Panic Fest Film Review: “Cannibal Mukbang”

Starring: April Consalo, Nate Wise and Clay von Carlowitz
Directed by: Aimee Kuge
Rated: NR
Running Time: 104 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Have you ever seen a film title and it’s way too good to be true? My first thoughts are “Snakes on a Plane” or “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot.” So, when I saw “Cannibal Mukbang,” I thought, “Here we go. Another film that’s more title than anything.” Welp. “Cannibal Mukbang” is a genre roller coaster that not only pays off, but makes the title seem tame compared to what happens in the film.

When we first meet Mark (Nate Wise), he’s loveable in a sad puppy kind-of-way, but there’s something about him we can’t quite shake throughout the film. Mark’s self-doubt is apparent as he constantly compares himself to his brother, scrutinizes his body as if he was a Youtube comments section, and ignores when he’s lovestruck. Literally. Ash (April Consalo) hits Mark with her car by accident, and it’s love at first sight. Ash’s day job is filming mukbang videos. Mukbang is a South Korean video trend that’s gone global, highlighting people eating massive amounts of food while talking to their fans. Mark doesn’t judge and wants to know more. At night, Ash turns into a predator as she hunts down sexual predators to devour because she has an insatiable appetite for human flesh. Mark doesn’t judge and wants to know more.

What’s ultimately fascinating about “Cannibal Mukbang,” is that this initial sappy love story premise stays a sappy love story even as the blood, gore, human body parts, and sexual innuendo with the blood, gore and human body parts, amplifies. For every moment of hardcore horror, flesh munching and being crazy horny, there are these very human moments of Mark and Ash unveiling their emotional wounds to each other. In a macabre way, it’s understandable that Ash doesn’t want to get too close to someone. If you had a compulsion to eat human flesh, you wouldn’t necessarily be the most extroverted individual. As for Mark, his self esteem is non-existent because he constantly focuses on how someone like Ash could ever fall in love with a “loser” like himself. This is one of those scenarios where you recognize that they’re not necessarily the best thing for each other, but they oddly fit perfectly together.

In her directorial debut, Aimee Kuge has written a near modern exploitation masterpiece. I say masterpiece because she has taken a lot of the plot elements of exploitation films and funneled them into a mainstream dramatic rom-com. If the horror elements didn’t exist, we could only assume that a happy ending is around the corner for Ash and Mark, but because this is a film where picked clean bones keep piling up, we know it’s about to come crashing down in a horrific fashion. In some ways, we’re conflicted because we do like these soft, tender moments between the two while the cannibalism sits on the back burner. For a first film, Kuge’s vision and writing is not only impressive, but it’s reminiscent of other great first time horror directors like Stuart Gordon or Ana Lily Amirpour.

Not only is Kuge a director to keep an eye on as her career advances, but “Cannibal Mukbang” might end up being a word-of-mouth hit. The film brilliantly handles gruesome sexualism with genuine heartfelt love in a way that must be seen to be believed. It’s hard to not get wrapped up with the characters and story to the point you need to devour the movie again and again. “Cannibal Mukbang” has a near perfect list of ingredients, and while it satisfies any hunger you have before entering the film, only time will tell if it’s an acquired taste or a smorgasbord for all.

Film Review: “Mad Heidi”

Starring: Alice Lucy, David Schofield and Casper Van Dien
Directed by: Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein
Rated: Unrated
Running Time: 92 minutes
Raven Banner

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

One of my favorite movie going experiences was 2007’s “Grindhouse,” by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Not so much the Tarantino portion, but the Rodriguez portion. After convincing several friends to drop money on a three-plus hour film, we were immediately rewarded as blood, guts, mayhem and tongue-in-cheek comedy took center stage. Even though there were only a handful of us in a mostly empty theater, there were times we could barely hear the movie over our own laughter at every exploding zombie head and intentionally bad scene. I sometimes wonder why more modern exploitation films aren’t made. Regardless, I’m glad someone did this year.

Heidi (Alice Lucy), of “Mad Heidi,” lives in the Swiss Alps with her grandfather, occasionally spending time (i.e. sex) with her lover, Goat Peter (Kel Matsena). Goat Peter, though, is quickly executed in the film by the fascist Swiss government in this alternate reality. Goat Peter’s crime? Selling illegal dairy products. In this cartoonish dystopia, Swiss Dictator Meili (Casper Van Dien) has outlawed lactose intolerance, conquered every inch of the dairy market, and is creating a cheese that forces the populace to be subservient Swiss patriots. After Goat Peter’s execution, Heidi is imprisoned, sending her on a trashy path towards vengeance.

“Mad Heidi” is what happens when you take an 1881’s children’s book, and smash softcore porn nudity, over-the-top violence, and out-of-date trashy storytelling in between the book’s pages. To say “Mad Heidi” is not for everyone, is like saying Jaegermeister is an “acquired” taste. Even the people watching, cheering and laughing during “Mad Heidi,” recognize it’s intentionally offensive humor, second rate CGI blood spurts and gore, and 80s action one-liners for what it is. Ridiculously amusing and oddly charming. The charm switch gets flipped on because of Lucy’s double sided performance of Heidi, a sweet relatable country girl who has to become a warrior badass. It helps that her nemesis is played by Van Dien, who may as well have eaten a spoonful of fondue before every cheesy line delivery.

The winks at other genre films is endless; all the way back to the sleaze of films like “Caged Women” to modern schlocky action-comedy like “Kung Fury.” With Van Dien on cast, the movie wastes no time in referencing “Starship Troopers,” and the references never get old as the film goes on. If I was to knock “Mad Heidi” for anything, it’d be that it’s a smidge too long and it doesn’t quite live up to the wall-to-wall insanity in other modern exploitation films like “Hobo with a Shotgun” or “Black Dynamite.” That being said, modern exploitation feels like an incredibly hard genre to pull off because exploitation is now the internet, and it’s hard to match the ferociousness of real violence broadcast into our eyeballs every day. “Mad Heidi” also has to tow this line of intentionally offensive stereotypes that are funny without upsetting modern sensibilities.

The great thing about modern exploitation and “Mad Heidi,” is that uptight people looking for the next thing to be outraged and shocked over won’t be watching the trailer for this film or looking at the poster and thinking, “I gotta check this out.” In a surprising way, it’s refreshing to watch something so politically incorrect, that you either have to hold your nose or roll with the offensive punches. I chose the latter. I relished every brutal bloody battle, every gruesome kill, every uncomfortable moment and all the little moments of absurd world building. For fans of any of the films I’ve mentioned above, or fans of B-movies with hyperviolence and immoral sexuality, “Mad Heidi” is a must. Also, someone find Tarantino and Rodriguez, and let them know another pupil of trash cinema has arrived.