Older moviegoers may remember a film called “All the Fine Young Cannibals” starring Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood. But it wasn’t about cannibals.
For outright cannibalism, you’d have to turn to the Tennessee Williams classic “Suddenly Last Summer” or Ruggero Deodato’s exploitation thriller “Cannibal Holocaust.”
Or you can catch a new entry into the horror genre, “Bones and All.”
Directed by Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name”), this film is currently playing in theaters for those who do not have a squeamish stomach.
The 2018 remake of “Suspiria” marked Guadagnino’s first foray into the horror genre. Now, he jumps into the so-called “cannibal boom” with both feet with this romantic horror story based on the book by Camille DeAngelis.
Here, we meet teenager Maren Yearly, who bites through a girl’s finger at a sleepover – and discovers she likes it. Turns out, Maren is a subset of society termed an “eater” (i.e., a cannibal).
We’re not talking about sadomasochist yearnings like those of movie star Armie Hammer, who tanked his career by suggesting to a lover that he wanted to eat one of her ribs. With “Bones and All,” we’re trailing along in the wake of the real deal.
Maren (played by Canadian actress Taylor Russell) is abandoned by her dad who has had enough, protecting her from discovery since her first cannibalistic episode, when she killed and ate her babysitter at three-years-old.
Heading out to look for her estranged mother, Maren encounters Sully (Oscar-winner Mark Rylance) who also happens to be an eater. Later, she meets up with Lee (heartthrob Timothée Chalamet) who also is an eater. And they bump into another pair of eaters (Michael Stuhlbarg and David Gordon Green), who explain that the ultimate experience is to consume someone “bones and all” (hence the film’s title).
Maren succeeds in finding her mom (Chloë Sevigny), who – yes – is also an “eater” who has self-cannibalized her own hands.
This is a love story about all the fine young cannibals – literally, not like the earlier film of that name. It reminds one a bit of the Tilda Swinton-Tim Hiddleston fantasy “Only Lovers Left Alive.” Only that film was about aging vampires and this one features young cannibals. And our pair are far from being the only lovers left alive. Cannibals are crawling all over the place!
Cannibal films are a subgenre of horror films made popular by Italian filmmakers during the ‘70s and ‘80s. However, movies containing similar elements existed long before that. Jungle adventures and Tarzan movies sometimes made references to cannibalistic tribes. Nonetheless, the Italian filmmakers should be given credit for the subgenre. That history is well documented in Calum Waddell’s “Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film.”
Note: The most controversial film of that genre was “Cannibal Holocaust.” Ten days after the premiere, the film was seized by Italian authorities and the director was arrested on the belief that his film was a real snuff film. It wasn’t. But it continues to be banned on-and-off in countries around the world. Entertainment Weekly listed it as one of the Top 25 Most Controversial Movies of All-Time.
“Bones and All” is not quite as violent. And it’s a classier film, with an A-list cast. Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, and Chloë Sevigny don’t do schlocky movies.
Well, there was that one time Chloë appeared in “Brown Bunny.” But Chloë comes from a good family. I know her mother. She lives in socially upscale Darien, Connecticut.
And Timothée has a good pedigree too. His father is an editor with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and is former New York correspondent for Le Parisien.
As for Mark Rylance, he was selected for Time’s list of the World 100 Most Influential People in 2016. One of the great actors of our time, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in “Bridge of Spies” (2015). Not to mention winning three BAFTA Awards, two Olivier Awards, and three Tony Awards. He was even knighted by Queen Elizabeth, for goodness sakes.
The Hollywood Reporter says “Bones and All” is “strangely affecting, even poetic,” while Rotten Tomatoes calls the film a “deeply romantic and thought-provoking treat.”
At its premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, “Bones and All” received a 10-minute standing ovation.
My take: At its heart, this is YA road movie posing as a horror film.
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