It is foundational for a disturbing idea like cannibalism to be a fixture of the human psyche. And natural for it to be a part of human storytelling.
Cannibal Horror is a subgenre of films that predominantly emerged from Italian filmmakers during the 1970s and 1980s. These graphically violent movies usually depict cannibalism by primitive, Stone Age natives deep within the Asian or South American rainforests. The general emphasis of these films focuses on various forms of shocking, realistic, and graphic violence, typically including torture, rape, and genuine cruelty to animals.
Some of the roots of the Cannibal Horror subgenre can be traced back to the early 1900s. One of the first instances of cannibalism appearing in horror is the 1917 film The Enchanted Kiss, which mentions chili con carne made from the flesh of a young woman. Another early example is Cornel Wilde’s 1965 film The Naked Prey, which involved a white man being chased by a tribe of natives because his safari group offended their chief.
The genre evolved in the early 1970s from a similar subgenre known as mondo films, exploitation documentaries which claimed to present genuine taboo behaviors from around the world. Umberto Lenzi is often cited as originating the cannibal genre with his 1972 film Man from Deep River.
In modern times, the theme of cannibalism has been featured in a range of media that includes film, television, literature, music, and video games. It has been portrayed in various different ways and is occasionally normalized. The act may also be used in media as a means of survival, an accidental misfortune, or an accompaniment to murder.
In literature, authors like Mark Twain and Toni Morrison have used cannibalism to satirize politics and present polemic points about racial, sexual, and class conflicts. In the visual arts, cannibalism has been used to critique societal norms and explore the human condition.
Despite the graphic content and controversy surrounding the films of this subgenre, they have occasionally fallen under favorable or more positive critical interpretation. Certain cannibal films have been noted for containing themes of anti-imperialism and critiques or commentary on Third World oppression and exploitation.