibal just liked the flesh. As a keen fan of horror, she asks to see the arrest report.

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The Sergeant (Russell Hornsby) warns her: “Hannibal the Cannibal is make believe. This guy isn’t.” Except he is, and rather derivative too – he deconstructs the binary of gustatory (Hannibal) and sartorial (Bill) cannibalism. How postmodern can you get?

Mellor, it turns out, is Cajun, so of course there’s going to be voodoo. He starts chanting in his cell, the lights flicker, and Marty gives her a lecture on Cajun culture and cannibal theory:

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“Down on the Bayou, the Cajun, they use every part of their kill. They’ll take a big, ol’, fat ‘gator, they’ll eat all the flesh, they’ll take the hide, use it for shelter, for clothing, they’ll take the bones, use them for utensils, weapons. I think Mellor’s doing the exact same thing, just doing it with human beings, that’s all… Waste not, want not.”

They discuss the key questions of cannibal studies: why does he do it? “Sexual turn-on” suggests Bannerman, making Marty go all sweaty and silent. Until he sneaks up behind her as she tries to ask the killer about such things, and asks “have you ever wondered what it tastes like… human flesh?”

She replies “just like any other meat I guess”.

“No. I think it’s the power that gets them off… There’s an old voodoo saying that if you cut a man’s heart out and eat it before it stops beating, not only do you gain his strength, but you gain his spirit”.

Marty goes off to investigate a strange noise, Bannerman fetches the keys to the cell (which oddly I found the most disturbing part of the show) and goes to open the cell, and finds the cell unlocked, but the other cop, Mattingly (Pablo Schreiber from The Wire) tells the scared rookie “Stop being such a… woman”. Yes, fear is a female thing, apparently, or at least admitting to it. But shape-shifting – that’s a guy thing, in voodoo at least, and all the men are really Mellor. Maybe all men are eaters?

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The story is tight and taut, and the cast is superb. Elisabeth Moss, like Jodi Foster in Silence of the Lambs, is young and small enough for her vulnerability to engage our sympathy, but also smart, tough, resourceful and brave. Since being kidnapped in West Wing, Moss seems to have making a career in TV and movies where women take on vicious, violent men. This one is as vicious and violent as most of her Gilead mates. Scott Tobias of AV Club said: “If there’s ever been a gorier, nastier hour of network television, then I certainly can’t recall it”.

Now there’s a recommendation.

Director of this episode, Stuart Gordon, also did play about Armin Meiwes, the Rotenburg Cannibal, on the LA stage.

Eater is available (in four parts for some reason) on Youtube.

A complete listing of my Hannibal blogs can be accessed here.

HANNIBAL: a complete listing of my Hannibal film and TV blogs

Movies

“Manhunter” (Mann, 1986)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/07/29/hannibal-the-cannibal/

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“The silence of the lambs” (Demme, 1991)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/03/04/1991-the-silence-of-the-lambs/

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“Hannibal” (Scott, 2001)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/03/17/hannibal-scott-2001/

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“Red Dragon” (Ratner, 2002)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/09/09/what-a-dragon-it-is-getting-old-red-dragon-ratner-2002/

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“Hannibal Rising” (Webber, 2007)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/09/22/hannibal-rising-2007/

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And a spoof, just for fun:

“The Silence of the Trumps” (Colbert Late Show, 2017)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/05/10/the-silence-of-the-trump/

Television

Season 1

  1. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/10/07/very-hard-to-catch-hannibal-episode-1-aperitif-fuller-2013/
  2. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/10/21/amusing-the-mouth-hannibal-season-1-episode-2-fuller-2013/
  3. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/11/04/hiding-the-bodies-hannibal-season-1-episode-3-potage-fuller-2013/
  4. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/11/11/happy-families-hannibal-season-1-episode-4-oeuf-fuller-2013/
  5. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/11/25/inside-the-shell-hannibal-season-1-episode-5-coquilles-fuller-2013/
  6. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/12/09/who-is-the-ripper-hannibal-season-1-episode-6-fuller-2013/
  7. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/12/16/nothing-here-is-vegetarian-hannibal-season-1-episode-7-fuller-2013/
  8. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/12/30/i-see-a-possibility-of-friendship-hannibal-season-1-episode-8-fuller-2013/
  9. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/01/06/i-know-what-monsters-are-hannibal-season-1-episode-9-fuller-2013/
  10. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/01/20/the-very-air-has-screams-hannibal-season-1-episode-10-fuller-2013/
  11. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/01/27/madness-can-be-a-medicine-hannibal-season-1-episode-11-fuller-2013/
  12. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/02/10/im-so-sorry-jack-releves-hannibal-season-1-episode-12-fuller-2013/
  13. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/02/24/savoureux-hannibal-season-1-episode-13/

Season 2

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  1. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/03/31/i-never-feel-guilty-kaiseki-hannibal-season-2-episode-1-fuller-2014/
  2. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/04/07/you-are-dangerous-sakizuke-hannibal-season-2-episode-2-fuller-2014/
  3. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/04/21/merely-the-ink-from-which-flows-my-poem-hannibal-season-2-episode-3-hassun-fuller-2014/
  4. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/05/05/death-is-not-a-defeat-hannibal-season-2-episode-4-takiawase-fuller-2014/
  5. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/05/19/he-is-the-devil-he-is-smoke-hannibal-season-2-episode-05-mukozuke-fuller-2014/
  6. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/06/02/an-act-of-dominance-hannibal-season-2-episode-6-futamono-fuller-2014/
  7. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/06/16/hannibal-season-2-episode-7-fuller-2014/
  8. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/06/30/we-are-all-nietzschean-fish/
  9. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/07/14/typhoid-and-swans/
  10. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/07/28/hannibal-season-2-episode-10/
  11. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/08/11/hannibal-season-2-episode-11/
  12. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/08/25/hannibal-season-2-episode-12/
  13. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/09/08/hannibal-season-2-finale/

Season 3

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  1. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/10/13/the-eating-of-the-heart/
  2. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/11/03/hannibal-season-3-episode-2/
  3. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/11/24/how-did-your-sister-taste/
  4. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/12/15/hannibal-season-3-episode-4/
  5. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/01/05/in-the-belly-of-the-beast-hannibal-season-3-episode-5-contorno/
  6. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/01/26/hannibal-season-3-episode-6/
  7. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/02/16/hannibal-season-3-episode-7/
  8. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/03/08/im-not-insane-hannibal-s03e08-the-great-red-dragon/
  9. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/03/29/hannibal-309/
  10. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/04/19/murder-and-cannibalism-are-morally-acceptable-hannibal-310/
  11. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/05/17/hannibal-3-11/
  12. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/06/07/hannibal-312/
  13. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/07/05/hannibal-s3e13/

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“Meat’s back on the menu”: HANNIBAL S3E13: “The Wrath of the Lamb”

The grand finale of Hannibal.

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Finales have an obligation to tie up loose ends, answer questions, bury the bodies. It’s the showdown, the shootout, the denouement. But they don’t have to spell it all out too clearly, particularly for the more discerning audience who watch artistic masterpieces like Hannibal. Hannibal Lecter always leaves us thinking.

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Yes, Dr Lecter, we will think about you. What you have to teach us about lots of things, not just about cuisine.

In the first episode of Season 1, the serial killer and cannibal Garrett Jacob Hobbs kills his wife and slits his daughter’s throat because Hannibal has warned him that the FBI “knows” about him. Will shoots him several times, but as he dies, or even as he lies there dead, he smiles at Will at asks:

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Each episode of this extraordinary show has had a theme that can be teased out – some more obvious than others. The theme of this one is multifaceted; it is about life, death, growth, conspiracy and betrayal. The plot is convoluted: the serial killer Francis Dolarhyde has faked his death but has revealed that he wants to meet, greet and eat Hannibal. Hannibal is locked up in The Baltimore Asylum for the Criminally Insane because of his own cannibalistic serial killing events. You will perhaps remember Hannibal gave himself up at the end of episode 7, so that Will would always know where he is. That, my friends, is love, Hannibal-style. But he is not enjoying the rigors of asylum living:

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The FBI wants them both dead, and conspire to “fake” Hannibal`s escape to lure the Dragon.

Will doubts that he will survive this conspiracy and betrayal

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Everyone else is terrified of Hannibal really escaping and coming for them. Hannibal`s former psychiatrist and, well, housemate, Bedelia, is convinced this is a terrible idea. She quotes Goethe’s Faust, a work much loved by Hannibal as well:

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Will has no sympathy. He knows Hannibal will also come for Bedelia if (when) he escapes, because she is on his menu.

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Alana knows Hannibal is going to kill her, because he has promised to do so, and reaffirms that promise:

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Will knows The Dragon will free Hannibal, and then try to kill him, change him, absorb him, as cannibals are so often accused of doing to their victims. We absorb the nutrition of our food, why should cannibals not absorb the strength, spirit and experiences of their victims? And Hannibal is willing to play along, as long as Will asks nicely:

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The climax is at Hannibal`s house overlooking the “roiling Atlantic”, where the Dragon takes on Hannibal and Will takes on the Dragon. Who has conspired with whom, and who is being betrayed?

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Will replies:

“If you’re partial to beef products, it is inconvenient to be compassionate towards a cow”.

The battle is epic, brutal and bloody, and we expect no less. Will learns his lesson at last, that blood really does look black in the moonlight, as Hannibal told him in episode 9. That life and death are not opposite or even separate but part of the “becoming”. That his extreme empathy and Hannibal’s cruelty are one and the same.

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That murder and mercy, as Thomas Harris told us at the end of Red Dragon, are just human constructions, and mean nothing to nature, “the Green Machine”, which is indifferent to who lives and dies, and to conceptions of right and wrong. When we inevitably die, someone will eat us, and nature cares not a whit the species of the eater or eaten. Natural selection means that the Dragon, with the gun and the knife, will kill and absorb Hannibal. The Green Machine doesn’t care. This is what Hobbs was trying to tell Will in the first episode, and what Hannibal has shown him, 38 episodes later.

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But then, there’s love and compassion, the emotion that makes a rat fight a snake to protect her young. Will and Hannibal – together at last, covered in blood, cut to ribbons, but feeling the love.

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Is Hannibal dead?

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The Death of Sherlock Holmes | Conan Doyle Info

Remember how Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty fell to their deaths into the Reichenbach Falls in 1891, causing a massive public outcry among their avid fans, only to see Sherlock reappear in 1894, explaining that he had faked his death to fool his enemies? Well, Bryan Fuller has given us a pretty great clue, as in the final scene we see Bedelia sitting at a table with three settings, about to enjoy a sumptuously prepared meal, the centrepiece being her leg, roasted to perfection.

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Who’s doing the cooking?

We hope, we conspire, we betray, we demand Season 4. Remember that this whole story, the three seasons, has been a prequel to the book and film that made Hannibal famous, The Silence of the Lambs. There is plenty of material in there with which to continue the story, or reimagine it as Fuller does so very well, perhaps, as he suggested, with “Margot Verger taking down the meat industry as a hot, powerful lesbian” and turning them over to PETA.

Hugh Dancy, when asked about another season, suggested it might take five years. Well guess what, Season 3 finished in 2015…

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Next week I’ll publish, for ease of reference, a complete listing of my Hannibal blogs.

Cannibalism as a delineator of civilisation

My paper in Exchanges: The Interdisciplinary Research Journal has just been published.

A ‘horrid way of feeding’: Pervasive, aggressive, repulsive cannibalism

Abstract

Cannibalism both fascinates and repels. The concept of the cannibal has changed and evolved, from the semi- or in-human anthropophagi of Classical texts to the ‘savage’ cannibals of colonial times, whose alleged aberrations served as a justification for invasion, conversion and extermination, to the contemporary cannibal driven often by psychosexual drives. Cannibal texts typically present the act as pervasive, aggressive and repulsive. If these parameters are admitted, alleged cannibals immediately fall outside normative European humanist morality. This paper examines cannibalism as a major delineator of the civilised human. Cannibals offer social scientists a handy milestone to confirm the constant improvement and progress of humanity. The idea that colonised peoples were not savage, degenerate cannibals threatens the concept of the ‘Great Chain of Being’, which was assumed to show an inexorable progress from plants to animals to humans, and upward toward the divine, led by enlightened Western civilisation. But cannibal mythology, factual or imaginary, offers an opportunity to re-evaluate the assumptions of human supremacism and see ourselves as edible, natural beings.

The full paper is at:

https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/article/view/456

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The Boy – The Road

 

 

Pregnant and hungry: INSEMINOID (HORROR PLANET), Norman J. Warren, 1981

We’ve looked at some great cannibal movies in this blog, and we’ve also checked out some duds. Inseminoid (called Horror Planet in the US) unfortunately falls pretty much into the latter category, proving that cannibalism alone is not sufficient to make a great film. But hey, it raises some interesting philosophical and psychological questions. Not including “who thought this was a good idea?” and “who wrote dialogue like this?”

Holly: Get your ass up here on the double!
Gary: I know what I’d like to do with her arse.

There’s a group of English and American archaeologists and scientists excavating an ancient tomb on a seemingly uninhabited planet. Uninhabited, but not uninhibited. A couple of them find some glowing rocks, there’s an explosion, then the rocks come to life when Mark (Robin Clarke) and Sandy (Judy Geeson from To Sir With Love) make out in the room where the rocks are kept.

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How many horror stories start with illicit sex and end up with what looks a lot like religious retribution? Think of the Scream movies – sex happens, then slashers.

After much fighting in dim lights and dark caves, Sandy is captured and raped by perhaps the least scary monsters since the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

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Immediately two months pregnant (we know because she vomits in a bin), she starts killing her colleagues and eating their flesh.

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Also blowing up what appear to be their pinball machines.

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Like vampires when transformed, Sandy has become immensely strong, but can be brought down by, yep, a punch in her pregnant stomach. One critic summed up:

“…in what has to be a new low, even for extraterrestrial-horror films, all the men end up punching this pregnant woman in the stomach.”

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Besides some wooden acting and clunky lines, the film also suffered from being released not long after Ridley Scott’s brilliant movie Alien, which also showed an alien rape and birth, although that movie had the novelty value of having a man going through a very traumatic labour (yes, if men had to give birth…). Inseminoid was immediately criticised as a knock off of Alien, which the director denied, although there were plenty of other knock-offs being released around that time, including Contamination (1980) and Scared to Death (1981).

But intentional knock-off or not, Inseminoid did not compare well with Scott’s film, one critic saying

“imagine Alien without the fantastic sets, convincing special effects and literate dialogue, and you have a picture of Horror Planet.”

Inseminoid (1981) - IMDb

Alien was, in the words of film studies Professor Barbara Creed, an articulation of the archaic mother – the mother as “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 monster in Alien, and to some extent Sandy in Inseminoid, represent not a castrated but a castrating feminine. The many shots of teeth seem to refer back to the classic tales of the vagina dentata – the toothed vagina.

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Although Sandy is eventually brought down by the square-jawed all-American hero, he is no match for her twin human-alien hybrids, who are just so cute, until they get hungry.

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But Inseminoid had one advantage over Alien: it had a cannibal, and a female one at that. Praise be.

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Next week’s blog: the final episode of Hannibal ever (or until they make a new season).

“He is pure evil” – the Jeffrey Dahmer interviews

Serial killers and/or cannibals don’t usually give interviews, probably at the insistence of their legal counsel, but after his arrest, and sentenced to 937 years behind bars, Jeffrey Dahmer was willing, even keen, to tell his story to whoever would listen.

Dahmer was arrested in 1991 after a killing spree that started in 1978 and took the lives of seventeen young men and boys. Serial killers are not so rare, particularly in the US, that they get worldwide attention, but Dahmer also readily admitted to eating parts of some of his victims, and the police found body parts in his fridge, apparently ready for the next meal. He quickly became known as “The Milwaukee Cannibal”. The media frenzy was awesome to behold.

In 1993, Dahmer sat down with Nancy Glass for an interview that was aired on Bill O’Reilly’s show Inside Edition. The segment (link below) was called

“INSIDE THE MIND OF JEFFREY DAHMER: SERIAL KILLER’S CHILLING JAILHOUSE INTERVIEW”.

O’Reilly introduced the segment by saying

“He is pure evil, but you’d never know it by looking at him.”
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The tools of true crime interviews are graphics, eerie music and a suitably horrified interviewer. This segment had all three, in spades.

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Dahmer, though, was calm and rational, answering each question fully and, apparently, as honestly as he could. He spoke of his “sexual fantasies of control, power, complete dominance” which became reality, and stated

“It’s a process, it doesn’t happen overnight. When you depersonalise another person and view them as just an object, an object for pleasure instead of a living, breathing human being, it seems to make it easier to do things you shouldn’t do.”

The cannibalism was “a way of making me feel that they were a part of me”.

Nancy Glass concluded that

“Jeffrey Dahmer is intelligent and articulate. That is what makes him so frightening.”
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In February 1994, nine months before Dahmer was bashed to death in prison, Stone Phillips recorded an interview with Jeffrey and Lionel Dahmer (his Dad) who had just published a book on his side of the story. Phillips included excerpts from other interviews with Jeffrey’s father and, separately, his mother. This was shown on DATELINE, and later put together with some of the unaired footage into a TV movie (link below) called

“CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL KILLER”

Phillips, like other interviewers, described Dahmer as “”polite and unnervingly normal”.

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Dahmer’s father spoke of Jeffrey’s trauma when he was two or three and suffered a double hernia, which can make the penis seem to disappear into the body.

“You know, the old Freudian castration complex might come to bear here… he was concerned about losing his penis. He asked his mother if he had lost it, if it had been cut off”

Which is what Jeffrey did to some of his victims later, so there just might be something to that.

Lionel added that, when he first saw Jeffrey after the arrest,

“He just looked very innocuous. He looked like an average person who couldn’t possibly do the things that he did”

Dahmer made several interesting admissions to Phillips

  • It was not about race (even though ten of his victims were African American): he said that race didn’t matter – his first two victims were white, the third was American Indian, the fourth and fifth were Hispanic. It was just their looks he was after.
  • The cannibalism “made me feel like they were a permanent part of me”. Also, he was curious as to what it would be like to eat human flesh.
  • He didn’t enjoy the killing. What he wanted was to create “living zombies” by drilling holes in their heads and pouring in muriatic acid or hot water, but it never worked.
  • Why? “I just wanted to have the person under my complete control, not having to consider their wishes, being able to keep them there as long as I wanted”.
  • He became a Christian in jail, because of material sent by his Dad, which (he said) proved that evolution was “a complete lie” which “cheapens life”.

Dahmer refused to blame his parents or education or society for his actions, but was happy to blame his formerly secular viewpoint:

“…if a person doesn’t think that there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behaviour, to keep it within acceptable ranges?”

Dostoevsky felt the same way in Brothers Karamazov:

“…if you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up. Moreover, nothing then would be immoral, everything would be lawful even cannibalism.”

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JEFFREY DAHMER: MIND OF A MONSTER

A new documentary was released on May 25, 2020. This is not specifically an interview with Dahmer, although it uses the  transcripts of the lengthy (66 hours) of police interrogations, as well as speaking to cops, journalists, neighbours, his father and even a couple of victims who escaped. 

It’s available on Youtube below:

 

DAHMER: THE QUIET CANNIBAL

Dahmer was the quintessential contemporary cannibal. Most people have fantasies, some quite violent (his father wrote in his book about his own murder fantasies) but most do not act on them. As Dylan said:

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only.

Most importantly, Dahmer was invisible to the society he lived in. Look at the descriptions of him above:

  • intelligent and articulate
  • polite and unnervingly normal
  • innocuous

Dahmer was not the terrifying ‘monster’ or ‘savage’ from beyond the borders of the polis. He looked and sounded just like one of us. His fantasies of control, power, complete dominance and his curiosity and appetite are driving forces of modern, capitalist societies. As, of course, is objectification of people and other animals for pleasure.

Pogo's Warning to Business: 'We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us ...

There have also been several re-enactment movies about Dahmer, including Jeremy Renner’s splendid portrayal in the movie called, naturally, Dahmer. My blog from a couple of years back on that movie can be seen here.

Cannibalism 2020: the year so far

Look, 2020 hasn’t been dull, you gotta admit. So far this year, we’ve had fire, flood, famine and pestilence (pandemic variety) and it’s not even the solstice yet.

What Does 2020 Have in Store for the Life Sciences? | BioSpace

In reports of cannibalism, it’s all happening in the countries starting with the letter U; the United States and Ukraine are neck and neck. The US could have pulled ahead, but the guy who allegedly hung his Grindr date upside down, cut off his testicles and ate them, did it on Christmas eve, so technically that’s still 2019 (a pretty big year for cannibal stories – six cases documented).

2020: USA

In Brooklyn NY on April 15, Khaled Ahmad ran up to some cops from the 68th Precinct who were on meal break in a bagel shop about 4:30 a.m., and told them he had killed his 57-year-old father. The victim had been gutted and “the victim’s innards were removed but not found, leading some investigators to believe Ahmad may have eaten them”. Ahmad “had a history of mental illness” while the unfortunate father was a retired grocer, who had just sold his store in Rockaway Beach, Queens.

On the other side of the country, police were called to a home in Richmond, California, where they found Dwayne Wallick, a “suspected” cannibal, “digging into his grandmother’s dead body and trying to eat her remains”. The murder involved both a knife and an ice pick. “Police believe unspecified drugs may have played a role in the crime”. No shit, Sherlock.

PICTURED: California 'cannibal', 37, 'found eating his 90-year-old ...

2020: Ukraine

A 41-year-old Ukrainian admitted that he killed his girlfriend, then fried and ate her legs after the two had a drinking session at home on April 13. He hid the rest of her body in the reeds of a nearby river, where it was found the next day by a father taking his two children for a stroll.

Officers ambushed Oleksandr in his home and found him frying flesh from his girlfriend’s leg before eating it. Local reports said the police felt sick after witnessing the horrific scene. According to Ukrainian media, Oleksandr cooked his girlfriend’s legs and ate them after he reportedly ‘got hungry’.

Also in Ukraine, Maxim and Yaroslav Kostyukov, 42 and 21, were convicted of killing Yevgeny ‘Zhenya’ Petrov, 45, in Ukraine. The three had been drinking together when a row developed over the conflict between Kiev’s army and pro-Moscow rebels in the eastern part of the country.

A court heard how the son had held Petrov from behind while the father stabbed him twice in the chest. Yaroslav Kostyukov then beheaded the victim and cut flesh from the corpse as well as his heart, kidneys, liver and other internal organs. He confessed to cooking the “meat” which was served when the father and son hosted a homeless man called Yura.

Prosecutor Oksana Karnaukh said: “There is no such crime as cannibalism listed in the Criminal Code of Ukraine.” The pair were, however, charged them with murder and aggravating circumstances committed by a group of persons, and illegal possession of arms. And, presumably, legs.

Father and son cannibals who beheaded an ex-cop and cooked his ...

 

Here’s the thing – would you pick any of these guys as cannibals? They don’t have a single eye in the middle of their forehead like the cyclops or dog-faces like the cyanocephali. They don’t have bones through their noses like the mythical cannibals of the colonial stories. In fact, since Jack the Ripper, cannibals have looked “normal” – indistinguishable from anyone else. Cannibalism has come home, and the cannibal could be living next door.

This one is NOT cannibalism

“The US has been processing dead bodies from Covid-19 diseases into hamburgers”

That was a post on the now defunct WeChat conspiracy theory site Zhidao Xuegong (it translates as “the Scholar Forum for Ultimate Truth”) in May 2020. Another post claimed that Covid-19 may have killed a million people in the US, with the corpses:

“very likely being processed into frozen meat, fake beef or pork, or processed into cooked meat as hamburgers and hot dogs. Cannibalism has existed in the US before … and only a few dozen years ago, Americans ate blacks, Indians and Chinese.”

The site reportedly had millions of followers on WeChat, which is the Chinese equivalent to Facebook, before the Chinese government shut them down. Apparently China did not want to make relations with the US any worse than they already were.  The site was closed for “fabricating facts, stoking xenophobia and misleading the public” which apparently is illegal in some parts of the world (and very popular in others).

Now THAT would have supplied some interesting stats for my 2020 cannibalism tally.

“All I want is to eat that arm and become like you”, DISTRICT 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009)

Back in 2009, fifteen years after the end of apartheid, South Africa seemed to be the obvious place to make movies that offered clear metaphors about racism and xenophobia. Today, they’d probably be filmed in Minneapolis, but nonetheless, after more than ten years, this movie works just as well, perhaps even better in this time, when people have to fight for their lives against both racism and an invasive disease.

DISTRICT 9 is directed by Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson (yes, that Peter Jackson), and set in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is presented as “found footage” – fictional news stories, CCTV and interviews. District 9 is an internment camp for aliens – not from across the border or across the ocean, but across the universe. A giant UFO hovers above the city showing no signs of life, and when the authorities cut their way inside they find it is full of diseased and starving aliens, who look, as Roger Ebert said, like two metre tall lobsters. They are brought to land and housed in a secure area – District 9 – where they recover, and cause havoc with their love of wrecking stuff and eating lots of cat food.

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Yes, it’s not without humour. There are “interviews” with people of different races, all saying that these aliens – now known universally as “prawns” – should be sent home or else taken out of the city, away from human contact. Resettlement camp, detention centre, ghetto – those who are different can be separated with just some pernicious circumlocution.

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The movie follows Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a naïve and nerdy mid-level executive in a huge multi-national corporation called MNU (it stands for Multi National United), which supplies mercenaries for just such situations.

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Wikus heads off with his army and a clipboard, believing that he is going to knock on doors and ask the “prawns” to agree to be moved to a new camp, whereas of course the whole process is aimed at intimidation and terrorising of the populace.

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Searching one building, he finds a tube of alien fuel, which they have been synthesising for twenty years, planning an escape. He opens it, and it sprays all over him.

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Soon, he starts metamorphosing into a “prawn” – his hand turns into an alien claw, and his teeth and nails start to fall out. This is obviously a big problem – actually two. First, his company, MNU, wants to cut him up and study his organs, desperate to learn how to transmute others, because the aliens have immensely powerful weapons that will only operate in the hands of someone with alien DNA. He escapes back to District 9, pursued by the sadistic head of the corporation’s private army, who personifies white supremacist violence.

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Back in District 9, Wikus is captured by a Nigerian criminal gang, who make their fortune from the aliens, selling them cat food, and offering interspecies prostitution (delicately presented). The Nigerians’ leader, whose name is taken from that of a former President of Nigeria, also wants to control those weapons, and believes eating Wikus’ arm will make him part alien as well. Why not just eat a prawn? Oh, they’ve tried that.

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The trope of cannibals taking on the strengths of those they eat has been around pretty much forever. It is used to explain both mortuary cannibalism, where the strength of the ancestors is passed to the descendants through their flesh, and also aggressive cannibalism where the legs of the fastest enemy, or the testicles – you get the idea. It revolves around the idea that “you are what you eat”, but if you believe that, well, what does that say about the trolls who love to write “But BACON!” on vegan social media sites?

The film was shot around Johannesburg, and the squalid hovels shown were in an area of Soweto that was being demolished and the people relocated. The story is based on the true case of District Six in Capetown, where 60,000 inhabitants were forcibly removed during the 1970s by the apartheid regime. But finding a parallel story of forced removals of oppressed populations would not be difficult in most of the world’s nations. A reviewer wrote in an article entitled “District 9 reveals human inhumanity”:

“Substitute “black,” “Asian,” “Mexican,” “illegal,” “Jew,” or any number of different labels for the word “prawn” in this film and you will hear the hidden truth behind the dialogue, echoing what we historically as a species are all too capable of doing.”

Several different facets of cannibalism are presented in District 9. The Nigerians eat “prawns” – is that cannibalism, or if not, what about their plan to eat Wikus as he transforms into a prawn? The big corporation is only interested in the billions of dollars that will come from working out how to operate the alien weapons, and are ready and willing to sacrifice Wikus and use his body parts in pursuit of this goal. The aliens are tall and powerful (pulling people limb from limb in a few scenes) and look a bit reminiscent of the creatures from the Alien movie franchise, even though they don’t eat each other or the humans; but  they are keen on meat from other species like pigs and goats and whoever ends up in the slurry called cat food.

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The formal definition of cannibalism tries to restrict the definition to humans eating humans, but it is always leaking out the sides. What we see in this film is the way that anyone can be abused, objectified and even eaten if they can be reclassified as inhuman or subhuman. Wikus starts the story happy to burn down shacks full of alien eggs, enjoying the sound of the eggs bursting, which sounds like popcorn. Captured by the corporation and made to operate alien weapons, he is happy to destroy pigs but begs not to be made to shoot the aliens. Later, turning into a “prawn”, he is more than happy to use the alien weapons to blow apart various soldiers of his former employer, to protect the prawns. The irony of this film is that Wikus, who is a fully carnophallogocentric human in the terms used by Derrida (“adult white male, European, carnivorous and capable of sacrifice”), only finds his humanity when he begins morphing into something else and becomes one of the outsiders he previously disdained.

It’s well worth seeing – if you don’t dig the message, then there’s plenty of action scenes, car chases and explosions. Some unintended explosions after the movie, too, when the Nigerian Information Minister asked cinemas to ban the film because it depicted Nigerians as criminals and cannibals. Not the first time white people have applied those epithets against Africans, and the film also scored a mention in Salon’s list of “white saviour” movies, since Wikus is white, and desperate to remain so. But the Malawian actor, Eugene Khumbanyiwa, who played the gang leader, said that the Nigerians in the cast weren’t bothered: “It’s a story, you know. It’s not like Nigerians do eat aliens. Aliens don’t even exist in the first place.” Sensible, but not a great look for a film that is slamming racist stereotypes through the metaphor of speciesism.

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The direction is adroit and the story buzzes along with never a dull moment. The acting is first rate, even the guys in the alien suits become sympathetic characters, and the special effects are first rate. The film has a 90% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s available on Netflix.

Thank you!

This blog reviews films and TV shows involving human cannibalism. Sounds creepy, well, it is a bit, but it’s part of an exercise investigating how we decide what is edible and what is repulsive. Why are we happy to kill for food an animal that doesn’t want to die, yet unwilling to eat another animal that is already dead? Every work considered contributes to the answer to that question, some more than others of course.

Anyway, this post is to say thanks for reading this blog. In May, for the first time, the blog received well over 1,000 views, which is very exciting. As a special thank you, here is one of my favourite cannibal songs, by the wonderful Mr Tom Lehrer.

And remember:

Hannibal-only if equals