Depictions of the eating of meat in horror films and games have been a major fascination for me for years. As a vegetarian, I may have a different gut reaction to this than most people, but that doesn’t mean that the trope of disturbing carnivorism lacks mainstream “appeal”. The horror genre is alive with stories of slaughter and cannibalism. Think of the Hannibal series, which confuses our sensibilities by conflating the horrors of cannibalism and the luxurious aesthetics of haute cuisine. Think of Little Nightmares, where grotesque meat preparation is both a major theme and part of a few revolting puzzles.
It’s unsurprising that cannibalism is generally frowned upon. What is far more interesting is the ambivalence people seem to have towards meat in general, even if cannibalism is taken out of the equation. Most people eat meat, yet horror films often present the production of meat as savagery, and the eating of it as revolting. Horror hints at a fundamental truth: whether human or animal, we’re all meat. Animal cadavers, often butchered pigs, are a popular prop that illustrates this. Yet most horror media points to this only to shy away from it, lest it add something meaningful or provocative to the discourse. The tenor here is usually “isn’t it terrifying when humans are treated like animals?”, but it stops short of diving deeper into the irony that people’s greatest fear is to be treated the same way people treat animals.
I recently picked up Resident Evil VII, and unsurprisingly, revolting meat and animal cadavers play a rather substantial part in it. It’s no secret that it takes its cues from one of my favourite horror films, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Its remote, dilapidated farm house, its cannibalistic hillbilly family, its chainsaws and meat hooks; they all have their unmistakable echoes in RE VII. These tropes have become icons, and RE VII wears them proudly on its sleeve. And, on the surface at least, it uses them to great effect. RE VII is thrilling, terrifying, gory, revolting, and utterly over the top.
That is to say, it is pretty much exactly what my teenage brain conjured up when I first heard about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Its reputation sug