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Cannibal Girls

In Film on January 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm

“Food can be a marvelous appetizer” – Cannibal Girl

Canadian carnality and Cannibalism. Sexualizing the act of people eating people is what separates Ivan Reitman’s 1973 kooky classic Cannibal Girls, from the rest of the flesh-munching films of the 70s. The grey, slushy snowscape of Northeastern Canada also sets this apart from the usual run-of-the-mill, South American savagery that genre fans are more familiar with. And while this horror/comedy may not be the cannibal holocaust some people are looking for, Cannibal Girls is best appreciated as a pre-cursor to post-modern horror films of the 1990s.

Perhaps with the exception of Jack Hill’s Spider Baby (1968), I cannot think of any other sexy, cannibal themed, horror/comedy. These two would make a great double-bill, as they both share an irreverent, self-awareness that is satisfying to watch. These two know they are horror films, and their scripts tip-toe around genre stereotypes, even while falling victim to their pitfalls. Cannibalism is a lot like sex. The ravenous, primal urge to eat, chomp, chew, suck and swallow your mate is natural during the physical act of love. That idea is exploited in both films, but it’s Cannibal Girls that really takes it up a notch (for once, a movie poster that actually delivers what the campaign promises; sex and cannibals).

Cliff and Gloria (pre-SCTV regulars Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin) take a vacation to Farnamville and spend the night in a motel. Hungry and looking for food, the owner of the motel tells them to go to a local farmhouse for dinner, which (according to town legend) was the same location of a horrible sacrificial cannibalistic homicide. They enter without hesitation.

Lead by a cape-wearing high priest, Alex St. John (Ronald Ulrch) who dresses like rural Canada’s answer to Montag The Magician, the three beautiful girls (one blonde, one raven and one ginger top) love, kill and eat anyone who enters their isolated farmhouse. Why? I cannot explain. But I would gladly let them eat me. To heighten the experience, American International Pictures added a “Warning Bell” audio track as a gimmick for the film’s more gruesome moments.

Cannibal Girls has the only on-screen credit of “The dialogue was developed by the cast from an original story by…” In other words, the film was largely improvised. That works to its advantage for actors Levy and Martin, but the others don’t quite have the chops. Levy and Martin completely carry the movie and without them, the movie would never work (I love the running cigarette gag).

Never before released on home video in North America, Shout! Factory released Cannibal Girls in a brand-new HD transfer from the original film elements late last year. There is a great conversation about the making of the film included on the disc, between director Ivan Reitmen (Stripes, Ghostbusters) and producer Daniel Goldberg (The Hangover). In it, the two discuss the making of the film, going into debt and what it took to get the film distributed in the United States. I’m not sure if this film ever found much of an audience after its release. A staple of underground VHS trading clubs in the 80s/90s, its ironic sense of humor seemed too smart for the average horror fan during the time that it could have found a resurgence. I would compare Cannibal Girls to the likes of Return to Horror High, Student Bodies, Serial Mom and Scream — all movies that put their self awareness of horror films, like a bloody heart on their sleeves.

I will end with a great story that I was once told by an industry worker. In 2010, he was standing in line at the Oscar luncheon behind Reitman, waiting for their photos to be taken (both men were nominated for Academy Awards that year). Observing Reitman and his son Jason, discuss how their suit and ties were looking, the industry worker tries to break the ice by saying that he was a big fan of Cannibal Girls. Pausing from his primming, Reitman turns around and responds, “There’s a smart ass in every crowd”. One month later, that ‘smart ass’ walked away with an Oscar, while Reitman went home empty-handed.

Jeez, “Lighten up, Francis”. After all, it was better than My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

10

In Film on January 7, 2011 at 9:19 am

Opinions are like assholes with Twitter accounts. Everybody has one. Here are, in my opinion, the ten best films from the past year.

1. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Edgar Wright’s arcade, pop epic was the funniest and most inventive movie of the summer. And nobody saw it. We complain that Hollywood does not make good movies and when they do, people don’t show up. Its box office defeat ensures Scott Pilgrim vs. the World to have a Lebowskian cult following in the years to come.

2. Micmacs

This is Jean-Pierre Jeanut’s return to the intricate, absurdist, sight-gag comedies that he was best known for with his one-time filmmaking partner, Marc Caro (Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children). Micmacs is both a big, sloppy wet kiss to cinema and a compassionate/critical statement about the bumbling industry of war. Like Scott Pilgrim, I could not wait to watch this movie again… and again… and again.

3. True Grit

Joel and Ethan Coen’s new take on a western favorite, is actually a classical re-approach to the genre’s conventions. While pretending to have never even heard of the first adaptation of the Charles Portis novel starring John Wayne in 1969, this one does not shy away from the violence and  brutality of the land (PG-13?! For once, I praise the arbitrary rules of the MPAA).  If anyone can make westerns great again, it’s two nerdy Jewish kids from Minnesota.

4. Henri Georges Clouzot’s Inferno

A documentary filmmaker’s wet dream. International super-star director, Henri George Clouzot (The Wages Of Fear ) goes off the deep end while making his film about matrimonial jealousy; obsessively filming psychedelic test footage of his starlet, Romi Schneider. The film was never finished. Director Serge Bromberg combs through hours of archival, test footage and finished scenes, while re-editing and re-creating parts of the script with new actors and interviews with key members of the film. Clouzot’s compulsions are an eery insight of the mysterious man of cinema who was once dubbed The French Hitchcock. Probably one of the best documentaries about cinema ever made.

5. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

This “evil santa” movie was a bit of a bait and switch. The catch here, is that Rare Exports is much, much, much better than its advertising campaign might lead you to believe. Days before Christmas, a young Finnish boy discovers that a dark and deadly secret is buried beneath the mountain near his village. Telling too much gives this remarkable picture away. While I do not expect this to replace my favorite horror-holiday film (that would be Gremlins, thank you very much), I do suspect this one to grow into some kind of perennial genre favorite beginning next December.

6. The Killer Inside Me

Michael Winterbottom’s explicit, stylish, funny and (dare I say?) romantic neo-noir, caused an outrage when it premiered at Sundance earlier in 2010. This stigma seemed to follow it wherever it went, but I must say that I cannot relate to all the hubbub and it seemed to hurt the film. What a cast, what a soundtrack and my God, what a movie.

7. Gone With The Pope

Rescued from obscurity and finished by recent Academy Award-winning Editors Bob Murawski and Chris Innis (The Hurt Locker), Duke Mitchell’s (“Mr. Palm Springs”) long-lost, low-budget caper is a 70s time capsule of political incorrectness and high ambition, both behind and in front of the camera (Mitchell stars and directs). A group of low-level mafia men kidnap The Pope and demand one dollar from every Catholic in the world for his safe return. Gone With The Pope continues to make the rounds across the United States in 2011. Bring a Brillo Pad and see it with someone you love.

8. Marwencol

Mark Hogencamp survived a near fatal attack on his life one night after walking home from a bar in upstate New York. Left for dead, Mark emerges from a coma and his whole life has changed. In order to help himself rehabilitate, he creates a fantasy world of a model scale, World War 2 village in his backyard, preserving and photographing their stories as if they are real. Marwencol was my favorite movie at South By Southwest. A tender tale of pain, unrequited love and victory. This is the greatest kind of movie, where the story continues long after the film ends.

9. The Ghost Writer

Here is an average political thriller made very un-average by one of the greatest filmmakers living today, Roman Polanski. This is a man who knows how to build a thriller; slowly with subtle humor, along with interesting characters and landscapes (the grey, windy Irish seaside, doubling for Martha’s Vineyard, pegs the film’s tone.) Topped off with Alexadre Desplat’s too hell with subtly soundtrack and a stellar cast, made The Ghost Writer an early favorite of 2010.

10. The Social Network

I had no idea what to expect about “that Facebook movie.” I love David Fincher and I wonder, had it not been for his role as director – could this rapid fire, dialoge-heavy script may wound up a made for TV Movie? An engrossing and coldly astute tale of power and money in our modern, globally connected society, The Social Network is a movie of our times. The River Thames, Row Team montage, set to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ techo-cover of “In The Hall of The Mountain King” was the purest cinematic moment of the year. Tweet this.