Marcos, a middle-aged abattoir worker, resists the pleas of Paula, his young girlfriend, to confess their self-defense killing of a taxi driver. When Paula decides she’s inform the police without him, Marcos strangles her and stows her body in the bedroom of his outworn house. The killing continues when loved ones come poking around to find answers about the disappearance or discover the macabre scene in Marcos bedroom. Bodies pile up, the smell reaches decaying levels, and Marcos is plagued with nervous guilt. Every day using his meat clever, he chops up bits and pieces of each victim and takes them to the slaughterhouse processing to rid the evidence and the smell, but no matter how many body parts he unburdens or how much fragrance he sprays, the sweet smell of death sticks with him.
If someone would have said to me – you need to see a flick from Spanish director Eloy de la Iglesia – would you have ever guessed my first stop would be with his 1972 “The Cannibal Man” shocker? To get to know a filmmaker’s directorial style and personal themes, the most gruesome horror can sometimes be a reflection into the soul of full disclosure because life, as most of us know from our own personal accounts, demons, and happenstances, can be ugly, nasty and unfair and can be cathartically expressed through film by a wretched shell navigating an undercurrent message to others. That’s how Eloy de la Iglesia’s “The Cannibal Man” speaks to me. Also known as “La semana del asesino,” or “The Week of the Killer,” as well as “The Apartment on the 13th Floor,” don’t expect an archetypical slasher and cannibal framework from this picture with many names. “The Cannibal Man” is no “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or similar to that of “Wrong Turn” as the film stands alone, conveyed as unsurmountable struggles of renewing oneself, a social commentary of class structures, and, also, dabbles in homosexuality suggestion. Executive producer José Truchado, who also produced “Hundra” and had bit roles in Jesús Franco’s “The Mistress of Dr. Jykell” and “Killer Tongue,” finances the film under his self-titled production company and presented by Atlas International Film (“The Blind Dead Collection”).
Looking to separate himself from strapping hunk typecasting and to show the world he can do more than just romantic comedies and action, the Madrid born Vincente Parra undertook a massive risk with the lead role Marcos, a meat processing factory worker in his, presumably, late 30’s to early 40’s with little education and social status who’s keeping company with a younger woman still living with and under the rules of her parents. Let’s not to forget to mention Marcos’s grisly acts of murder and the homosexuality suggestions during his middle of the night rendezvouses with new best bud and neighbor Néstor (Eusebio Poncela, “The Death of the Scorpion). Nothing sexual happens but the innuendo is there as, aside from his dog, the single bachelor Néstor often invites a tense Marcos out for a late night café visit, an afterhours swim at the local late night pool, and up to his swanky apartment where Néstor often watches Marcos from his high-rise balcony through Marcos’s makeshift skylight with binoculars. Iglesia, who is gay, puts his own spin on the characters to allude to, and often over played as well, the two men as equally interested parties without ever having to speak a single word or make visible a single touch that would confirm otherwise. Parra and Poncela couldn’t have acted better a disinterested-interested pair full of sexual tension and naïve foreplay. Aside from the significant love interest characters from Vicky Lagos, who plays local waitress, Rosa, at the eatery Marcos patrons and “Night of the Walking Dead’s” Emma Cohen, Marcos’s girlfriend Paula, no other character have reoccurring scenes and are simply drafted as what should be major roles in the story to then be cut down by Marcos’s undervaluing psychopathy. Charly Bravo, Fernando Sánchez Polack, Goyo Lebrero, and Lola Herrera fill in the rest of the cast list.
Strike out the slasher category for “The Cannibal Man” as Iglesia offers more than just a mindless, demented, hack’em up killer. Behind Marcos brown eyes lies a reason of cold truth about his place in the world as a man who is ultimately and foremost stuck. Stuck at a dead-end job. Suck in his relationship with Paula. Hell, Marco is even stuck living in a small bygone bungalow sticking out like a sore thumb right in the middle of new and wealthy high rise buildings. He’s unskilled and uneducated, living in his brother’s house, and with no end to his personal wedging between his lackluster coursed life and his own short failings as a man until all that mediocre and mundane misery begins to ooze and shape into the one thing he tries to control – murder. Even murder starts to spin out of control and heavy, burdensome guilt sets as seen in scenes with Néstor who’s choice of words perk up Marcos’s jumpy ears with fear of being caught. Iglesia is a master at scene compositions that use audio cues, along with a jarring, tonal reversing soundtrack, to accentuate Marcos’s ascending paranoia as well as accentuating the scenes of the more period radical grasping social commentary on homosexuality and the unthinkable back-to-back-to-back-to-back murders. Editor José Luis Matesanz also slyly cuts transitional scenes together in a stunningly seamless and crafty way that resemble close to Robert Wise (“Citizen Kane,” “The Andromeda Strain”) with harsh cuts that form a directional track and utilizes semi-abstract panning and reverse panning to fill in less significant gaps between the action. Don’t expect a large amount of cannibalism in the story either. Marcos isn’t gnawing on bones or baking a flesh brisket; instead, his act of cannibalism falls upon irony in that the bodies he tries to purge from his home ends up coming back to haunt him in more ways than one.
If you love obscure, foreign horror that sustains a fresh packaged air about it, in story and in a remastered transfer, I highly recommend checking out Severin’s newly scanned, region free Blu-day distributed by MVD Visual. The BD50 comes with two versions of the film, the 98-minute international cut and the 107-minute Spanish version extended cut, newly scanned from the original 35mm negatives for the first time. Both transfers have excellent picture quality, some of the best I’ve ever seen come out of Severin, presented in 1080p in a widescreen 1:85:1 aspect ratio. Not a lot of age wear and tear on the either transfer with each cut having only minor and light scratches scarcely throughout. There’s sufficient, natural grain in both versions, but the extended cut’s grain flattens up, looking coarser, in the extra scenes. Coloring grade is gorgeous with natural looking skin tones and you can see the details were refined and redefined. Both versions come with an English dub and Spanish language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track with some back-and-forth forced English dub in those coarser grained scenes that make the flow unsettling. Both versions render hearty range and fidelity with a strong dialogue track that syncs well with the option English subtitles, but slightly off sync with image unity. Underneath the double-sided cardboard sleeve, Severin’s special features include Cinema at the Margins – a Stephen Thrower (author of “Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci”) and Dr. Shelagh Rowan-Legg (author of “The Spanish Fantastic: Contemporary Filmmaking in Horror, Fantasy and Sci-fi” on director Eloy de la Iglesia, The Sleazy and the Strange – interview with Spanish film scholar Carlos Aguilar on director Eloy del la Iglesia, deleted scenes, and trailer. An engrossing bodega of vile Euro horror is what “The Cannibal Man” presents as a first-rate cutthroat thriller from the shamefully underrated filmmaker, Eloy de la Iglesia.