Vincent Price and Diana Rigg in Theatre of Blood. What’s for dinner?
The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Hannibal (2001) and Red Dragon (2002)
There have been scores of on-screen cannibals over the years, from the jungles of Borneo to the badlands of Texas. But no character better embodies the twin evils of food snobbery and flesh eating as well as Hannibal Lecter, most famously portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in this trio of films.
How Scary Is It? Pretty scary. These are more psychological thrillers than outright gore-fests — with the exception of that scene late in the second film where Hopkins helps Ray Liotta’s character develop a taste for offal.
In this dark comedy, a young boy questions the source of the thick slabs of meat his parents (Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt) grill up each night. The film features gorgeous close-ups of meat that would be mouthwatering were it not for the lingering suspicion that they might be Grade-A Prime human.
How Scary Is It? More funny than scary, the PG-13-rated Parents captures the creepy “who are these people” alienation every child occasionally feels about their parental units.
Bitter Feast (2010)
Kitchen Confidential meets Saw as a struggling TV chef (James LeGros) turns the tables — as well as sharp-edged kitchen implements — upon the food blogger (Joshua Leonard) who has been his most outspoken critic. In interviews, the filmmaker said he found inspiration in a New York Times takedown of Gordon Ramsay. Keep an eye out for celebrity chef Mario Batali in a small role.
How Scary Is It? Moderately scary, with elements of torture that may upset more sensitive viewers. Still, I can’t recall another movie with an edge-of-your-seat scene that hinges on the ability of a character to properly cook an egg.
Theatre of Blood (1973)
Like Bitter Feast, this underrated Vincent Price chiller features an artist — here a Shakespearean actor — seeking revenge on the critics who panned him. It makes our list on the merits of one memorable scene in which a gourmand, played by Robert Morley, is tricked into thinking he’s on a food TV show, only to be a fed a dish of, well, watch the film and see for yourself.
How Scary Is It? It is rated R, but that’s a 1973 R. While there’s quite a bit of blood and a few decapitations, Theatre of Blood offers nothing as extreme as, say, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser or Eli Roth’s Hostel.
Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006) and Dead Sushi (2012)
Four entries along and we have yet to hit upon a bona fide monster. Fear not, as we wrap things up with two horror comedies in which food is the monster. Poultrygeist is a satire of the fast food industry in which the spirits of factory-raised chickens rise up and seek gory revenge. In Dead Sushi, a vengeance-seeking scientist invents a serum that turns ordinary nigiri into animated, man-eating sushi.
How Scary Is It? Scary, no. Gross, heck yeah. Poultrygeist is from the director who brought us the schlocktastic The Toxic Avenger. If you’ve seen that, you know what you’re in for. Believe it or not, Dead Sushi is even weirder, in the way that only the strangest Japanese films can be.
Did we forget your favorite food-related horror film? Let us know in the comments below.