Many horror films, known as cannibal films, have exploited the theme of cannibal tribes. This subgenre experienced a period of popularity through the work of Italian filmmakers in the 1970s and 1980s. These films commonly concern the discovery of cannibalistic tribes by documentary filmmakers or anthropologists. The first major film of this type was Umberto Lenzi's Il Paese del Sesso Selvaggio ("The Man from the Deep River", 1972). Later filmmakers followed, and the genre reached its peak in the cannibal boom of 1977 to 1981. The best known of these films was Ruggero Deodato's influential Cannibal Holocaust (1980). Considered one of history's most gruesome movies, Cannibal Holocaust was commonly believed to be a snuff film, and Deodato was brought to trial on suspicion of having killed his actors. Other genre films include Ultimo mondo cannibale (1977) and Cannibal Ferox (1981).Later horror films to feature cannibal groups include The Hills Have Eyes series, with its clan of cannibalistic savages, and the cannibalistic mountain men of Wrong Turn and its sequels. The film Como Era Gostoso o Meu Francês (How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman, 1971), by Nelson Pereira dos Santos, details the alleged cannibalistic practices of the indigenous Tupinamba warrior tribe against French and Portuguese colonizers in the 16th century.
Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth fantasy series features the Mud People, a wild tribe which consumes the dried meat of their enemies before important events and rituals, believing it a way of gaining the enemies' wisdom. The Mud People were known to sometimes receive visions about the intentions of the victims and their people, and Richard himself received such a vision during one of the times he had to eat human flesh in order to participate in such an event. Kahlan, aware of that custom, pretended to be a vegetarian whenever visiting the tribe.In Robert A. Heinlein's science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), some human culture is transformed as a result of the Martians' practice of eating one's dead friends as an act of great respect.Herman Melville's Typee is a 19th-century literary example; Typee is a semi-factual account of Melville's voyage to the Pacific Island of Nuku Hiva, where he lived for several weeks among the island's cannibal inhabitants before fleeing.Anne Rice's novel The Queen of the Damned references an ancient culture who practiced necro-cannibalism, as they believed that consumption of their loved ones' remains was a more fitting funeral rite than burial or cremation.In Tennessee Williams' 1957 play and its subsequent film version, Suddenly, Last Summer, the fate of the deceased son of Mrs. Venable is revealed to have been death at the hands of natives who then ate his remains.The Transmetropolitan comic book series includes cultural cannibalism in its setting, where many bizarre and outlandish lifestyles are now common. Most notable is the fast-food chain "Long Pig", which serves the meat of braindead clones who are grown without a brain and thus are never "alive" as such.In The Cannibal Within, by Mark Mirabello, "Ingestion is the ultimate act of domination…. The victim is absorbed by the eater–body and soul are absorbed–and all that remains is excrement."In Rudy Rucker's novel Freeware, a character named Wendy clones her own muscle cells, and sells the product as Wendy Meat. As its her own body, offered voluntarily, it's not considered unethical in the novel.In Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel The Road, humans resort to cannibalism to survive in a landscape where food is extremely scarce.
Cannibalism historically has been practiced as a last resort by famine sufferers, and popular culture has portrayed true stories of such acts of cannibalism. Examples include: The story of the survivors of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 chronicled in Piers Paul Read's book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors (1974), in Alive (1993), the book's film adaptation, and in the documentary Stranded: I've Come from a Plane that Crashed in the Mountains (2008).Similar stories that have provided inspiration for popular culture adaptations are the accounts of Alferd Packer and of the Donner Party (1846–47), both of which involved people who ate human flesh in order to survive snowbound entrapment in the mountains. Packer's tale is retold, with artistic liberty, in the film The Legend of Alfred Packer (1980) Packer's tale is also retold, with artistic liberty, in Trey Parker's black comedy Cannibal! The Musical (1993). The film Ravenous (1999) combines elements of both stories. Stephen King's short story Survivor Type (1982) follows a shipwrecked surgeon who, stranded on a remote island, is driven to eat his own body parts in order to survive, using some cocaine he was smuggling as anesthetics. *In The Buoys' Rupert Holmes-composed pop song "Timothy" (1971), two trapped miners are implied to have eaten their companion. "Timothy" was banned on many radio stations, but rose to no. 17 on the Billboard charts.The 1956 song 'Stranded In The Jungle' recorded by both The Cadets and The Jayhawks, is about a survivor of a plane crash in the jungle who wants desperately to find a way back to the states and his gal who 'no doubt' has been running around on him. After somehow climbing out of the wreckage of the plane, he awakes to 'smell something cooking' only to find that he was simmering in a gigantic pot. 'I awoke with cookin' gear only to find out that they was a-cookin' ME. Great agogogogoo, let me outa here!' Several works are based on the real-life cannibal convict Alexander Pearce: The Australian novel For the Term of His Natural Life (1874) by Marcus Clarke uses the historical events in Tasmania surrounding the cannibal convict Alexander Pearce as background. Dying Breed (2008) is a fictional horror film about Pearce's cannibal decedents. The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce (2008) is a biographic film about Pearce Van Diemen's Land (2009) is a biographic film about Pearce In the Mad Men series' penultimate episode "The Milk and Honey Route" (airdate May 10, 2015), a veteran at the American Legion Hall explains that he and two fellow members of their original nine-9-man unit survived the Battle of Hürtgen Forest by "bouncing" four German soldiers.Post-apocalyptic narratives have also featured cannibalism as a means of survival. The French film Delicatessen (1991) is set in an apartment block led by a butcher who deals with the food crisis by luring new tenants to the apartment, killing them, and serving them as meat to the other residents. In Max Brooks' post-apocalyptic zombie horror novel World War Z (2006), American survivors head north into Canada to escape the undead, and are forced to cannibalize their dead in order to survive the harsh winters. Some of the survivors in Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road (2006) and its 2009 film adaptation practice cannibalism, as persistent and ubiquitous atmospheric ash has eliminated virtually all other sources of food. A scene in which the protagonist and his son discover a baby roasted over an open fire was edited from the film, but appeared in some versions of the film's trailer. A group of cannibals appear in the graphic novel The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and in the TV adaptation, at Terminus. The group, generally referred to as The Hunters, turned to cannibalizing other survivors due to their inability to hunt other prey or scavenging food. Its implied that the group started out by eating their own children in their desperation to survive, defending the decision by stating that the same occurs among animals in times of famine.