Carlos is a tailor by day, serial killer by night. A young woman named Alexandra moves in next to him, tries to befriend him, and goes missing. Her twin sister, Nina, turns up afterward, asking for Carlos’s help investigating. He agrees, although–unbeknownst to Nina–is responsible for the disappearance. Nina then becomes dangerously close to deadly Carlos and his secret life.
CANNIBAL begins dark–slow, bleak, and brooding. We follow Carlos, the psycho predatory protagonist carnivore, on one of his “hunting trips,” and it culminates in too-frigging-much. Five minutes in you’re thinking, this is sick, twisted, and wrong. If it stays this disturbing, I won’t be able to make it through. Jeez. If I’m going to make it through, there at least better be some levity here soon … or something.
But it stays, for the most part, a real frown-fest. You get the horribly mundane spread in between the truly awful.
Yep, just another day in the life of a cannibal who happens to have a day job. Yeah, yeah, he’s got his cabin in the woods where he does his slaughtering and, uh, meat packing. But this guy–this guy–knows, also, how to sew a killer sports jacket. You dig? He works hard. And at night, after his long day at Marquez Tailoring, he’s ready to indulge in some human flesh steaks, with red wine and candlelight.
When the young masseuse Alexandra moves into his apartment building, she promptly tries to make a connection with him. It’s almost as if she has the hots for the guy. Little does she know he’s got a freezer full of flesh up there, and it’s about due for a re-stock. Naturally, Carlos is sizing her up for his next big batch of hominal filets.
… and she goes missing.
It’s not long before Nina, Alexandra’s twin sister, played by the same actress, Olimpia Melinte, is knocking on his door, asking for his help finding her sister. To say she gets more than she bargained for is more than sufficient. Woof.
CANNIBAL is an interesting flick. It’s well-constructed, quiet, and brutal. There’s more appeal here for the Lars Von Trier crowd than the Tobe Hooper/John Carpenter/George Romero one. And it reminded me, in a lot of ways, of Mario Bava’s HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON. But maybe it was just the psycho-killer-in-the-clothing-store aspect that did it.
You’ll either find its pace brooding and creepy, or slow and endless. It’s not designed for the average attention span, and if you’ve got a long one, dive in, because there’s a lot worthwhile in CANNIBAL.
The acting is well-done. Antonio de la Torre is fantastic as Carlos, capturing his infinite complexities and perpetual scowl wonderfully. The same goes for Olimpia Melinte, playing twins successfully–more like Jeremy Irons in DEAD RINGERS than JEAN CLAUDE VAN DAMME in DOUBLE IMPACT.
The ways in which it was shot distinguish it as high quality. In the opening credits we watch a car in a gas station for a hypnotically long time. After the car takes off, it becomes apparent the camera is situated in a POV shot of Carlos, who we are about to spend a long time getting to know. Genius. There are tons of long shots and long takes of laconic conversations. Director Manuel Martin Cuenca lets this build slowly. The plot doesn’t even cue up until about a half an hour in.
So I guess you could say it drags at times. I suppose it does. But, jeez, what a bummer of a mood it lays out.
This is an artsy, European flick to be sure. It’s a challenging and, for the most part, cerebral time watching it. But anyone who willingly seeks out being disturbed, or creeped out on a deeper level, should watch CANNIBAL. The main perspective being a serial killer, it’s going to do that. But not like MANIAC … and nowhere near as severe and awful as in SNOWTOWN. It therefore comes recommended to those whose bag that is and are looking for something new and different.