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Film / Cannibal! The Musical

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The sky is blue, and all the leaves are green
My heart's as full as a baked pa-tay-da
I think I know precisely what I mean
When I say it's a shpadoinkle day!

Cannibal! The Musical (also known as Alferd Packer: The Musical) is a Black Comedy musical, aptly named and done by the boys behind South Park in their usual good taste. The story is all about legendary Colorado cannibal Alferd Packer, played by Trey Parker himself, backed by his crew of Humphrey, played by Stone, and other strange characters. Very strange Hilarity Ensues.

The movie was made on a shoestring budget and it shows— Parker and Stone caved from pressure from friends to actually expand a fake trailer they made for an assignment in college into a real movie. The film itself was made in 1993 but released as a film in 1996 by Troma. Early South Park humor is evident. A lot of it parodies the musical Oklahoma!.

The full movie can be watched for free online at the official site here, as well as the version with the DVD Commentary track. All the songs are downloadable for free as well.

Tropes related to the movie:

  • Aerith and Bob: From "Let's Build a Snowman!":
    Swan: We can name him Tom or we can name him George!...We can name him Bob or we can name him Beowulf!
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: The gentle-natured protagonist's horse dumps him for the more macho, more aggressive trappers.
  • Angry Mob Song: "Hang the Bastard," meant to sound as much as possible like a cheery old-school-style excuse-to-dance number.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: When the party encounters a lamb, the sex-crazed Noon just happens to start taking his pants off to pee, causing his mortified companions to mistakenly think he has... unchaste intentions. And of course, Packer's relationship with his horse is constantly wavering uncomfortably close to this trope.
  • Big Bad: Shannon Bell is the true cannibal.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Some of the lines spoken by the Japanese Indians translate as "This movie sucks" and "You're a stupid person". They also claim the name of their tribe is Nihonjin, which means "Japanese people".
    • The hand signals Humphrey (Matt Stone) uses when first meeting the not-Indians is sign language for "Jesus Christ is Dead".
  • Black Comedy: A comedic musical about a murderer.
  • Black Comedy Cannibalism: Humphrey, the goofy Nerd of the group, is blissfully unperturbed about eating the corpse of the fallen Swan, cheerfully chowing down while his companions are visibly traumatized.
  • Berserk Button: Liane becomes this to Packer after leaving him for the trappers, with him being easily provoked to anger by mention of her.
  • Bloody Hilarious: There's lost of cheap gore, which is played for gross-out comedy.
  • Brick Joke: Randomly, Miller is excited to see fudge being sold in the general store, and buys some. Much later, at the end of Packer's song, he blurts out "Fudge, Packer?"
  • The Cameo:
    • Of the unlikeliest sort: influential avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage appears briefly as Noon's father. Brakhage was one of Parker and Stone's film professors in college.
    • Trey Parker's father Randy plays the judge at Packer's trial.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal example with Miller's gun. Bell borrows it briefly, only to end up shooting Swan dead with it in a moment of anger.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Japanese Indian chief. After letting Packer and his group stay with his tribe for a while in the middle of the movie, he returns in the climax to save Packer from being hanged and kill Frenchy.
  • Circular Drive: An Overly-Long Gag as the townsfolk spill out of the local tavern.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The trappers, when told to stop singing the "trapper song." However both sides end up missing the point when it degenerates into an argument over what key the song should be in.
    Noon: Oh stop!
    Humphrey: That's sick.
    Frenchy: I agree, [hits one of the other trappers] Nutter was singing in the wrong key!
    Nutter: No I wasn't. It was Loutzenheiser. I was singing in E♭ minor.
    Frenchy: The song's in F♯ major!
    Bell: I think they're the same thing. I mean, E♭ is the relative minor of F♯.
    Frenchy: No, it isn't. The relative minor is 3 half-tones down from the major, not up!
    Noon: No, it's 3 down. Like A is the relative minor of C major.
    Loutzenheiser: But isn't A♯ in C major?
    Bell: Wait, are you singing mixolydian scales, or something?
    Frenchy: A# is tonic to C major. It's the 6th!
    Humphrey: No it isn't!
    Swan: Well, it'd be like a raised 13th if anything.
  • Content Warnings: Parodied.
  • Crowd Song: "Hang the Bastard", a jaunty, upbeat tune about hanging a man.
  • Dark Reprise: "That's All I'm Asking For", an upbeat song about what the miners are hoping to accomplish when they reach Colorado, gets a very slow, awkward, and dour reprise as they're beginning to starve in the middle of nowhere.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Of fluffy Oscar Bait period musicals like Oklahoma!, taking the saccharine depiction of history common to such plays/films and applying it to an extremely grim and bloody event.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Packer wins over the distant Polly Pry over the course of his story.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Noon crosses it when he realizes that he will die a virgin.
    Noon: You know Packer, because of you I will never get laid!
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Subversion-via-aversion between Packer and Liane. (The story is so sappy/corny/cliche this is a no-brainer, until it falls completely flat, which is almost assuredly deliberate.)
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom:
    Ralph: [thrusts a pointing finger at the group] The Rocky Mountains. I gotta warn ya! You're doomed! Doomed! Doomed! [lowers the finger] You're doomed! [walks away] Doomed. [the man walks around the group. The miners follow his walk with their eyes] Turn back, while you still can. You're doomed. You're all doomed.
    Packer, Swan: [Beat] Thank you.
  • Double Entendre:
    • "When I Was on Top of You", Packer's heartfelt and sincere ballad to his missing horse, is littered with these. Takes on a whole new meaning when you consider that Packer's horse Liane is an Expy of Trey Parker's ex of the same name.
    • Afterwards, Humphrey offers Packer a piece of fudge with the words "Fudge, Packer?"
  • Dream Ballet: Packer has a nightmare about him and Frenchy getting into a ballet competition for Lian's heart. He loses, at which point the dream goes Off the Rails and ends with Frenchy stabbing him to death.
  • Eating Shoes: Before they start eating each other, the characters eat their shoes.
  • Eye Awaken: Parodied in a marvelously over-the-top fashion.
  • Eye Scream: The civil war veteran whose eye squirts out pus every time he talks.
  • Fake Nationality: Parodied with the "Native Americans" who are very obviously played by Japanese people, with the movie doing everything in its power to draw the audience's attention to that fact.
  • Fanservice / Fan Disservice: The ballet dream scene, which features Packer and Frenchy in tights.
  • Fauxreigner: Native Americans that are Japanese people in disguise...
    Bell: Could you tell me what tribe this is?
    Chief: Hmmmmm... We are... Indians!
    Bell: ...Yes, I see that, but... what Indians?
    Chief: You don't think we are... Indians?
    Bell: No, no, no, I just um...
    Chief: We have... teepees.
    Bell: Right. I see, but...
    Chief: Look at all these teepees ...we have. Because... we are...Indians!
    Packer: Yeah, they have teepees.
  • Fauxshadow: Early in the movie, Miller pulls a gun on Packer to get him moving. This is supposed to foreshadow him getting violent later on. When they're starving and see a lamb he doesn't have the heart to pull the trigger. When Swan sings his "snowman" song, Bell is the one who kills him.
  • Fish out of Water: All of the miners, when they run into the Outside-Genre Foe Cyclops, and try to play along, but fail for being Culture Blind. Also an inversion of Country Mouse, as it's the miners, and not the mouse, who are shown up as oddball.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • In the first courtroom scene, the judge is very clearly bored with the proceedings. He's so bored he starts building a house of cards.
    • After Humphrey makes dinner, when Noon starts up the "I Want" Song, Packer can be seen tasting (and clearly hating) whatever the hell it is Humphrey made.
  • Groin Attack: Packer pulls a mean one on Frenchy.
  • Historical Beauty Update: The plain Polly Pry is played by the pretty Toddy Walters (albeit in unflattering clothes)
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: In Real Life, there's a pretty good chance that Alferd Packer really did murder his compatriots and blame it on the deceased Shannon Bell, and he accordingly did 40 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter rather than getting off the hook. This is, of course, deliberately invoked as part of the film's lackadaisical approach to historical accuracy and mockery of the clash of values common in the period musicals it parodies.
  • "I Am" Song: Parodied with "Trapper Song", a purposefully disgusting Villain Song by the Trappers about what they do in life.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Of course! First, the miners cannibalize the deceased Swan. Then after Bell loses it and kills everyone but Packer, the latter kills Bell and eats all their bodies to survive.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Shpadoinkle, both in the context of the movie and in a more meta sense as Trey Parker was initially using it as a placeholder until he thought of something different, but it made the cast and crew laugh so much that it stuck.
  • "I Want" Song: "That's All I'm Asking For" have the cast sing about what it is they want from their journey.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • For all of his attitude issues and complaining, Miller is completely right about everything he is complaining about. Most especially his complaint about Packer's not knowing what he is doing.
    • When the remaining group talks about killing another member for food, they want it to be Bell because he killed Swan. Bell quickly points out it was Packer's fault for getting them in this mess in the first place.
  • Karma Houdini: Played for Laughs. While he didn't directly murder his companions, Packer avoids punishment with causing the whole horrible situation (through his incompetence and creepy obsession with his horse) thanks to a legal technicality and rides off into the sunset. Almost certainly a parody of the above-mentioned Oklahoma!, where the protagonist literally gets away with murder because his victim was an asshole. Note that in Real Life, the same technicality did save Packer from the death sentence, he still did 40 years in prison.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Swan is killed mid-musical number.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    Humphrey: You guys! I just thought of something too.
    Packer: What?
    Humphrey: Okay, now, you remember when Swan was building that snowman? Well, how the hell did he make that tapping sound with his feet?
    Noon: You just now thought of that?
    Humphrey: Well it's pretty fucking weird, isn't it?!
  • Lethal Chef: Humphrey.
    Miller: (Looking at the food) You son of a bitch Humphrey.
    Humphrey: Aww, come on. Ya didn't even try it!
    (He tries it)
    Miller: You son of a bitch Humphrey.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Noon. His obsession with sex and women is based on Dian Bachar, the actor who played him.
  • Meaningful Name: Parker's acting credit is "Juan Schwartz", which is based on "John Schwartze", one of the pseudonyms the real-life Packer used while running from the law.
  • The Mel Brooks Number: "When I Was on Top of You," specifically.
  • Mood Dissonance: A big part of the humor. Despite the horrific and grim subject matter, the film's tone is bubbly and upbeat almost all throughout, in mockery of the fluffy musical period comedies the movie is parodying.
  • The Musical: A parodic one, with songs that range from decent to bizarre and are juxtaposed with morbidly absurd events.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The day after Bell kills Swan, Bell seems to be doing a little bit of this.
  • My Nayme Is: The protagonist's first name is Alferd, not Alfred. Historical records would indicate the rather Trey Parker-esque detail that in real life, Packer was originally named Alfred, but got a tattoo that misspelled it "Alferd" and went Sure, Let's Go with That.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: The film parodies a Real Life instance, with the main characters resorting to cannibalism to survive in the harsh Colorado winter.
  • Off with His Head!: Frenchy loses his courtesy of the Japanese Indian chief, placating the crowd that wanted Packer hanged. Lian joins him shortly after thanks a poorly-phrased comment by Packer.
  • Only Sane Man: Frank Miller. Bell (the priest) has shades of this later in the movie.
  • Overly-Long Gag: Packer's party arrive at a shop and every one of them greets the shopkeeper individually, with the shopkeeper always responding in kind and the camera panning back and forward every single time. Basically, it amounts to the audience hearing a lot of "howdy" or "howdy-do" over the course of a few seconds.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: From the poster: "the first intelligent musical about cannibalism." A Take That! at Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, perhaps?
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: The nonexistent word "Shpadoinkle" gets thrown about a fair bit, with absolutely no explanation of what it's supposed to mean.
  • Place Worse Than Death: Packer tells Polly he should have just let himself be caught rather than try to escape into Wyoming.
    Polly: Why?
    Packer: You ever been to Wyoming?
    (cut to Packer wandering around a barren, empty landscape)
    Packer: H-hello?
    (cut back to the jail)
    Polly: Oh god, it sounds horrible!
  • Pet the Dog: Miller may be a asshole, but he does comfort Noon when he gets upset over the fact he will die a virgin.
  • Please Keep Your Hat On: Humphrey's huge afro reveal, a gag later recycled for Kyle's hair in South Park.
  • The Pollyanna: Swan. Cheerful while starving and freezing and "fucked", he sings a cheerful snowman song to lighten the mood.
  • Rasputinian Death: Bell, to the point where he even pops up right before the end credits as one last scare.
  • Really Gets Around: Liane
    Packer: How does it feel to be riding my horse?
    Frenchy: Come off it, Packer! Everyone in this town's ridden your horse!
  • Real Trailer, Fake Movie: This is how it began. Trey made a fake trailer for film class and was told to make the movie by his teacher.
  • R-Rated Opening: Played for Laughs, as the ultra-violent and gory opening sequence comes immediately after a Content Warning that claimed all the violence had been edited out.
  • Running Gag: "Shpadoinkle!" We are never once given any explanation as to what this word could possibly mean, but the characters use constantly in their songs.
  • Scenery Porn: Despite the shoestring budget, the film was shot on location in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
  • Shout-Out: Ralph is a clear parody of Crazy Ralph from the first two Friday the 13th movies.
  • So Bad, It's Good: Invoked—terrible acting, sets that most middle school productions would be ashamed of, and all on purpose. It works.
  • Talent Double: Spoofed in Packer's dream sequence, where no attempt whatsoever is made to cover up the obvious ballet double.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: Parodied. Swan's infamous "Snowman" song, which he sings at the worst times. The second time, though, one of the group loses it and just shoots him halfway through it.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Humphrey's exact words when they're about to cross the river.
  • Tongue Trauma: In the Fake-Out Opening, Alferd kills one of his men by ripping his tongue out and eats it.
  • Those Two Guys: Those two trappers who form Frenchy's posse.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Invoked and Played for Laughs. The film is true to the very broad strokes of the real events, but compresses and twists them around in a deliberately absurd manner.
  • Villain Song: "The Trapper Song", a song sung by the villainous trapper Frenchy about the joys of killing and skinning helpless animals. The melody of the verses also serves as the trappers' leitmotif.
    I love the sound of metal (metal)
    Snapping on an animal's head (ka-chink!)
    Sometimes they scamper, sometimes they whimper
    But they always end up dead
  • Waxing Lyrical:
    Alferd Packer: Hey, do you guys think it's true, that she's a trapper horse?
    Frank Miller: A horse is a horse.
    James Humphrey: Of course.
    Alferd Packer: Of course.
  • What Is This Feeling?: Polly Pry sings about this in "This Side of Me", as she begins to fall in love with Packer.
  • You Know What They Say: A town member asks, "You know what they say about sunrise?" After a pregnant pause, he simply walks away. This was a Throw It In moment, since the actor had forgotten his lines and panicked.