The Territory (1981)

(No trailer for this one, I could not find a link, sorry!)


A small group of well-to-do vacationers go on a hiking trip into the woods. Foolishly unprepared to deal with Mother Nature and their situation, they wander around lost for days and weeks, becoming more and more fatigued, hungry, and desperate. A brief encounter with a pair of epicureans on a bridge fails to garner them any of the gluttons’ feast due to a language barrier. Eventually their party begins to die, and the survivors ration their meat among them, attaching a religious-type ritual to its dispensation.



Raul Ruiz‘s 1981 film, The Territory, takes a theme that has haunted modern literature from The Heart of Darkness to Lord of the Flies – the savagery bubbling beneath the veneer of civilization – and gives it a bizarre comic twist.

In this variation, two American families on vacation in Europe metamorphose from sophisticated picture-perfect tourists into cannibals without much fuss during a camping trip in the South of France.

The Territory is an odd little art film that has the feel of a European version of an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Mr. Ruiz, the prolific Chilean film maker who directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Gilbert Adair, has lived and worked predominantly in Europe since 1973.

His film, though set in France, was actually filmed in Portugal. And among the themes it addresses are exile and the notion of crossing boundaries: of language, nation and morality.

In embracing cannibalism, it is suggested, the characters are succumbing to the power of ancient primitive spirits inhabiting the region.

The film’s protagonists are an attractive-looking but rather cold bunch of tourists who set out on an ordinary camping trip with a grumpy professional guide.

Abandoned by him after a spat, they find themselves hopelessly lost in the lush European countryside dotted with medieval castles.

While wandering in circles, they discover their guide’s body. Ravenous and out of food, they slice and barbecue his corpse in a ceremony that is rationalized as a kind of holy communion.

The one member of the party who cannot bring herself to eat human flesh becomes the party’s next source of food.

One running joke in the film is that during their ordeal the campers are never more than a few miles from civilization.

Even when they meet people who could help them find their way back, they become so impatient with the language barrier that they cease trying to communicate.

There is something grotesquely funny in the scenes of the smug, smartly dressed hikers with their fancy cameras solemnly cultivating their new eating habits.

The two children prove to be the quickest to adapt.

In one of the film’s nastier scenes, they fight over a severed hand that once belonged to one of their mothers.

The Territory, which is decently acted by a cast that includes Paul Getty Jr. as the creepy guide, makes the most of its tiny budget to achieve some mildly disorienting surreal effects.


6 out of 10 – See this film for it’s awesome atmosphere and decent acting!


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