The horror genre knows no bounds. Whether it’s grindhouse shockers or anything-goes torture porn, the thin line between morality from amorality simply does not exist.
Need proof? Look no further than the cinematic buffet that is cannibal horror. Below, we flesh out our favorites.
1. Cannibal Holocaust
Though this 1980 genre staple is likely the most obvious entry on the list, it’s quite possibly the hardest to watch—even for cineastes who crave extremism. Considered the true trailblazer of the found footage horror genre (sorry, ), this film centers on a professor who finds the remains of a documentary film crew and brings their footage home. Warning: Seriously graphic and disturbing atrocities ahead.
2. We Are What We Are
In a subgenre dedicated to the gag reflex, Jim Mickle’s subtler flick about a pair of sisters forced to forage for their own “food” is a welcome palate cleanser. But make no mistake: This one is served with a side of creep and finishes with quite the gruesome finale.
3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Today, the sadistic Sawyers are cultural icons. For many horror aficionados, Leatherface is the answer to the hypothetical: If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would it be? But back in the day, these backwoods killers—and their grisly dinner party etiquette—were simply terrifying.
Aside from the aforementioned Texas family of cannibals, there isn’t a more infamous organ diner than Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. Moviegoers learned about Lecter’s refined palate in Jonathan Demme’s , but it’s in Ridley Scott’s sequel that we see the not-so-good doctor’s taboo habit in action: brains a la Liotta.
A Czech-American black comedy-horror hybrid set in the Sierra Nevadas during the Mexican American War, Ravenous stars Guy Pearce as a captain who leads a rescue mission right into belly of the beast—namely, the belly of a starved cannibal. The late Antonia Bird directs, and it’s taken her stylish genre-bender a while to find a following. Now that it has, we want seconds. And thirds.
If you thought Ravenous was weird—and it is—just wait until you get a taste of Delicatessen. Directed by a pair of French satirists, the film is set in a near-future post-apocalyptic world where food is scarce but the oddities are aplenty—especially in a crumbling housing project where the landlord serves up a slain handyman to his tenants.
7. Sweeney Todd
Johnny Depp’s demon barber of Fleet Street in Tim Burton’s musical doesn’t just slaughter the scruffy-chinned men who wronged him—he sings about their deaths. Then he tosses their bodies into a basement where the meat is stripped from their bones and cooked into one of Ms. Lovett’s special pies.
8. Eating Raoul
In this sleazy romp seasoned with a bit of cannibal horror, a couple dreaming of opening their own restaurant stumble upon a way to make a little extra dough: Invite swingers over and kill them for their money. The plot thickens when a small-time crook named Raoul wants in on the scam. We’ll leave it to the concise two-word title to take it from there.
9. Motel Hell
For your satiric pleasure—and disgust—we invite you to spend a night with Ida and Vincent, the brother-sister duo who operate Motel H_ll (the “e” is missing from their sign). By “operate” we mean kidnap innocents, bury them alive, then smoke ‘em into salty, meaty snacks. A glorious example of the “sleazoid” genre, Motel Hell is gory schlock and awe that’s worth a visit.
Promotional poster for "Hannibal" via MGM and Universal Pictures