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CANNIBAL MAN

A solid, if pretentious, 1971 psycho thriller from Spain.  Director Eloy De La Iglesia has fashioned a compelling gore fest with “serious” overtones, allowing us to share the views of critics who initially accused Iglesia of being an empty minded sensationalist and those later voices that now proclaim him one of Spain’s most distinguished filmmakers. 

The Package 
     Eloy De La Iglesia’s exploitation credentials are beyond reproach: he was an associate of Jess Franco (who should need no introduction to any true horror fan) and made the notorious CLOCKWORK ORANGE rip-off CLOCKWORK TERROR (a.k.a. MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD; 1973).  CANNIBAL MAN (a.k.a. THE APARTMENT ON THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR) is nothing if not exploitive: it opens with a documentary look inside a slaughterhouse, and features oodles of graphic gore.  But it’s also extremely stylish...and appears to have a little more on its mind than shocking us. 
     Political inklings are evident in a scene where the protagonist is accosted for no reason by two uniformed police officers.  His relationship with a couple of overtly gay men, definitely NOT something you’ll see in too many other Spanish films of the time (Iglesia later became renowned for making a number of ground-breaking gay-themed films) also suggests a politically minded conscience at work.  Furthermore, I’m sure the troubling issues raised by the film’s cannibalistic subplot (in particular a scene where people in a restaurant unknowingly consume human flesh) are entirely intentional.

The Story 
     Marcos, a seemingly normal (if unreasonably cold and detached) slaughterhouse worker, picks up a cute waitress one night.  Taking her back to his place, he gets into an argument with a taxi driver; this escalates into a physical confrontation and Marcos ends up killing his adversary. 
     Marcos and his new girlfriend flee the scene.  The killing is given scant attention in the next morning’s paper, and Marcos allows himself to believe he’s gotten away Scott free.  But that night, after having sex, he strangles his mate, as she’s the only witness.  And that’s just the beginning.  He admits his crimes to his brother and then, despite the latter’s pledge to keep quiet about what he knows, bludgeons him to death.  This leaves the wife of Marcos’ sibling, who mistakenly follows her stepbrother back to his house...where he slits her throat.
     About this point in the story, Marcos realizes that his occupation provides a novel way for him to dispose of his steadily mounting collection of dead bodies.  The only thing is that the human meat, after getting ground up, ends up mixed with that of the slaughterhouse’s standard cows, pigs and chickens...and packaged for human consumption along with ‘me!
     It’s his friendship with two gay men that ultimately do Marcos in (suggesting that his real “problem” may lie deeper than he knows).  One of them he kills, but the other manages to wear down Marcos’ defenses inside an opulently decorated flat, where our “hero” confesses all. 

The Direction 
     The pacing is a mite “deliberate” for my tastes, particularly toward the end (when the action approaches a state of near catatonia) but the film overall is stylish enough to nearly get away with it.  Iglesia in particular likes foreshadowing, in scenes like the one in which the camera lingers unaccountably upon Marcos’ girlfriend’s hands kneading his back during sex, a shot that mirrors the position Marcos’s own hands take when he strangles her.  An inexplicable zoom in on a hammer turns out to have a dual purpose: Marcos later finds a lock of hair stuck to it and then uses the hammer to bash his brother’s head in. 
     The atmosphere of (then) modern day Spain is gritty and well established by Iglesia, and the gore FX are for the most part quite impressive.  Good acting, too.
 

Vital Statistics 

CANNIBAL MAN (LA SEMANA DEL ASESINO)
Atlas International Film/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Director: Eloy De La Iglesia
Producer: Jose Touched
Screenplay: Eloy De La Iglesia
Cinematography: Real Airtight
Cast: Emma Cohen, Eugenie Pocola, Vicky Lagos, Ishmael Merlot, Fernando Sanchez Polack, Charlie Bravo, Rafael Hernandez, Gobo Laborer, Valentine Torsos, Jose Franco
 


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