Horror Movie Review: The Cannibal Man (1972)

There will be few better examples of just how nonsensical the video nasty panic of the 80s was then this movie. A movie that is so tame, not just by the example of other nasties, but horror that was coming at around the same period.

It seems as though The Cannibal Man was caught up in the video nasty panic because of its idiotic title and a marketing campaign that made it look like a Last House on the Left knock-off. It is nothing like The Last House on the Left nor does is feature a single scene of cannibalism.

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Directed by Eloy de la Iglesia, who wrote it with Antonio Fos, The Cannibal Man is an engrossing horror about a man’s spiralling descent into madness. Layered with subtle socio-political commentary and set to the backdrop of life in Spain under the Franco regime.

Marcos (Vicente Parra) is a poor man just tying to get by in the world, hoping to make something of himself. He lives in a rundown shack on a barren piece of land in the shadow of modern, high-rise apartments where the rich, quite literally, look down upon him and others.

Regardless of his lot in life, Marcos is not bitter and continues to work hard at a local slaughterhouse, hoping to get a promotion. He is also dating a young woman named Paula (Emma Cohen) but they have to keep their relationship secret as her father would not approve.

While out one night, Marcos gets into an argument with a taxi driver resulting in he and Paula being kicked out of the cab. The driver demands money for the short distance he has taken them but Marcos refuses. This results in a fight and the cab driver is killed.

Marcos and Paula flee and would probably not get caught, except she is racked with guilt and wants to turn them both in. Marcos, knowing what an arrest would mean, sees red and strangles her. This begins a chain reaction that will see countless bodies piling up on the floor of Marcos’ home. His attempts to cover his tracks and suspicious behaviour results in more and more people being killed. Even though Marcos is quietly disposing of the body parts in a machine at his workplace.

This really is a strange watch. Those expecting an out and out horror will be surprised by how little the movie has over its 98-minute runtime. Yes, it has a fairly high body count and the killings can be violent. However, it’s almost always a quick and certainly not gratuitous.

Perhaps the real horror comes from the environment Marcos creates around him, being unable to quickly and safely dispose of the bodies. Likewise, his descent is notably harsh to watch as you never get the sense that he is an evil man, rather a man who continues to make terrible mistakes.

That there, and the portrayal of the character by an on-form Vicente Parra, makes him a surprisingly sympathetic character. Vicente Parra makes Marcos a compelling watch but he’s not alone. This film is packed with good characters and good acting. Eusebio Poncela as Néstor, the unusual rich neighbour of Marcos is another standout of the movie.

It’s leaves you with much ‘food for thought’ as the socio-political commentary is subtle and often used to highlight the disparity between rich and poor. Again, it makes this so much more than just your average early 70’s horror. It certainly is something far more interesting that the stupid title suggests and its inclusion on the nasty list, one everyone can see as being down-right silly.


  • Carl Fisher

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The Cannibal Man (1972)
  • The Final Score - 7.5/10
User Review
7.91/10 (9 votes)