Manuel Martín Cuenca / Spain/Romania/Russia/France / 2013 / 116 mins
It’s true that within the horror genre, cannibalism has been notoriously gory. It is a triumph, then, that Manuel Martín Cuenca has managed to unravel a film of substantial elegance, grace and even quiet desperation about the routines of a seemingly unremarkable Spanish tailor. Based on Humberto Arenal‘s novel, Carlos (Antonio de la Torre) lives the ultimate double life: going to work and crafting the most precise, hand-made suits while travelling the whistling midnight roads in search of women to kill, cut up and eat. When a mysterious and beautiful neighbour moves in, constantly dressed in shades of red, Carlos sees a new opportunity, but is shortly pursued by her sister who arrives in search of her missing sibling.
Cuenca provokes all sorts of debates on motive in Cannibal; sexual desire and fantasy, revenge, fear, even the explosion of bourgeois propriety. Carlos seems to fall in love with the incoming sister Nina (Olimpia Melinte) but there is a permanent air of peril, so reminiscent of Almodóvar in The Skin I Live In, that evokes an irresistible danger and suspense. The relationships between Cuenca’s characters recall a tense, cliff-edge Chabrol who gave his ordinary characters the most twisted and concealed desires. Moreover, Cannibal is beautifully and carefully shot, at times ever so slightly over-engineered, but is a completely engrossing watch.