This debut feature from Belgian writer and director Benjamin Viré follows in the footsteps of the recent Mexican We Are What We Are by taking the cannibal subgenre and exorcising its legacy — which is rooted in 1970s Italian gore films such as Cannibal Holocaust. Cannibal rejects the degenerate tone of these early works and contrasts the visceral nature of humankind’s oldest taboo with stylish filmmaking and an absorbing storyline.
Shot with a drab pallet that creates an insular feeling, the film introduces Max (Nicolas Gob), an agoraphobic who only ventures outside to play golf. The plotis initiated quickly when he discovers the unconscious and bloodied body of a woman in local woodland. He brings her home and revives her. An interesting dynamic between the two quickly develops, and it becomes clear that Bianca has her own issues to contend with. The relationship starts to feel like an even darker version of the one in Leaving Las Vegas as we sense two troubled people kindling a love which must certainly be doomed.
When Bianca is eventually taken out of Max’s life, the colour drains from the film. At this stage the nature of bloodshed, when it occurs, is briefly reminiscent of a giallofilm — despite being presented in black-and-white rather than Technicolor. For example, the brutal details of the violence are avoided in lieu of stylised arcs of blood hitting car windows. Ultimately, but unexpectedly, the colour returns to the screen and the conclusion invokes a disturbing emotional impact similar to the final stages of Requiem For a Dream. However, visually the closing sequence of Cannibal is a truly original and transgressive concept which, once viewed, takes a while to seep out of the consciousness.
Occasionally inspiring, often harrowing and depressing, the film throughout is artistic, engaging and intriguing. Having shown this level of accomplishment in his debut, one can only look forward to what Viré has yet to make. If he can build on this impressive offering he may be capable of producing a potential classic.
Cannibal is available on DVD now