glenn criddle | cynical celluloid | oct. 2017
As everyone tucks into a Halloween feast, I remind you that in horror film dinnertime is not quite so ... wholesome. Given the occasion, and my obsession with all things horror, let's take a look at those characters from whom you should be wary of a dinner invite. If you don't want to know how the sausage is made (or who it was made out of) then turn away, dear reader, as we take a peek at some of the horror world's greatest man-munchers.
No. 1 Leatherface and “The Family" — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series
This is the definitive horror family who like to meet the meat. With their special and renowned BBQ recipe, they preyed upon witless strangers who happened to take the wrong turn. From the near mummified grandfather and the one member of the house able to move in polite society, The Cook, it all goes terrifyingly downhill from here. The Hitchhiker is a deranged lunatic with a tendency towards spiteful manic outbursts and photography, hey everyone needs a hobby, but of course, the most striking (pun intended) member of the meat-obsessed family unit is the man mountain Leatherface. Cutting a terrifyingly towering and powerful figure, Leatherface is the housekeeper with a penchant for dressing up like his victims by, well, wearing his victims. Between him and a house furnished in macabre ornaments made from countless victims, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is a terrifying picture of hell on earth. With plenty of room in the freezer for visitors and a purpose made place to hang out the family's house is somewhere you'll never get the chance to want to leave. Thank you, Toby Hooper, for giving us this all-American nightmare. Fun fact: The film was based in part on Wisconsin's own notorious resident Ed Gein ... Happy dreams.
No. 2 George Romero's living dead — Night of the Living Dead, Dawn and Day of the Dead
When the dead walk they work up an appetite. George Romero turned these characters, traditionally portrayed as enslaved souls, into a seriously primal fear for his audience. The ghouls, now zombies, are slow, stupid and possessed of a single purpose: eating you. Where in most other circumstances the risk of being munched up by a fellow human being is the exception, here we're in the minority, we're the exception, outnumbered and under siege. You have two options: barricade yourself inside or keep moving, but take too much of a breather out in the open and you'll be surrounded by the hungry dead. Complacency is the enemy here; these guys take advantage of your lack of attention while you're distracted by infighting and greed. Work together and you may just make it. However, unlike the others in this article, these long-pig meat eating misfits can give you a love bite that'll take you out in a much less desirable way. Get a nip from a zombie and it's pretty much game over but only after hours or days of misery. Romero's zombies have since become a staple of mainstream TV and now represent the “polite" face of cannibal culture. Given where they were back in 1968, the zombies have done more than enough to earn their day in the sun, or their dawn or their night for that matter.
No. 3 Broken Society Cannibals — The Hills Have Eyes & Escape from New York
When society collapses and the stores have been thoroughly looted for food, then of course those folks wandering around looking all tender and delicious are going to turn some heads. These sewer dwelling freaks are the abandoned, the marginalized and rejected parts of society who fell far from wanting to observe even the most basic conventions of modern society. Living by the mantra of “Eat the rich," these ultimate warriors in class warfare are a constant source of worry for our noble protagonists who dare not stick their heads out of their fortress after dark for fear of becoming literal finger food. Driven by hunger, anger or a simple lack of respect for human values, these folks are the ultimate pragmatists and will sleep well after having you for dinner. It's nothing personal after all.
4) Anthropophagus Upper Class — The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and her Lover & Silence of the Lambs
You don't have to be hungry, homeless or backwards to indulge in the greatest taboo, the rich and the powerful can get in on the culinary action too. Reflecting social disassociation in modern society, an act of revenge or even used as display of power, the eating of an enemy or rival features in several films to demonstrate the bad guys utter lack of human connection. These guys will, at the very least, make an effort though, and you'll likely be served up in Michelin star quality meals. Charming and charismatic, these high society villains have it all but want you for your body too, all too literally. An honorable mention goes to Patrick Bateman (American Psycho) for his novel-based eating habits that didn't make it to the screen. I'm sure his sweet and sour pork balls would have been very tasty.
The cannibal is (in my opinion) a highly underrated bad guy; they're a cinema ticket to some undiluted scares and appetite killing gruesomeness the likes of which makes for one hell of a horror ride. They don't have the excuses that the slasher icons have, they guarantee a truly terrifying demise for anyone who takes a wrong turn on a dusty country road and they're not monsters, not in the traditional sense at least, they could, after all, be your neighbor and that's what makes them perfect for a Halloween screaming ... I mean screening. Happy Halloween!
He's British so forgive the extra U's and the use of the letter S instead of Z. If there's one thing that typifies Glenn's writing it's the 'Video Nasties,' a long list of movies that offended all and sunder during the 1980s in the UK. It's those seemingly offensive fringes of cinema that informed his writing on cinema and the more political area of censorship with a more sympathetic approach to those films that push the limits of taste. But don't worry, he does talk about normal stuff too and isn't likely to go off on a horror movie fuelled rampage.
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