Cannibal
CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL. 1996
Director: Trey Parker

DEATH BECOMES THEM: THE MUSICAL. 2004
Director: Dan Lund

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Cannibal Given the title, & knowing director Trey Parker quite well from his & Matt Stone's riotously vulgar & imaginative Southpark cartoons, I had expected Cannibal! The Musical (1996) to be a spoofy horror film with funny songs. But it's really a spoofy musical western, originally titled Alfred Packer: The Movie.

It was released by Troma who intentionally misled people into believing it was a cannibal horror film, thus suited to Troma's usual lowly product. But can't fault them; films require niche markets to be distributed at all.

Though it's a 1996 release, it was filmed three years earlier while Parker was in college; he was expelled because he was always working on this film instead of attending classes.

As a comedy western it ain't half bad. And a couple of the western tunes are pretty straightforward & not spoofy at all.

It's rather like Paint Your Wagon or Oklahoma performed by a junior-college cast, which is not a condemnation as it can be quite enjoyable to see a college troupe put on Oklahoma. It did finally get 'round to the Donnor Party theme, then meandered toward a slow finale & a final funny tune.

There were times when it seemed like there was only an hour's worth of movie here, dragged out to a tedious length, but I laughed out loud often enough to say the humor is definitely effective. It's not the riotous thing South Park usually is, but you can tell the same sick genius is engaged, in nascent form.



Death Becomes Them Death Becomes Them: The Musical (2004) isn't exactly a musical. It's documentary about The Museum of Death & its founders/curators James Dean Healy & Cathee Schultz, interspersed with a couple of amusing & original showtunes sung by "The Undertaker" (John Tucker) while a troupe of the dead dances, very well too.

Though it seems not to have scored an official release until 2008, & frequently carries that date, it did the festival scene in 2004, when Dan Lund received a best director award, documentary category, at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival.

Unfortunately it has no genre niche, so punished for originality, Dan Lund waite four years before he settled for demeaning distribution through Brain Damage which specializes in the dregs of horror cinema.

Though promoted as a "shockumentary" in fact there's nothing shocking here. The Museum of Death may have some shocking stuff in the collection, but the film is careful never to show anything extreme. To some degree that's frustrating, as people visiting the Museum insist they're looking at something incredibly horrific but we're denied the money-shot.

I don't known if the Museum owners refused to let their best things be photographed, or if the filmmaker wanted a GP-13 rating, cuz if any of this is shocking, so is Disney (for whom Lund has worked). Evidence that Dan Lund hoped it would get a quality distributor to support the film, as had he known Brain Damage would end lup with it, he might as well've filmed the grossest stuff.

Death Becomes ThemJ.D. & Cathee are a charming couple lucky to have found each other. They are not nearly as eccentric as they think themselves, as they're pretty ordinary folks if theiy were thirteen years old.

They've managed to hang on to an adolescent fascination for the milder taboos of society, of which Fun with Death is one. Had they not met one another they'd likely have had to "grow up" & not be artists & collectors of the grotesque. To the brain-dead masses, however, they appear to be inherently contradictory, happy positive-thinkers surrounding themselves with the stuff of horror.

Their museum began in a run-down San Diego neighborhood where it was at the vanguard of a neighborhood renaissance. But a greedy landlord kicked them out & they ended up in another run-down corner of Hollywood in L.A. Their landlord there was a nightmare & eventually they were evicted. The Museum ended up tightly packed in the basement of the house they were renting.

Documentarian Dan Lund followed them over time from San Diego to Hollywood to nowhere. At the beginning their happy-go-lucky joy of life was obviously sincere, but by the end, as they hold down a series of crap jobs & quest slowly for the "perfect" home for the museum with a vastly more responsible landlord, their upbeat smiley-button attitudes definitely seem strained.

The collection itself is kind of Roadside Museum or carnival sideshow from an earlier age, with very little of consequence but a great deal that's fun. A collection of pickled testicles of sundry mammals including human. A case full of Charles Manson memorbilia. The grossest of crime scene photos & accident photos. One of the beds in wlhich the Heaven's Gate cult committed group suicide. Pictures of famous corpses. Cannibal stuff. Execution devices. All framed in J.D.'s art installations.

By the end, with still no lease to set up their museum anew, there's a tone of sadness not entirely intentional, since J.D. & Cathee are still pretending to be full of joy but are so obviously stressed.

The stagey showtunes add a whole other level of fun, as the Undertaker dressed like a clown vampire sings "Curtain Call" I& "Someone for Everyone" with a group of rat-puppets singing chorus, & a chorus-line of tapdancing corpses nicely choreographed. It's mostly very corny, but every aspect of this documentary is well done.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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