Everyone out there is looking for something, be it fame, fortune, peace or perfection, it’s our very nature to need and desire. Hunger forces our hands day in and day out, from the moment we first meet this plane of existence to our last dying breathe we must feed. Whether that craving is for food or human companionship, it is always that same innate animal urge that springs from the fire of our bellies pushing us through life.
The French/Canadian thriller Cannibal, makes its way to DVD, after spending the better part of two years moving through the international festival circuit and with it the film brings a dark and unsettling look at the power and poison of love.
College student Thierry Richard (Marc Paquet) leads a quiet and unremarkable life, making his days and nights pass with relative complacency. As a writer, Thierry is distressed that his ordinary nondescript existence will lessen his chances to make a go of it later on. Henri (Frédéric Pierre), Thierry’s roommate, decides that what the two really need is a night of solicited sex from a pair of professionals to break up the monotony of every day university life. A bad plan gets a hell of a lot worse when Henri is brutally attacked and nearly murdered by the prostitute. Unable to go the police with their plight, Henri and Thierry concoct another tale to explain the gashes and bruises that their little adventure has bestowed.
The next day Thierry catches a glimpse of Claire (Marianne Farley)- a striking young musician playing in the local train station. Upon realizing that she to is a university student, he slowly begins to court the ethereal beauty. As Thierry’s relationship with Claire grows more intense, Henri begins to fear for the health and sanity of his friend. When the pair discovers that Claire’s sister is the prostitute that attacked Henri, the two friends will be sucked into a supernatural underworld that they never could have imagined.
Without giving away any more of the plot than the title suggests, it is clearly safe to tell you that the film involves some flesh feasting, but, compared to The Hills Have Eyes/Silence of the Lambs concept of the term, Cannibal is an entirely different type of film. You see, Claire is a succubus, she needs to feed on the sexual energies of men, or she will die. What makes the project so superior to standard horror fare is how writer Joël Champetier and director Daniel Roby have taken the idea that love conquers all and bent that idiom around a tragic tale of man vs. beast.
The bloodshed is sparse and bleak, much like the surrounding streetscapes within the film. The loneliness and isolation of the central characters is mirrored at every moment by the snow covered side streets and cardboard cut out brownstones. The film is beautifully shot and edited together to showcase the languid pace of the tale. By no means in Cannibal an in-your-face gorefest, stocked to the hilt with savage imagery and spectacular set design. In their own Spartan way, Champetier and Roby have crafted a chilling character study of one man and his cloudless search for eternal love.
If Cannibal sounds dull to you, then you’re missing the point. Far from a horror film, in the guts and grue sense of the word, Cannibal is the best example of a type of horror that passed on with Alfred Hitchcock and Jacques Tourneur – a film that works your brain as much as it works your nerves.
Over the past few years more and more Canadian directors have been moving a measured type of horror film across the border, from David Cronenburg’s masterful Spider and History of Violence to Ginger Snaps and Eternal, these cross cultural cinematic delights may not be the be all, end all of genre filmmaking, but they show us that the great white north can be just as crimson as the rest of the bloody world.