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.

“The fans never went away” – HANNIBAL: A DELICIOUS REUNION

Nerdist’s Rosie Knight hosted the much-awaited (ZOOM) reunion of the cast and crew of Hannibal (the link is above – starts at about 4½ minutes in), featuring series creator Bryan Fuller, Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal Lecter), Hugh Dancy (Will Graham), Gillian Anderson (Bedelia Du Maurier), Caroline Dhavernas (Alana Bloom), Katie Isabelle (Margot Verger), Raúl Esparza (Frederick Chilton), Hettiene Park (Beverly Katz), Kacey Rohl (Abigail Hobbs), Scott Thompson (Jimmy Price), Aaron Abrams (Brian Zeller), executive producer Martha De Laurentiis, co-producer Loretta Ramos, director/executive producer David Slade, and food consultant Janice Poon.

I intended to dip in and out looking for highlights, but of course ended up watching the whole fascinating one hour three minutes of it. Certainly, it is worth watching the whole thing, but (from a cannibal studies POV) don’t miss the Q&A  in the last 15 minutes, when Fannibal @hannigram_trash asks

“How do you think Hannigram / Hannibal and Will would have spent their quarantine time? And it must have been a very hard time for cannibals, because – no hunting?

Hugh Dancy (Will) replies:

“It’s easy, isn’t it? You know where everybody is – they’re at home. Baking! The oven is already on!”

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Then of course come the torrent of questions – will there be romance between Hannibal and Will in Season 4? @Bryanfuller says:

“From our very first meeting with Mads, he redefined the character immediately for me because he’s the devil. He is this thing both of the world and outside of the world. So for me, the devil is pansexual.”

So really, if/when Season 4 starts – anything could happen. And probably will. But give the devil his due. In Christian texts, Satan is usually a fallen angel, the enemy of heaven, intent on snaring humans into sin and taking their souls. By the time of Revelations, he is called The Great Red Dragon, the name used by the serial killer who dominates Season 3. As a New Testament Satan, the Great Red Dragon is obviously interested in absorbing the Old Testament Satan, represented by Hannibal.

The Old Testament Satan appears very sparsely, and is subservient to God. He is probably the serpent who tempts Eve (Alana? Will?), and he appears under the name Satan (הַשָּׂטָן – the accuser) in the Book of Job. What is an “accuser”? Basically, he is God’s district attorney, looking for evidence against humanity, and not usually having too much trouble finding it. Like Hannibal, and later Will, he sets up obstacles or temptations for everyone he meets, and is curious to see what will happen. In the apocryphal Book of Jubilees, God grants the satan (referred to as Mastema) authority over a group of fallen angels, or their offspring, to tempt humans to sin. Isn’t that the story of Hannibal and his patients, who he assiduously tries to convert to his ways? Consider his words in Ko No Mono:

“I have not been bothered by any considerations of deity, other than to recognise how my own modest actions pale beside those of god…. God is beyond measure in wanton malice. And matchless in his irony.”


The final question of the reunion, the one we are all waiting for, was: will we get a Season 4 of Hannibal? Bryan Fuller replied

I am very hopeful.

So are we, Bryan. So are we.

Hugh Dancy adds that, after five years on the lam,

It’ll be like “Grumpy Old Men”, with cannibalism.

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  • 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.

#savehannibals4

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.

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

“…crazy sons of bitches” – HANNIBAL 3.11 “…And the Beast from the Sea”

Here’s a trivia question for the serious Hannibal aficionados: what is the name of
Will Graham’s son /step-son?
*Answer at the bottom of the blog.

Hannibal has been in a cell in the Asylum for the whole season, so not many people are getting eaten. Will is back in the game, desperately trying to catch the “Great Red Dragon”, who is certainly a biter, and a necrophile, but not so much a swallower of human flesh. But to understand why the GRD (Francis Dolarhyde) does what he does, and why Hannibal did what he used to do, we need to understand a bit about Hannibal’s Nietzschean understanding of the Übermensch (superman) and how, Will finally realises, he encourages his patients and acquaintances to “change” people as part of the development of the “higher self”.

The asylum security is surprisingly lax, considering Alana Bloom is in charge, and she is deeply motivated by the fact that Hannibal has promised to kill her as soon as he can. Nonetheless, calls come in from what appears to be Hannibal’s lawyer’s office and are patched through to his cell, and so he can happily chat to the GRD and give him advice on life, love, and killing, or what you might call “eat, prey, love”.

Dolarhyde is worried about his new girlfriend, and what the Dragon (his higher self) will do to her.

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Like, frinstance, Will. Hannibal tells him: “He has a family. Save yourself.”

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There’s always a problem bringing a classic story into the present day. Imagine Henry V with machine guns. Clarice Starling with a cell phone (“just on my way down the basement stairs now. Send a coupla dozen agents over stat”). Dolarhyde, in the book and films, was choosing his victims on the super-8 family movies he developed at work. Probably read telegrams too. But this is a new century – how does he choose them in 2015?

Indeed. Dolarhyde is watching videos of Will’s wife and step-son, Molly and Walter – Reba, who is blind, asks if these are his nocturnal animals? Yes. Do you think they know they’re being filmed? No.

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Will has a vague idea he’s being played, but is clueless to what is really happening. He says he is not fortune’s fool, he is Hannibal’s fool, and that is certainly true. “Fortune’s fool” is a phrase Shakespeare liked a lot. It’s used in Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Timon of Athens. Will hasn’t got his head around Hannibal’s coaching system yet, despite some very broad hints. He has worked out that he ran into Dolarhyde last episode at the museum because Hannibal planned it that way. Now he wants Hannibal’s help to identify the next family that Dolarhyde will kill, but he’s still not getting those broad hints from Hannibal about who that family might be.

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Still clueless, Will asks, “you’re willing to let them die?”

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Now Molly (Nina Arianda), Will’s wife (sorry Hannigrammers, he got married when we weren’t looking) is not fortune’s fool, and she’s not Hannibal’s either. It’s almost like she was expecting the GRD to come looking. She bundles her son out of the window, distracts Dolarhyde with the car alarm, flags down a passing car (in the middle of nowhere, mind you) and drives off as the Dragon shoots the driver. When Will visits her in hospital, she jokes about getting angry. She may be the best adjusted person in the whole series.

Anyway, Jack and Alana are woke to Hannibal’s little game now.

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Mads Mikkelsen plays Hannibal as Satan, and Jack wants him to be the Devil’s advocate. They want Hannibal to talk to the GRD, keep him on the phone while they run a trace. What he says to Dolarhyde, though, is a direct line into Lecter/Nietzschean philosophy.

“You are the Dragon, you don’t have to be afraid. You know who speaks. From the beginning, you and the Dragon had been one. You are Becoming. And the Dragon is your higher self. Don’t let fear leach your strength. You are almost blind to your own true feelings. No more able to express them than a scar can blush.”

Dolarhyde is still worrying about Reba and his unlikely ability to be loved. “She called me a man! A sweet man!”

Hannibal talks just long enough for them to get a trace, but not to catch him, as he then warns Dolarhyde, just as he warned Garrett Jacob Hobbs in the very first episode of season one.

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Will was already a bit upset at Hannibal…

Wonderful cartoon by “Nat Draws Stuff

But now, he’s back, and mad as a murder hornet!

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This just gives Hannibal an opening for more philosophy.

“The essence of the worst in the human spirit is not found in the crazy sons of bitches. Ugliness is found in the faces of the crowd.”

The Dragon, Hannibal muses, “likely thinks you are as much a monster as you think he is.” Hannibal of course realises the “nice” Dolarhyde is trying to overcome the Red Dragon side of his personality, and Hannibal of course knows Goethe’s Faust off by heart:

“Two souls, alas, are dwelling in my breast, and one is striving to forsake its brother.”

The episode finishes with Hannibal offering Will friendship, absolution, the chance to start again.

“The Great Red Dragon is freedom to him. Shedding his skin. The sound of his voice. His own reflection. The building of a new body and the othering of himself, the splitting of his personality, all seem active and deliberate. He craves change.”

Will finally gets it: “He didn’t murder those families.”

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* Will’s son/stepson? It’s a trick question – the little boy’s name keeps changing.

  • In the book Red Dragon, he’s Willy.
  • In the movie Manhunter, he’s Kevin.
  • In the film Red Dragon, he’s Josh.
  • In the TV series, he’s now Wally (Walter).

WTF? Almost a full circle.

Even the hockey mask has made a comeback.

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Only two more episodes to go before the finale. Where, oh where, is Season 4?

#savehannibal

“The most violent film ever made” – CANNIBAL FEROX (Lenzi, 1981)

The US distributor of this film (where it was renamed Make Them Die Slowly) made the claim that it was the most violent film ever made, and had been banned in 31 countries.

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Both claims are highly dubious, but it is certainly one of the nastiest of the so-called “cannibal boom” movies that came out of Italy in the 1970s and 1980s. These films depicted a savage world in which the primitive natives were merciless cannibals, while the white victims were mostly corrupt and exploitative thugs, who invariably brought on the savagery by their own greed and violence (this one involves eye-gouging and penisectomies as well as brain and intestine munching). They deserved to be killed and eaten, especially since they were aware that all primitive people are cannibals. This from the civilisation that brought you Christopher Columbus, who coined the term “cannibal” and demonised the diverse nations of a whole continent.

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Lenzi’s film was made a year after the most famous of the Italian cannibal slashers, Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust. Although Cannibal Ferox seemed to be a rip-off of Deodato’s magnum opus, let us not forget that Lenzi started the boom back in 1971 with Man From Deep River. That in turn was lifted from the Mondo films like Mondo Cane, films which showed the disturbing violence within nature and primitive societies, and pointed out that such dark forces still swirled within the well-dressed breasts of modern, cosmopolitan Europeans.

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Look, I’ve been kinda avoiding reviewing this one, not because I  thought you couldn’t handle it (you are reading a cannibal blog fergoodnessake!) but more because I was wondering if I could. More gratuitously violent than Cannibal Holocaust, the scenes of torture are really all that this one is remembered for (certainly not for the plot or acting). Make up artist Gianetto de Rossi created the realistic special-effects, most infamously remembered for the scene where a woman is hoisted in the air by hooks through her breasts. De Rossi had previously worked on Emanuelle in America and Zombie II, the latter becoming famous as the goriest movie ever made.

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There’s a convoluted plot that you can follow on Wikipedia if you want, or even watch the movie if you must. It involves drugs, the Mafia, cannibals growing drugs for the Mafia, and cannibals eating greedy and vicious, or stupid and naïve, white people. The interesting part of the plot, from a Cannibal Studies point of view, is that the stupid, innocent Westerners who find themselves being caught up in all this (and tortured and eaten) are there on a fool’s errand – one of them, Gloria, is writing a thesis that is going to prove that cannibalism doesn’t exist and never existed. Her thesis is entitled “Cannibalism: End of the Myth”. [Holy excreted humanflesh; that’s kinda what I’m doing!] Radical as this thought is, it had actually been presented in an academic form by William Arens two years before this movie, in his book The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy. Don’t you love coincidences like that? Wanton violence, abusive sex, torture, cannibalism and academic dishonesty – an honest portrait of the PhD process. Then there’s the invariable PhD curse – half way through your research, someone sits down with a bowl of intestines and screws up everything you’ve written.

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Cannibal Boom movies cannot be accused of involving any sort of academic rigour, concentrating instead on slaughter, torture, exploitative female nudity (and more torture) and cannibalism, as well as the totally gratuitous filming of real animal abuse. Italian cannibal directors love to put real footage into their stories of fake violence. Look, they say, a real animal suffered and died, so now you’ll accept that the actors were also killed. Actually, that sort of worked for Deodato, who was almost tried for murder,until he was able to get his Cannibal Holocaust actors to appear in court, to prove they were still alive.

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The German version was called “Revenge of the Cannibals”

Cannibal Ferox is torture-porn – it didn’t invent the genre, but it took it to new levels and laid the foundations for some of the grindhouse horror that was to follow. For example, the scene of a skull being opened and the brains eaten from it had already appeared in Deranged (Gillen & Ormsby) in 1974, and was perfected in Hannibal (Ridley Scott, 2001).

Cannibal Ferox managed to scrape together a 40% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, from only five critics, one of whom summed up that “it both feeds and condemns our desire for the taboo sensations promised by its title”.

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

If you can’t be bothered watching the whole thing but would enjoy some highlights, this video review by “The Horror Geek” is hilarious!

“Cannibal Ferox” means fierce cannibals. In the US, it was renamed “Make Them Die Slowly”, and in Australia “Woman from Deep River”. Not sure if that reveals some sort of cultural distinction right there.

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“I’m not insane” HANNIBAL S03E08: “The Great Red Dragon”

Aficionados of Hannibal will remember that the good Doctor Lecter was introduced to the world in the book Red Dragon in 1981. That book became the first Hannibal movie Manhunter in 1986 with Brian Cox as Hannibal, and was then remade under its original title with Anthony Hopkins in 2002, years after he had made Hannibal (in)famous in The Silence of the Lambs. A lot of the characters, plots and dialogues of Red Dragon were used by Bryan Fuller in making the television series Hannibal, but the main plot, Will Graham trying to track down the serial killer Francis Dolarhyde, only comes to the television screen in this, the eighth episode of the final season. The rest is all prequel.

We’re not going to get an origin story for Hannibal here, except – he ate his sister, but he didn’t kill her. That’s all we get, and it’s all we need. We get one right at the start of this episode, though, for Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage, who also played Thorin Oakenshield, the Dwarf Prince in The Hobbit). Dolarhyde is slightly disfigured – a cleft palate that has been repaired but is still visible, and gives him problems with his speech, and a major case of social anxiety. He sits alone, OK, he’s a loner (sometimes called “rugged individual”), and he reads Time Magazine, OK, he’s a loser. No wait – there’s an article on the cover about William Blake and his extraordinary 1805-10 watercolours of the “Great Red Dragon”. He heads off to his gym to work on some already pretty beefy musculature. He gets a huge tattoo of the Dragon. He gets some dentures made, snaggly-toothed ones. It’s a cannibal show – so people are going to get bitten. He’s going to become that Dragon, or more accurately, the Dragon is going to become him. On the full moon, he sacrifices to the Dragon, by murdering “perfect” American families. As Frederick Chilton puts it in a visit to Hannibal:

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The press call him the “Tooth Fairy” because he likes to bite his victims.  We see him dripping blood into the snow. It’s all super-gothic.

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Three years after his surrender, Hannibal is locked in an asylum – at least, his body is, but his mind wanders freely through his memory palace – we see him in church listening to a young boy singing Hallelujah, while in fact he is being processed and incarcerated. Then he’s talking to Alana, in his office, drinking Montrachet, but really he’s in his painfully white cell in the asylum, and she is his jailer. He has been spared the death sentence everyone expected after his trial for the murder of a dozen people.

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Hannibal and Alana were friends, lovers at one point. He asks her if she still prefers beer to wine.

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Hannibal is the trickster. Not what, “who” he corrects her. She had people in her beer.

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Will doesn’t want anything to do with the FBI or, apparently, Hannibal; he is living a peaceful life with Molly and Walter (her son).

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But Jack Crawford comes looking for him. No one can profile serial killers like Will. Will he go with Jack? He reads a letter from Hannibal, with a cutting about the Tooth Fairy, warning him that Jack will come knocking, and cautioning him not to accept.

“We have all found new lives. But our old lives hover in the shadows. Soon enough Jack will come knocking. I would encourage you as a friend not to step back through the door that he holds open.”

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Will goes though, and visits the crime scenes, where he recreates the crime in his mind, with the swinging pendula, just the way he did in the first season, that we all miss so much.

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Will figures that he (as serial killer) would take his gloves off to touch his victims. The team is thus able to get a partial thumb-print from the victim’s eyeball. And then there’s a piece of cheese that he bit. And the victim that he bit. They have his (or his denture’s) toothprints.vlcsnap-00066.jpg

Dolarhyde is assailed by roars and high pitched tones as he tries to watch his home movies of his murders. Where are they coming from? Ah yes, the false teeth. Dolarhyde is being taken over by the Dragon, becoming the Dragon. He is, to his own tortured psyche, becoming more than human, an Übermensch like Hannibal. He will need to absorb the essence of Hannibal to become the superman. Will has to do the same to identify and stop him.

There’s only one way to get into the mind of a biter.

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Don’t play with your food… HANNIBAL Season 3 Episode 7, “Digestivo”

Pigs and people. Are they identically different, like Hannibal and Will?

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Why do we consider pigs uncontroversially edible, and yet are so shocked at Hannibal or Mason eating human? [If you have the answer to that, please let me know – I’m up to 65,000 words and still haven’t come to a conclusion]. We use them in gruesome experiments because they are like us, but then justify it by saying they are not really like us at all. This episode is all about pigs and people interchangeably being used, abused, and prepared for dinner.

Pigs of course are remarkably similar to humans – have you ever seen a butcher carrying a pink corpse into the shop and wondered for a moment who he has killed? Geneticists have proved the similarity:

“We took the human genome, cut it into 173 puzzle pieces and rearranged it to make a pig. Everything matches up perfectly. The pig is genetically very close to humans.”

The episode is called Digestivo, which in Italian is an after-dinner drink, usually a liqueur or bitter, which is meant to settle the stomach. We have, in this episode, finished consuming the plot of the book and movie Hannibal, which follows Mason’s quest for revenge. Next episode, we go to the central plot of Red Dragon, which of course pre-dated the other books but, by the brilliance of Bryan Fuller, is readily reimagined as a later time in this new universe.

Mason always carries a little knife that belonged to his father. Perhaps it’s the same one that he used to slice off his face. His father would test the depth of fat on a pig’s back by poking him or her with this knife, something neither the pig nor farmer found terribly acceptable. Now he is doing it to Hannibal. It’s clear that he is planning to turn Hannibal into a pig before he eats him.

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Of course, there’s many a slip, as they say, or as Nick Cave says:

“If you’re gonna dine with the cannibals, sooner or later baby you’re gonna get eaten”.

Or as Alana warns:

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To the sublime tones of the Mozart Piano Concerto 21, Hannibal and Will are dressed and brought to Mason’s table. In the opulent dining room of Muskrat Farm, Mason tells Hannibal that “I snatched Will Graham right out of your mouth.” He is referring to Hannibal’s plan to eat Will’s brain, foiled by the arrival of the Italian police, who were in Mason’s pay.

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Hannibal and Mason compare their depth of reading, as Hannibal reminds Mason of the biblical story of Jezebel, who was, like Mason’s face, eaten by dogs. Mason in return spouts a news story he read about “that German cannibal” (he can’t remember the name of Armin Meiwes?) who advertised on the Internet for someone who wanted to be eaten.

The cannibal and the intended meal ate the man’s penis together before the latter died and was packaged up in the freezer. Mason’s assistant, Cordell, arrives hilariously at that moment with some pork sausages, thus emphasising the human/pig parallels.

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“Go to all that trouble to eat a friend and you overcook his penis. They ate it anyway, they had to, they committed. But they didn’t enjoy it.”

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Mason reveals part of his plan – he likes Will’s face, and intends to graft it onto Hannibal before he eats him. The rationale is that Will and Hannibal were both there watching as the dogs ate Mason’s face. They banter pleasantly (Hannibal shows no fear) about the order in which Mason will eat the various parts of Hannibal’s body. Everyone loves to chat about cannibalism! Will’s banter is a little less polite, as he takes a healthy bite of Cordell’s cheek, much to Hannibal`s amusement, and is left with a bloody chin, reminiscent of Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Will has become at least a functional cannibal.

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Cordell sews up his own face, then advances on Hannibal with the Verger branding iron. He brands Hannibal with the Verger emblem.

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Hannibal is being turned into an edible pig, because as Mason admitted, he did not really fancy eating human flesh. Much easier to eat the animal that daddy made his fortune exploiting, than to eat the man who consistently outsmarted him.

“Mason would have preferred to brand your face. He fought bravely, and with his own funds, against the humane slaughter act, and managed to keep face-branding legal.”

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Part of what supposedly makes us superior to other animals is the power of speech. Pigs can grunt and scream eloquently, but they can’t form their words into either maxims or complaints. The tongue is crucial, and Cordell tells Hannibal he intends to

“…boil it, slice it very thin, marinate it in olive oil, garlic, parsley and vinegar.”

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Cordell describes the rest of his plans, in something almost out of a cooking show. But looking down appreciatively, he adds

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“Every day I’ll feed Mason some new part of you. And don’t you worry Dr Lecter, you will always be cooked to perfection.”

Anyway, we know that nothing like that is going to happen, because we still have six episodes to go. AND SEASON 4 [please?] The rescue involves Alana and Margo, who find that Mason kept Margo’s eggs and that there is a surrogate having her baby.

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A pig, of course. Not too successfully; the baby is dead, which makes her fighting mad. They head off to kill Mason. First, they release Hannibal, because he has to save Will (about to have his face cut off without anaesthetic). Alana knows that Hannibal promised to kill her at the end of Season 1. But she has no other choice if Will is to survive.

“You’re the only one who can save Will. Promise me you’ll save him?”

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The “abyss” that Heidegger described between human and animal is further breached as Mason is eaten by his pet eel. Or chokes as he eats the eel. All lines are crossed.

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Having saved Will, Hannibal finally meets up with Chiyoh. She is willing to watch over him, but not in a cage: “Some beasts shouldn’t be caged.” Her obsessive hunt, she tells him, was motivated not by his plight or hers, but Mischa’s.

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“Yes,” says Hannibal, “but I did not kill her”.

We see the broken teacup that has bothered Hannibal throughout the books, movies and this TV series. Can time reverse? Can we undo what has been done?

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As he waits for Will to recover and awake, Hannibal is working on some higher level calculus, presumably still trying to work the maths on how to reverse time.

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But Will is having none of it.

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“I miss my dogs. I’m not going to miss you. I’m not going to find you. I’m not going to look for you. I don’t want to know where you are or what you do.”

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“You delight. I tolerate. I don’t have your appetite.

Goodbye Hannibal.”

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The digestivo here is a bitter drink – look at Hannibal’s face. Takes a hell of an actor to portray strong emotion so simply. Will has divorced Hannibal. But Hannibal is not giving up – he never does. He escapes before the FBI arrive, but then returns and surrenders.

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Next episode, Will takes on the Red Dragon, but – can he do it without Hannibal? Silly question really, don’t know why I bothered asking it.

“In the Belly of the Beast” HANNIBAL Season 3 Episode 5 “Contorno”

Cannibalism is at its heart all about food, food from a particular species of animal. This episode, Contorno (Italian for side dishes) is also about food – our choices, our enjoyment, how food affects us and how it identifies us.

We start with Chiyoh and Will on a train to Italy. Chiyoh fills in a little bit of what we don’t know about the early Hannibal. Chiyoh was sent to be attendant to Hannibal’s aunt, Lady Murasaki. The young Hannibal was there, an orphan. He was meant to be with his sister, but he was alone. We don’t know why, although we will be told (episode 7) that Hannibal ate, but didn’t kill, his sister, Mischa.

They get talking about snails, a side dish of which we know Hannibal is inordinately fond, particularly when they have been snacking on human flesh. Chiyoh observes:

“Birds eat thousands of snails every day. Some of those snails survive digestion and emerge to find they’ve travelled the world.”

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Then we see Hannibal feeding snails to Bedelia – he explains that, as a young man, he kept sea-snails to attract fireflies.

“Their larvae devour many times their own bodyweight. Fuel, to power a transformation into a delicate creature of such beauty.”

Snails, Hannibal tells Bedelia, follow their nature. She dismisses his metaphor: fireflies live such brief lives. A bit more evidence follows that Hannibal is a Nietzschean:

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In a scene in which Hannibal is clearly checking whether Bedelia is ready for dinner yet (his), they move on from snails and fireflies, a story about transformation, to a discussion on Hannibal’s other main interest: Will Graham. In particular, Will’s fascinating struggle to retain his ethical certainty in the face of Nietzsche’s amor fati – the love of fate, and his true nature as a hunter.

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Bedelia protests: “Almost anything can be trained to resist its instincts. A shepherd dog doesn’t savage the sheep.”

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Still on the food theme, Alana has laid out Hannibal’s table setting for Mason Verger – she has worked out that he can be traced through his exquisite purchases, just the way Clarice did in the book Hannibal. She has tracked him to Florence through receipts for Bâtard-Montrachet (Chardonnay) and tartufi bianchi (white truffles). Mason, never one for social niceties, observes that Hannibal must have liked the taste of her too, and perhaps she enjoyed her own taste of him. He offers a double-entendre that the Guardian critic described as

“actually the most disgusting part of the episode. That’s pretty impressive given the extreme close-ups on snails and Pazzi’s bowels flopping to the ground as he is hanged from a window”.

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Chiyoh is not really getting Will. She cannot seem to see the attraction between the men, just the shared aptitude for violence: “If you don’t kill him”,

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He agrees. So she pushes him off the train. As you do.

No humans were eaten in the making of this episode; snails are the man-eaters. But we do get the gory killing of police inspector Pazzi, who goes as his ancestor went – hanged with his bowels out as punishment for treachery. His ancestor tried to kill Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1478; this Pazzi recognised Hannibal and tried to sell him to Mason Verger rather than turn him over to the FBI.

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Hannibal shows Pazzi a woodcarving of his ancestor’s death, and mentions that the Archbishop bit Francesco.

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Running out of time, Hannibal just tells Pazzi “I’ve been giving very serious thought to doing the same” (although in the book and film Hannibal, this line was “I’ve been giving very serious thought to eating your wife”).

No one actually gets eaten, but Hannibal gets a solid beating from Jack Crawford, who has just dumped his wife’s ashes in the Arno and is fighting mad, particularly after spending the afternoon with Pazzi’s soon-to-be widow. Some readers interpret this scene as Hannibal finally discovering he is not as smart and invulnerable as he thinks, but I hold to the oft-stated theme that Hannibal is always way ahead of the plot. The beating that Hannibal takes is almost without resistance; as if he somehow feels that he owes Jack a chance at revenge for betraying his friendship, a chance to grow into a predator.

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So Jack pushes Hannibal out the window, but he catches himself on Pazzi’s corpse and limps off. The inspector is without his bowels, but not without his uses.

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