Cannibalism Horror

Cannibalism in Horror

Cannibalism or anthropophagy is the act of humans eating the flesh or internal organs of other human beings. Cannibalism is a cultural norm in some tribal societies. There are many different motives behind the act of eating someone. It can be a part of a ritual, out of survival, or just for pleasure. Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert Fish are two famous serial killers that indulged in cannibalism. A group of pioneers that came to be known as the Donner Party resorted to feasting on the bodies of their fellow travelers that succumbed to starvation and sickness.

Cannibalism is not a strict subgenre of horror, but more of a theme or a part of the plot. You might have cannibalism to show the utter inhumanity of one of the characters (Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs) or it might be used as part of the plot: a group of 'savages' on an island prey upon survivors stranded there.


Characteristics of Cannibalism Horror

Level of Characterization
Low-Moderate. Ranges from examining the psychology of certain characters to straight survival stories. 

Level of Plot Complexity
Low-Moderate. Some of the novels in this subgenre have unique plots with twists and turns.

Level of Supernatural
Varies. Some stories revolve around zombies or characters with supernatural abilities.

Level of Scary
High. Cannibalism is considered one of the more controversial taboos. 

Level of Violence 
High. The graphic violence and gore isn't always the focal point.

Typical Setting
Varies. Urban areas to rugged landscapes such as the mountains.

Related Fantasy Sub-Genres

Bodies are manipulated like in Body Horror.


Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic settings are sometimes found in Cannibal stories (zombies humans eating non-zombies).


Zombie Horror because zombies are considered cannibals of a sort. 

Cannibalistic Horror Isn’t For You If You Dislike

Graphic violence and gore. Humans being lunch for other humans. Grotesque descriptions.


    1. Chew, John Layman. Tony Chu is a detective that solves his murders by getting psychic visions after nibbling on the corpses of murder victims.

    2. Exquisite Corpse, Poppy Z. Brite. A love story following two cannibalistic serial killers.

    3. The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris. Because of her knowledge in psychiatry, Starling, a young FBI trainee, seeks the advice of a former serial killer and cannibal, the sinister Dr. Hannibal Lecter, in the pursuit of a murderer on a sick and peculiar killing spree.

    4. Off Season, Jack Ketchum. Cave dwelling cannibals terrorize a group of friends vacationing in a cabin.

    5. The Road, Cormac McCarthy. A father and son are armed with nothing but a pistol against the lawless, burned world.

    6. Trapped, Jack Kilborn. Six teenagers camp out on a deserted island. The group soon realizes they aren't alone.

    7. A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift. Swift suggests in his satirical essay that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies.

    8. The Cannibals of Candyland, Carlton Mellick III. Alone on the street one day, Franklin Pierce sees a Candy Person eating a child and he shoots it, tracks it into its Candy World, and kills it. From there he gets abducted by a female Candy Person who takes him as a mate and keeps him chained up and makes him her submissive slave.

    9. Cannibal Fat Camp, Mark C. Scioneaux. Facing starvation, the campers at Tum Tum make a decision that very few human beings have made. That decision turns Camp Tum Tum into Cannibal Fat Camp.

    10. Zombie, Joyce Carol Oates. Told through the eyes of Quentin P., a fictional serial killer based on the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer.

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