The year is 2020. It’s November and it’s Thanksgiving...
...Maybe it’s June. Is it June?
You’ve quarantined for nine months in a post-apocalyptic, toilet-paperless wasteland. Nine months of introspection, Netflix binges, and little human contact. You crave human connection. A hug. A handshake. A gentle pat on the back. Even for this natural shut in, skin-to-skin contact would be refreshing. Refreshing, delicious human skin.
Thanksgiving probably looks different for you this year. Whether you’re dining with family or limiting contact, I want you to remember the reason for the season. We gather at the table to be thankful for what we have and who we have in our lives. We gather to share gratitude for our friends, our family, and the food in front of us—the delectable home-cooked meal of turkey and cranberries and potatoes and pan-seared human kidneys.
For those who are craving just a little bit more this year, I invite you to partake in the second annual KillerHorrorCritic Thanksgiving dinner, hosted by yours truly. Enjoy this bounty of cannibal-themed dishes from a Southern ghoul.
Eat your heart out, Paula Dean.
Bottomless Dinner Rolls - Raw
Never underestimate bread at the family dinner table. A simple roll. A flaky, buttery biscuit. A slice of warm, homemade beer bread. In any presentation, there's something exhilarating about beginning a meal by slathering fresh bread in dripping butter and tearing apart tufts of gluten with your fingers—like writer/director Julia Ducournau’s Raw.
Except Raw has less bread and more body parts.
Part drama, part gut-wrenching horror, Raw is a French gem widely praised by both critics and everyday moviegoers. It's a woman empowerment film, a college coming-of-age tale, and a cause for deep conversation about hazing rituals. Raw follows the freshman college experience of a new veterinary student. A life-long vegetarian, Justine (Garance Marillier) is forced into her first experience with meat at a party, where raw rabbit flesh is shoved into her mouth. The act is symbolic of so many uncomfortable and forceful college situations, from sex to peer pressure.
Like a shark on a chum trail, Justine begins craving more meat. The film follows her transformation from vegetarian to ruthless cannibal carnivore. With every taste, she wants more.
Raw is a dish that continually delivers in violence and lust. There is a constant, lingering hunger throughout the film—for sustenance, for sex, for belonging.
And sometimes for human fingers. Much like dinner rolls, you can’t have just one.
(Soylent) Green Bean Casserole - Soylent Green
I would be remiss if I didn’t include this 1973 classic adapted from Harry Harrison’s novel by Stanley R. Greenberg and directed by Richard Fleischer—one of the founding forefathers of the horrifying, over-the-top science fiction twist. This old casserole dish isn’t for everyone (I’m looking at you, Gen Z), but it’s a staple in traditional Thanksgiving menus.
Soylent Green stars sci-fi action star Charlton Heston as a murder investigator in a dystopian New York City. He discovers the delicious “plankton” wafers New Yorkers are gobbling up aren’t actually green or made of plankton. Heston’s oft-quoted, dramatic response to the news is the crunchy onion topping on the tip of your taste buds. It’s the entire dish in one bite.
At least taste it before you tell Aunt Sharon you don’t like it.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes - We Are What We Are (2013)
Writer/director Jim Mickle’s We Are What We Are, written with Nick Damici, is a family film. And by family film, I mean a movie about a cannibal family. Don’t watch this with Mom.
This is one of my personal favorites (and coincidentally, so are mashed sweet potatoes). We Are What We Are is the story of a secretive family who practices an undisclosed religion that would seem like a cult if there were actually more than three followers. After the death of the Parker family matriarch, daughters Rose (Julia Garner) and Iris (Ambyr Childers) must assume their mother's religious duties. Unfortunately, those duties involve abduction, murder, preparation, and consumption of human beings.
The film follows their father down a smooth descent into madness, quite possibly a symptom of brain disease (from, you know, eating people). Rose and Iris must decide how they will handle their father and his increasingly violent and controlling behavior.
We Are What We Are is a slow, sweet burn, but it’s worth the time and the effort to fully immerse yourself in this rich dish. You may even empathize with the two sheltered cannibal girls as they navigate who they are and how to face the disturbing reality of their lives.
Deep-Fried Turkey - The Woman
If you’re looking for an abundance of juicy meat hidden inside of a crisp, smoky skin, see writer/director Lucky McKee and Jack Ketchum’s The Woman. This novel-turned-film is a fulfilling, hearty main course full of violence and veiled social commentary about what it means to be a “civilized” woman. A tribeless, nameless woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) is discovered in the woods and abducted by the Cleek family. Attempts to domesticate her fail miserably. It turns out it’s difficult to forcefully reprogram a feral cannibal woman. Who knew?
The oldest daughter, Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter), and youngest daughter, Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen), serve as obvious pillars of innocence against the backdrop of an abusive, patriarchal family. However, the wild woman is perhaps the most natural, self-reliant, and innocent character in the film.
As innocent as a ferocious cannibal can be, anyway. If you want a second helping of dark meat and a sandwich for lunch tomorrow, help yourself to the standalone prequel Offspring and sequel Darlin’.
Bourbon Pecan Pie - Cannibal, The Musical!
Many of us enjoy holiday meals, but there is a subset of us who only truly live for Thanksgiving desserts. Cannibal, the Musical! is the disturbingly cheerful film directed by, written with Matt Stone by, and starring South Park co-creator Trey Parker. The film’s boozy punch comes from the fact that it is very loosely based (and I mean, very) on the journey of Alferd Packer, a prospector who traveled from Utah to Colorado in 1874 to find more gold. It’s fairly obvious that Packer’s travel companions made excellent dinner guests a la the Donner Party.
While Cannibal, the Musical! isn’t exactly scary, it serves up gory belly laughs in bite-sized slices. For the rest of the evening, you’ll either be plagued by its ridiculous numbers or ride the sugar highs of its sweet aftertaste.
The Covert Shot of Whiskey - Cannibal Holocaust
The meal is over. Uncle Steve is hunched over in his chair, asleep during half time. Your cousins heatedly argue over politics. The kids are whining. You want to leave, but your ride is Uncle Steve. How do you survive another hour of quality family time? You sneak into the bathroom and take a long swig of hot cinnamon whiskey from the flask in your purse. That’s how. The hot, burning liquid tames your nerves but leaves you with a sore throat and a grimace. You taste cinnamon and lingering gravy in the cheeks of your mouth. You want to barf, but it’s also kind of delicious.
That is the feeling you’ll get if you give Cannibal Holocaust, written by Gianfranco Clerici and directed by Ruggero Deodato, the time of day.
This 1980 Italian film is arguably one of the most grotesque and disturbing films ever made—but it’s also one of the most influential shock-horror films and a rite of passage for horror buffs. Cannibal Holocaust is the story of an anthropologist who leads a team on a mission to rescue lost filmmakers in the Amazon rainforests. There, they encounter brutal, cannibalistic locals. The film unfolds through found footage and includes extreme violence and sexual assault (it is not for the faint of heart). In fact, the director was arrested immediately after its release and charged with murder based on how realistic the footage was. Viewers either love it or hate it. Once you’ve survived the initial shock, you’ll survive anything.
Maybe Southern-fried fingers and toes aren’t your bag. Try these devious delights from last year’s Thanksgiving menu. I promise you’ll find something you like.
By Amy Cerkas