Trey Parker and Matt Stone are living the entertainment good life. They have a hit show in the middle of a 15th season, a multiple Tony award winning musical called “The Book of Mormon” playing on Broadway, and they can, apparently, do no wrong.
So what do you get when you take the creators of South Park, a school project, and $125,000?
This week on Manic Movie Magic, we take a look at the result: Cannibal! The Musical.
Released in 1993, Cannibal! The Musical is about a Donner-Party-esque group who go into the Utah territory to join the Gold Rush. The musical starts with Alfred Packer on trial for cannibalism in the state of Utah in the 1880s. The majority of the film is done in flashback as Packer tells his story to reporter Polly Pry.
Packer and the rest of his happy little group decide it’d be a great idea to go to the Utah territory, which is particularly dangerous to try and get to the gold before it’s all gone.
Packer eventually loses his beloved horse Liane, thinking a group of vicious trappers they had met before took her. The group continues to struggle as the make their way to the Rocky Mountains, the biggest hurdle in their way. They come across several interesting characters, such as a tribe of “Indians” from Japan, and a severely wounded Confederate soldier. As they slowly start to freeze to death, Bell shoots the over-happy Swan, and the rest of the party (except Bell) decide to eat him due to their starvation. Conditions only worsen the further they go, and Packer offers to go out on a scouting mission for food.
After discovering Bell has lost his mind and killed everyone, Packer has no choice but to try and kill him. After a small, but bloody, battle Packer makes it through the mountains and into town, where he’s arrested for cannibalism. Back in the present, Packer is found guilty and is to be executed. Polly somehow manages to get a stay of execution, and the two share a romantic kiss after one of the trappers get beheaded. However, Bell somehow manages to come back AGAIN for one final scare as the credits roll.
I have to say this musical is a little…well, odd. It has a very strange humor, which is very hit or miss. The first song, using such language as “My heart is as full as a baked potato” and “shpadoinkle.” I’m not sure if that was supposed to be just strange or an in-joke, but it left me more curious and befuddled than amused. The songs are a little bland to be honest, and they all generally follow the same silly-bizarre tone. They are also not very catchy tunes, which is a big problem for a musical. As this was really their first attempt at a musical, it’s to be expected.
The cinematography is pretty bad but considering the budget, you can’t fault them as much for it as you could with a big-budget flick. I’ll give them credit for doing it in the great outdoors, as well as having some pretty good shots and editing, but it still looks like it was done with a better-than-average homevideo camera. The one thing I will see is that whoever did their make-up and gory special affects is pretty amazing.
Where this musical shines is camp and originality. It’s a silly musical about expansion to the west and it apologizes for nothing! There’s a good reason why this thing has a cult following, but also a good reason why it’s not very popular amongst mainstream audiences. Also it’s historically accurate, which as a history major makes me happy, since it is a period piece.
I really tried to like this musical, but I couldn’t really get into the camp, nor did I think it was very funny. I’m not saying that it’s good, or bad necessarily – with such a small budget they did a relativity good job with it, and seeing where they have gone from their artistically, I feel it deserves a little leeway. If you choose to watch it, don’t go into it expecting something shpadoinkle…oh dammit now I’m doing it too.
Next week on Manic Movie Magic, I’ll be looking at the lesser-known George Lucas fantasy film Willow.