I love a good well written thought-provoking story. I seek out the kind of horror that sits just on the edge of reality; plausible enough that you pause to look at your neighbor and wonder what lies just below the surface of the people you think you know. These are the stories with little to no actual gore, but you know what’s happened. You know without being told what happened to the girl who got into the car even though the last you see of her is the drive into the night. With its international critical acclaim, this was the kind of hope I had for Cannibal.
Cannibal is a film hailing from Spain that is the story of an everyday man and his hidden demons. A prestigious tailor by day, Carlos harbors the dark secret of murder and a refrigerator full of nothing but meat. Human meat. When his beautiful Romanian neighbor goes missing after requesting his assistance after a fight in her apartment, her sister Nina comes looking for her. Carlos and Nina find themselves drawn to one another while Carlos struggles to cope with a remorse he’s never felt before.
The premise of this story is striking. It has a painfully authentic human feel to it as we see the world through Carlos’ eyes and journey with him on the evolution of his love for Nina and the reality of the darkness inside of him. We aren’t given any background on him. We aren’t told what made him this way. There are only hints of a woman having deeply hurt him, clearly to the point where he is driven to murder and cannibalism. It’s sickening, but it’s fascinating in that he seems so flipping normal on the outside. Reclusive, but normal. It almost whispers to us that we are all capable of incredible atrocity, while still driving us to pity and even seek to understand the villain. It’s quietly terrifying and that’s my favorite kind of horror.
That being said, the cinematography was quite painful. The first 3 minutes of the film are a distant shot, in the dark, of a gas station. That’s it. A gas station with a car, filling up with gas. For three very long minutes. It was like watching someone’s life in real-time. The entire film moves at this pace which after a while just gets mind numbing to watch. We watch Carlos go through his day of getting up, walking to the tailor’s shop, cutting out fabric, going home, and eating a human steak. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s broken up here and there by the story limping along. I don’t expect or want huge action scenes in movies like this, but I at least hope for forward momentum. Even at the film’s climactic peak, it seemed to fall flat.
I don’t in any way blame the acting for this. The acting was actually quite brilliant. Carlos is played by Antonio de la Torre, who gives an amazing performance. The depth of his expressions, drew me in and I could see the character’s inner struggles as the story progressed. I knew what he was feeling. I could see the evolution of his character’s emotions towards Nina (Olympia Melinte). For her part, Olympia Melinte also plays her dual characters of Alexandra and Nina beautifully. She adds enough variety between the two characters that I didn’t actually realize that it was the same actress playing both until the credits. In reality, the acting was nowhere near the problem with this film.
Overall, this one fell flat for me. It’s very choppy which makes it difficult to watch. I would have liked to see the story progress without having to sit through three minutes of a nearly empty gas station or two minutes of watching a man eat a steak along in his kitchen. Even if it was a steak of human meat. I found myself hoping for a teensy tiny bit of gore, just to break up the monotony. Fantastic story. Not so fantastic execution.