Long before they gave us South Park and The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker and Matt Stone made their first forays into film and musicals with this indie black comedy based on the infamous story of Alferd Packer, the only American found guilty of cannibalism.
The real Packer was a Colorado gold prospector who was the sole survivor of an 1873-74 expedition, some members of whom he was tried and convicted for killing and/or eating during a harsh winter.
In Cannibal!, Packer (played by Parker under the stage name “Juan Schwartz”) is a hapless loser with an unfaithful horse (named after one of Parker’s ex-girlfriends) who tells his tale via flashbacks — featuring song and numbers, indians played by Japanese-American actors, and bloody violence on par with the best Grand Guignol — as he attempts to prove his innocence. Think Oklahoma! meets Alive, but funnier.
The project originally began as a faux trailer produced by Stone and Parker for their film class at the University of Colorado at Boulder; it drew enough attention that they were able to raise $125,000 to make a full-length version, which they and a crew of fellow students filmed on weekends and spring break. (Ironically, this resulted in many of them failing their film history class.) It was picked up for distribution by Troma in 1996; South Park debuted a year later, thanks to the The Spirit of Christmas short going viral in the early days of the interweb. A forgotten part of the Parker/Stone canon, Cannibal! still enjoys an enthusiastic and well-deserved cult following.
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