director Eloy de la Iglesia
It’s interesting to consider that the movies that got dubbed as “video nasties” by the British Director of Public Prosecutions were in some part selected because of the video cover art and not necessarily the content within. I’ve been perusing a few of the films that I hadn’t seen before since watching a documentary on the topic, Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010), and it’s been an eye-opening sludge through the virtual video stores of the early 1980’s, brimmed with dubious films from as much as a decade earlier.
Eloy de la Iglesia’s The Cannibal Man is a curious case of a film. For one, there is no cannibalism in it. Its Spanish title, La Semana del asesino, “The Week of the Killer”, is closer to accurate. While assuredly bloody with both some gruesome effects and scenes from a real-life abattoir, it’s much more psychological of a horror film, almost a male version of Repulsion (1965), or maybe more specifically a closeted gay man’s version of Repulsion.
Marcos (Vicente Parra) lives like a squatter in the poorer slum of his city, works blandly in a slaughterhouse, and seems a semi-normal nice guy. But one night, on a date with the young woman from a wealthy family, he accidentally kills a cab driver in a dispute, and then his life moves off the rails. There is a class issue in dispute, but even more significantly, he meets a young man with whom he develops a strong homoerotic relationship with. Now, he’s forced to cover his crimes with more bloodshed, while repressing himself in ways both clear and unclear.
It’s been suggested that this film had a political agenda, a critique of life under the Franco regime. I can’t personally contextualize it that far, but the homoerotic relationship is quite plainly spelled out. It’s interesting how at the end, it is this relationship that compels Marcos to turn himself in rather than to kill his would-be lover or commit to him. Actually, I’d have to say that there might be a variety of ways to interpret these aspects of the ending, though I don’t know what else to pull from it at this point.
Less of a shocker and more of a complex moral and emotional film, quite surprising in its way. Not exactly what one thinks of when one thinks of “video nasties” whether or not someone got a meat cleaver to the face or not or buckets of cow blood stream freely throughout.