"All singing! All dancing! All flesh-eating!" Now, that's one killer tagline to wrap your movie around. In fact, that deliciously bizarre premise was enough to propel Cannibal! The Musical into cult-film lore, lending it an irresistible aura that has very little to do with the flimsy results on the screen. Truthfully, Cannibal wasn't even meant to be a complete movie, it was hatched as a three-minute fake trailer, a class project by young Trey Parker while he was attending Colorado University in the early '90s. The reaction was so huge that Parker, along with pal Matt Stone, created a production company and managed to wrangle about $75,000 from friends, family and investors for a feature. By the time Z-grade schlock distributor Troma picked it up in 1996, the guys were already famous, as another bit of their homework, an animated short called Jesus vs. Frosty, had made its way around the Internet and launched that little TV empire called South Park.
Based on the infamous true story of Alfred Packer, a lone survivor of a disastrous 1870s prospecting expedition, Cannibal is just as goofy and macabre as its title; a bizarre, violent collision of Ravenous and Oklahoma!, with immortal songs like "Let's Hang the Bastard!," "Shpadoinkle," and the tender, "When I Was on Top of You." The movie is as cheap, slapdash and funny as you'd imagine for a student film, though it has a certain insane charm that keeps folks coming back. Love or loathe Parker and Stone, you have to admit they are the ultimate cult success story, living out the dream of nerds everywhere. If Cannibal isn't their finest hour, it's got fans even popular enough to inspire regional stage versions. ... Now, that's scary.
Midnight, Friday and Saturday, July 20 and 21, at the Main Art Theatre, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.