Eyes Wide Open Films // 2012 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // April 14th, 2013
My heart is freezing.
On July 30, 2008, while on a bus travelling west out of Edmonton, a man name Vincent Li attacked the young man sleeping in the seat next to him, stabbing him multiple times before beheading him. When the police arrived, they saw him inside eating pieces of the man and, when they finally got inside the bus and witnessed the grisly scene, Li was a seething monster of a man, carrying parts of the man in his pockets, blathering about evil spirits, and begging for them to kill him.
A few days earlier, a reporter from an Edmonton paper wrote a piece on a massacre from the late 19th Century and was horrified to discover the precise similarities in the details of the two cases. From this, director Christian Tizya begins an exploration of the Native American legend of Wendigo and the associated condition known as Wendigo Psychosis that seemed to afflict the killers in both cases.
When Cannibal Possession: Heart of Ice arrived at my door, I couldn't help but think that it was some kind of fake documentary. But with a few seconds of research, it became perfectly clear that this was no joke. Not only are these two cases based in historical fact, there are many more just like it. Each involves aural hallucinations, the feeling of one's heart feeling frozen, and finally, a sudden urge to cannibalize whomever is around.
The symptoms in all of these cases are strikingly similar to the descriptions of those possessed in the Wendigo mythology. Cannibal Possession isn't a dubious exercise in cryptozoology, however. Thankfully, Tizya sticks with the facts and does very little speculating about the supernatural. In the interviews with the reporter, a psychologist and, oddly, the host of TV's Deadliest Warrior, Geoff Desmoulin, we learn about the Wendigo Psychosis, a psychological phenomenon that, while not officially recognized as such in the journals, has been anecdotally reported for two centuries. Mostly confined to Native American populations and, historically, tribal shamans in particular. In these old cases, the violence was directly attributed to Wendigo possession, but today it is looked at as more of a social psychosis on the same level as anorexia.
Cannibal Possession: Heart of Ice isn't quite an amateurish production, but it's a very cheap, bare bones one. There is little going on beyond still photographs and talking head interviews, though there is one point where the director travels with the reporter to the site of the massacre he wrote about that adds a bit of suspense to the film. There isn't much else to the film; the grisly strangeness of the subject is where all the interest lies.
Cannibal Possession: Heart of Ice arrives on DVD from Eyes Wide Open in an edition that fits the film. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looks pretty rough, with uneven colors and a ton of digital noise. It's watchable, but only barely. The stereo sound mix is a little better, though. There is little distracting background noise and perfectly audible dialog, which is the important thing for a piece like this. The only extra is the film's trailer.
It doesn't matter whether you think the evil spirit of Wendigo is really possessing people, or if you are just looking for a straight ahead discussion of a bizarre psychological phenomenon that results in intensely brutal violence, there is enough interest here to sustain the film. It's nothing great, but Cannibal Possession: Heart of Ice is a decent piece that I can recommend to people interested in this kind of strange study.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eyes Wide Open Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated