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CFF24: Cannibal Mukbang is a ‘Meat’-Cute Rom-Com With Bite

What the hell is mukbanging? Admit it, you’re curious enough to ask the question but have no idea what images Google might send you in response, so you’ve been waiting for this exact review, you sly dog. You’ve probably witnessed a mukbang and had no idea. And if you’ve ever eaten on camera and posted it to TikTok or Insta, you may be a professional muckbanger. Essentially, any act of eating on camera for others’ voyeuristic consumption is a mucking. According to Wikipedia, The word mukbang (먹방; meokbang) is a portmanteau of the Korean words for “eating” (먹는; meongneun) and “broadcast/show” (방송; bangsong). So, if you add people to the menu at your muckbang, followers are then watching a Cannibal Mukbang.

The animated poster for Cannibal Mukbang shows a woman eating pasta off a cringing man's head that also has a knife stuck in it.

I knew Cannibal Mukbang was going to be something special from the festival teaser going around. It featured a delicious feast of steamy, visceral images packaged in brilliant, saturated colors and confidently provided little to no context through its synth-laden, percussive score. The image of a skull on a platter resembling the Happy Father’s Day scene from Creepshow resting next to a mug with the face of Pietro Barzocchini, Michael from the Italian zombie film Burial Ground (aka Le Notti del Terrore). In the background, two lovers get comfortable together on a couch, encapsulated by title cards that read “Sex” and “Food.” Since the best way to this reviewer’s heart is through his stomach, Cannibal Mukbang was hitting many evocative notes as if summoning me for a taste.

The film begins with Mark (Dimland‘s Nate Wise), a humble, inverted man who catches the eye of Ash (April Consalo) while purchasing snacks in a convenience store. The two exchange some flirtatious conversation, but Nate ultimately bids her good evening, only to get hit by her backing out of the parking lot. To make it up to him, Ash takes him home, feeds him, and attempts to atone for any injury she may have caused. Ash tells him she’s a social media influencer and a mukbanger with a channel where devoted followers watch her eat. The two seem intimate immediately, thanks to the fantastic chemistry between Consalo and Wise, the film’s dynamite dialogue, and the look of a familiar Sixteen Candles scene where the two leads are sitting on a bed close to one another, separated by enchiladas instead of on a dining room table with a cake between them.

a woman crawls over a man on a couch behind a coffee table where a skull rests on a serving platter.

After a couple of dates, Mark learns about Ash’s sophisticated palate when he witnesses her cravings firsthand. It also turns out that the carne in those enchiladas wasn’t exactly beef, causing Mark to have a visceral reaction to foods not prepared with human meat. Ash begins to open up to Mark, and the lovers become partners, hunting the society’s vermin to satiate their appetites.

I was worried after the initial setup that Cannibal Mukbang would end up being a rehash of 2022’s Fresh, where a similar meet-cute idea results in a bottleneck situation where the non-cannibal party gets captured and treated as cattle, but writer-director Aimee Kuge has other ideas. With such a wonderfully lighthearted introduction to the characters, Cannibal Mukbang is wholly informed by the template for romantic comedies, which serves as a roadmap for the story. Transformative moments infer vampire classics such as The Lost Boys, Habit, and The Hunger. Effects-heavy disembowelings scream Dawn of the Dead. Specific visual aesthetics, such as a kill room and shots of Ash chowing down, resemble scenes from Dexter and Silence of the Lambs. And the plot recalls Paul Bartel’s 1982 black comedy Eating Raoul. Italian horror also seems to influence the film, especially in the color and overall look.

The rom-com setup allows for recognizable tent-pole moments like the first date, falling for the girl, the big fight, etc., to feel a kinship with those When-Harry-Lost-a-Guy-in-Ten-Things-I-Hate-About-My-Best-Friend’s-Wedding kind of films. The film’s romantic aspects are relatable and resonant, but you have a good idea about where the plot is headed. Yet, the road Cannibal Mukbang takes to get you there shares Bonnie and Clyde‘s nontraditional relationship angle, deriving the film’s comedy from the couple’s murderous need to feed. The result is a rare romantic-comedy-horror that’s sexy, gory fun.

A woman on the floor has her eyes closed and mouth open in ecstasy as a man leans his hand and face against her waist

 

What I’m highlighting in all of this is Kuge’s immensely clever script that mashes up several genres to create an emotionally intelligent and visually rich cinematic love letter that blends harmoniously. Kuge, who has been a production assistant and photographer for The Last Drive-In, really wows with this debut feature. I’m sure having the incredible talents of Consalo and Wise help make the rest of the process look easy, but there are detailed production values, lovely location settings, beautiful shot choices, and rhythmic cuts. Hearing the phrase “debut feature” almost seems unbelievable, given Cannibal Mukbang‘s intricacies.

My one gripe with the film is its ending. It really is a nitpick, and I’ve been going back and forth on it since seeing the movie. Without giving anything away, a loose end leaves things a little unsatisfying, yet it is the natural conclusion of the film. It works well, honestly, and leaving the audience wanting more is never a bad thing. Still, I wanted that one last thing wrapped up, preferably in a to-go box, if you catch my drift.

Cannibal Mukbang screened virtually as a part of The Chattanooga Film Festival. The film is currently touring the festival circuit.

Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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