Cannibal Diner (2012) Directed by Frank W. Montag. Starring Alexandra Lesch, Kristiana Rohder, Lara Baum. A young woman enters an abandoned factory to rescue her model friends from a clan of mutant cannibals after a camping trip gone wrong.
I went into “Cannibal Diner” with certain expectations after reading the synopsis, envisioning American teens crushing beer cans against their foreheads before being dragged off by campground ghouls to the titular restaurant and turned into cold cuts.
The opening scene provided three surprises:
1) The film is German and subtitled.
2) It’s found footage, at least partly.
3) Within four minutes of setting up their tents in a meadow adjacent to deep woods, the two female campers snort lines of cocaine from a mirror and strip. They stand around talking in just their panties until blurry cannibalistic villains emerge from the forest.
I guess they camp differently in Germany.
Found footage movies are often mocked because logic insists that the heroes would put down the camera and run from danger long before they usually do. When a deranged serial killer or alien creature is ripping your limbs off and using them to perform a marginally entertaining puppet show, you probably aren’t going to film the event with passive narration. So I give “Cannibal Diner” credit that immediately after seeing the killers running out of the woods, the girls drop the camera in the grass. One of the cannibals picks it up and begins filming the chase. That’s something different.
We then cut to a shower scene involving our heroine, Kati. It is weirdly intercut with footage of two women riding around in a dune buggy to a soundtrack apparently supplied by a German version of Poison. Though she has no soap, wash rag or shampoo, Kati gives herself a very unconvincing cleansing during a marathon session under the spray. It’s less an actual woman taking a shower and more the adolescent male fantasy of one, with all the sensual poses and orgasmic lip biting that entails.
I’ve often said that it’s important to practice good hygiene right before wrasslin’ cannibals.
Afterwards, she calls her dune buggy pals and delivers this news:
“I just finished the model job. It was awesome. I have to tell you about it later. Now I’m dressing myself up and I will meet you guys later.”
So yeah, it’s not exactly a layered masterwork penned by Thoreau. But it’s no less shallow than any number of American horror films of similar plot lines.
We learn that one of two girls in the vehicle is Kati’s younger sister Celine, and that today is her birthday. The girls are celebrating by meeting friends for a camping weekend of laughter and cocaine in the woods. Celine’s companion is the older and tougher Tanja. After some chit chat, Kati drives from the city into the backwoods and promptly gets lost.
10 minutes in, and no sign of any diner.
Kati spies a drunk redneck woman carrying a bottle of liquor as she shambles around the woods and hops out of her car to chase the drunkard down. After some jabs at Kati for being “one of them city slickers” who gets lost, the woman agrees to provide directions that boil down to this:
“Drive until you find the restricted area with the factory polluted by a terrible chemical accident that drove the workers to insanity. Then go inside it.”
Meanwhile, some jackass drives off with Kati’s red sports car. Kati shakes her fist at the heavens and curses in German, and then makes a decision. She throws her map away and trudges off into the unknown wilderness willy nilly. No food or water or sense of direction, and she blames her entire predicament on a road map. I’m starting to like this clueless heroine.
15 minutes in, there isn’t much in the way of horror. Even the opening scene attack occurs off camera. I’m thinking of non-horror alternative titles for this sleepy thrill ride, such as “Disorganized Women” or “Kati & The Map.”
Tanja, Celine and the dune buggy arrive at the vacant camp site we saw at the very beginning. They find the remnants of cocaine and empty wine bottles, but no occupants.Tanja uncovers the cell phone of one of the missing women and uses it to call the other one. Apparently the camera man was very short, because this scene offers a lengthy shot of Tanja’s butt.
On foot, Kati finds the barrier to the Restricted Zone and enters. As she discovers a massive, crumbling factory, she hears the ringing of the cell Tanja is calling from miles away.
Inside the building, a mutant uses a machete to destroy the phone. Though the windows are broken and the place looks completely deserted, Kati tries the doors and calls out “Hello.” After breaking down a door, she sees a soot covered dude dragging a bloodsoaked burlap sack around and attempts to make a hasty exit. But outside is another sooty fella, blocking her path to freedom. He picks up some old boards and nails the door shut, trapping poor Kati inside.
She runs into sack man again. He’s eating a bloody piece of people meat. Yum!
Kati flees deeper into the factory corridors as Tanja and Celine discover the cause of all their misery….the villainous road map that engineered all this terror!
The map is to “Cannibal Diner” as David is to “Alien: Covenant.” It breeds untold horrors.
The two ladies set off on foot into the woods shouting Kati’s name and clutching her cast off map.
Meanwhile, Kati meets a little feral girl living in the factory with a completely black face. She’s not exactly friendly, and the subsequent chase leads our heroine to a room with money, cell phones and other belongings of captured victims. She decides on a wise stealth strategy of screaming hysterically, loudly breaking stuff and having an emotional meltdown. Incredibly, her plan does not summon the bad guys.
30 diner-less minutes in, Kati gets it together and pulls her long hair into a ponytail. That’s how you know something badass is about to go down. She climbs up through the floors of the factory using pipes as a ladder. It’s a very slow scene with very dynamic music backing it. There goes the stunt budget.
Tanja and Celine fumble around in the woods yelling Kati’s name. They moronically split up, and Tanja is swiftly nabbed by the black-skinned villains. Celine finds a human ear and freaks, then uncovers Tanja dead and freaks harder. Nabbed immediately.
Back at the factory, Kati is suddenly building contraptions out of nowhere.The girl who threw away her map and ran around screaming in her cleavage revealing halter top didn’t strike me as a trap builder, but I’m willing to go with it. She devises a weighted pulley system to help her descend an elevator shaft.
Kati spends several incomprehensible minutes in a pitch black sub basement before handily constructing a torch. She finds herself completely surrounded by hungry former factory workers, who drag her off.
She’s taken to a table where the workers chow down on rotting, maggot covered human meat. They are Caucasian actors in blackface that leaves only the pink of their lips exposed, giving them the appearance of coal miners who went too deep. One of them, who wears an apron and a sack mask, butchers the nude and still living body of one of Kati’s camping pals. Sack Head tries to force Kati to drink her pal’s blood and it doesn’t go over well, culminating in a fire spreading through the room. Our heroine makes a run for it.
During a chase scene, a villain pins Kati down and literally drools on her breasts, which are showcased for several seconds by framing out her face and neck. He flips her onto her belly and tears her panties off, then gets a steel pole through his eye for his trouble. It could’ve been a triumphant moment where Kati triumphs over her would be rapist, but it’s shot so badly in a darkened chamber we only have the vaguest notion of what is happening. Afterwards, we are treated to more running around aimlessly in the dark and an ultra suspenseful score as one of her pursuers axes and chainsaws through a door the terrified girl barricaded shut. Kati dives through the floor into another level below. The Black Face crew follows.
I’ll mercifully save you the details. It all leads to a stupid slo-mo confrontation with Sack Head and a scene where Kati takes off her clothes to charm the cannibals with her nudity. Doesn’t really make a great deal of sense, since cannibals generally strip victims before eating them, but whatever. I apologize for bringing logic into this.
The film’s big finale involves a lengthy search in the dark with a night vision camera and plenty of gasps and screams from Kati.
In makeup terms, the villains of “Cannibal Diner” take the cake for both racial offensiveness and cheap appearance. Putting a bunch of perfectly ordinary looking people in black face doesn’t inspire terror. I’m reminded of the original “Star Trek” series, where they simply painted actresses green and called them aliens. It’s uninspired and it doesn’t work.
The role of women in horror films has generated essays, books, speaking engagements and more. In the 1980s, we saw doomed sex fiends perish and disposable airhead cheerleaders get wasted while tough virgins fought back against various personifications of evil. Laurie Strode and Nancy Thompson were understandably afraid of Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger, but not paralyzed by fear into helpless inaction. Instead, they pick up sewing needles and build booby traps to fight the darkness. They take back their fear, reducing the monstrous boogeymen to impotent figures.
Or at the very least, they put a hanger in the bad guy’s eye.
Normally, I’m all in favor of this. I worship Ghostface puncher Sidney Prescott, Alice from “Friday The 13th” and company. But given Kati’s amazing stupidity, crying spells and the director’s obvious interest in her feminine physique, her survival seems unlikely. Her sudden embrace of badassery just doesn’t feel right with what we know about the character. It would be like if clownish goofball Shelly somehow ended up the hero of “Friday The 13th Part 3.” As soon as we saw him, we knew he was gonna die. And anyone who makes the kind of boneheaded moves as Kati did doesn’t deserve to come out on top.
Her survival is unclear, as the rather oblique and unsatisfying ending leaves us hanging. What happened to poor Celine? Never even addressed.
Also? This film contains not a single diner. Everything about “Cannibal Diner” feels like a step back.