Previously known by the more creative title Meat the Jones, Urban Cannibal Massacre settled on its new title presumably because people are stupid and need things spoon-fed to them in the most obvious manner possible. But I suppose the new moniker is more appropriate, given the derivative nature of the movie itself. As the name implies, it’s basically The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but “urban” — if you consider Akron, Ohio, urban.
Of course, the term “urban” is also a thinly veiled, PC way of saying “Negro,” so the cannibals in question are a black family, the Joneses. Headed by Dr. Ruben Jones (Mark Goler), they are a pillar of the community, running a soup kitchen for the homeless and employing drifters and transients. Unbeknownst to the public, though, their kitchen is a front for their real business: kidnapping white people and turning them into meat.
That’s right; white meat only. Why? Less saturated fat? Well, it isn’t stated explicitly, but it’s certainly implied to be racial in nature, with some Nation of Islam-type overtones. At one point, one member of the family tells another, after killing a black woman who had a white boyfriend, “She was never one of us because she laid with the devil.” Through most of the film, though, the reasoning isn’t so pointed, religious or sociopolitical; they’re just a crazy-ass family killing and eating people.
One of their victims is Matt (Joe Frese), a drifter who’s biking across the country but decides to stay a while in Akron because it’s so…er, well, it has so much…uh, it’s really good for…ummmm…Lebron James? Anyway, Matt’s siblings Janet (Hannah Harris), Kim (Tara Kodosky) and Michael (Lyle Shelley) show up looking for him, with Kim’s black boyfriend Ed (Kyle Carthens) and Michael’s black girlfriend Jen (Mia Jones) in tow. Even though they have only two places to check — a shelter and a soup kitchen — they decide to split into two groups to accomplish what should take them less than an hour to do together. They even go so far as to rent a whole other car to do so, because, you know, this is a horror movie; people HAVE to split up!
People also have to have sex (in a bathroom) and smoke weed, which is what the two interracial couples stop to do, seemingly forgetting that Matt has gone missing so they can get some of that sticky icky and licky licky. Pretty much every protagonist here is a flat, dull horror cliché waiting to die — except perhaps Kim, who, judging by the number of times she’s referred to as a “bitch,” is supposed to be annoying, but she at least has a pulse.
The Joneses, again taking a page from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, are portrayed in a darkly humorous light — particularly “black sheep” daughter Kendal (Kimberly Deonna), a horny vegetarian who finds her family’s eating habits disgusting and who tends to fall in love with the “cattle,” like Elmyra from Tiny Toons. Any humor derived, though, it generally unintended (punches that miss by two feet, sound effects that continue playing after the action has stopped) and falls more in the “I have to laugh or my brain will bleed” variety. In case you couldn’t tell, this is not a good movie.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about UCM is that it doesn’t shy away from the gore. There are plenty of scenes of body parts being severed and carved up, if that’s your thing. It’s super-cheap and at 100 minutes long, the pacing lags during the first…oh, 80 minutes or so. That said, I’ve seen plenty worse Z-grade fare; the ending credits, which play over a music video for a cannibal-themed hip-hop song, are actually kind of clever. And adding a racial element to a standard cannibal setup is an interesting idea — a reversal of the horror cliché of black people dying at the hands of a white killer — although it doesn’t do nearly enough with that angle.
Eventually, it turns out that the Joneses are part of a cannibal network, and some of the cannibals to whom they provide meat are themselves white, leaving me to wonder if it’s the white cannibals who want only white meat. Maybe the Joneses aren’t being racist by targeting whites? Maybe they’re catering to racist whites who don’t want dark meat? I’m probably over-thinking this, because Urban Cannibal Massacre certainly isn’t smart or socially conscious enough to dig that deep.