Stranger Things has taken a nostalgia-hungry pop culture world by storm, but before blending Stephen King with Steven Spielberg, the Duffer Brothers married 1980s slasher horror with 1970s prison exploitation. The writhing baby that resulted was Eater.
The short film focuses on a rookie cop clocking in for the night shift while a serial-killing cannibal lies locked away in his cell. At least he might still be in his cell. There’s a body in there, and it isn’t moving, but all the other officers on duty don’t seem to mind. Is the cannibal pulling an escape attempt from the Hannibal Lecter Handbook? Is this an elaborate bout of hazing? Or is something even more twisted going on?
Eater — which was adapted from the Peter Crowther short story and later drawn out as a 40-minute Fear Itself episode featuring Elisabeth Moss — belongs squarely in the Duffer Brothers’ universe of throwback-style rendered with high-res gear. It also lives and breathes because of dramatic irony (set up in background shots of blood that our hero can’t see), a skin-crawling sense that everything and everyone are just slightly off, and tight shots that ramp up the claustrophobia of being trapped despite being outside the cell.
It’s also basted and flavored with obsessive nods to the gruesome nature of the murders: a plump cop eating a greasy meat sandwich, the team’s professional fascination with the crime scene photos, a young wife talking about the fetus moving around inside her, and, ultimately, the overriding lesson of what it really means to be consumed.
Eater is freaky, but on a simpler level it’s also just a really cool game of cat and also-cat set in a cabin in the woods that happens to be a police precinct in the heart of the city.
Let us know what you think of this gruesome masterpiece in the comments below!
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Featured Image: Duffer Brothers/Dodge College Vimeo