Something’s eating Hollywood — and the meal begins with fava beans and a nice Chianti. That’s right, cannibalism is the grisly theme du jour in the entertainment world. Most notably, there’s Hannibal, Thomas Harris’ long-awaited sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, which hits bookstores this week. Meanwhile, Trimark recently acquired Carnivore, a script by The Matrix’s director-brothers, Larry and Andy Wachowski, about a soup kitchen that serves rich-people stew to its poor patrons. Then there’s Canadian producer Roger Frappier, who recently announced he will make Confessions of a Flesh Eater, a black comedy about a chef who takes nouvelle cuisine a bit too far. And MGM is about to begin shooting Munchies, a comedy about a clique of body-conscious high school girls who turn into flesh-munching zombies thanks to an experimental diet pill.
Why is everyone so hungry for these you-are-who-you-eat story lines? ”You can have cannibalism in many different contexts,” explains anthropologist Tim White, author of Prehistoric Cannibalism. ”So I don’t think it’s unusual to find it used as a vehicle to explore different aspects of human behavior.” Ted Griffin, screenwriter of Twentieth Century Fox’s recent man-eating period piece Ravenous, agrees. ”There are good would-you-or-wouldn’t-you ethical questions involved. [It’s about] surviving while treading over the lives of others, which is a fairly good metaphor for anything you do.” Munchies producer John Davis adds that his horror comedy uses the people-eat-people world as a tasty metaphor for ”resisting social pressure. One girl [in the zombie clique] breaks out and decides to cut against the crowd.”
Of course, whether there’s a real appetite for flesh-eating stories remains to be seen. After all, Ravenous’ box office reception was a bloodless $10 million. ”Frankly, there are some people who don’t want to see cannibal movies,” says Griffin. ”And who can really blame them?”