The image of a man making sweet love to a pie is not one easily forgotten. It’s the sort of thing that floats up out of your subconscious from time to time, most cruelly when an actual pie is on the menu. “Mmm”, your stomach thinks, “delicious pie…”, but then a momentary inward flash of Jason Biggs’ thrusting buttocks appears and before you know it, you’ve lost your appetite.
Masturbatory pies are by no means the worst of it, thanks to the debauched and deranged imaginations of moviemakers the world over, there’s nary a food group unsullied by association. A nice piece of cake? Think again. Pizza? I really wouldn’t. You’d think you’d be okay with spaghetti, but no, and as for Chinese takeaway…
Join us then, as we tick off the everyday foodstuffs the movies have put us off for life, but be warned, it’s not going to be pretty.
Let’s start off simple, with a nice plate of spaghetti. Three movie scenes stand out as making spaghetti appear less-than-wholesome, one horribly so, one just a bit grim, and the other only likely to make real food wimps feel a bit queasy.
First off, the “a bit queasy” entry, we have Will Ferrell’s chocolate syrup, maple syrup, pop tarts, M&Ms and sprinkles-topped spaghetti in 2003’s Elf. No, it won’t kill you, but neither will it make you stronger. Next comes the scene in Harmony Korine’s 1997 indie Gummo, about the odd residents of a post-tornado strike Ohio town, in which a mother engages in the time-old act of feeding her young son his dinner. The meal in question – a plate of spaghetti – isn’t the problem, it’s the locale, as her son is sat in a bathtub full of the murkiest, greasiest, and yes, brownest water you’ll have seen this side of a stagnant pond in an abandoned industrial park. Appetising? Hardly.
The worst spaghetti movie scene though, goes hands-down to David Fincher’s 1995 thriller Se7en. If school dinners didn’t already do the trick, Se7en is more or less guaranteed to put you off tinned spaghetti for life. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman investigate an unusual murder, in which the seven sins-themed serial killer they’re tracking has force-fed his huge victim so much canned spaghetti he’s essentially drowned in the stuff from the inside. Gluttony: nil, serial killer: one.
Another meal of Italian-origin that’s been steadily soiled by its treatment in the movies, ladies and gentlemen: the humble pizza.
The villain’s complexion alone in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise might be enough to put some off their pizzas, but anyone fond of a meat feast might change their order after seeing Freddy taunt Alice with his special range of boyfriend soul-meatball served up in his restaurant. The appearance of a cockroach-covered pie in MTV comedy Joe’s Apartment had a similarly toe-curling effect, though neither is as bad as the maggoty anchovy pizza being tucked into by John Leguizamo’s Violator in 1997 comic adaptation Spawn.
Speaking of things out-of-this-world, the pulsating, growling, peperoni and cheese-dripping face of Spaceballs’ Pizza the Hutt is so off-putting that Jamie Oliver should team up with him on his mission to scare school kids into eating salads. Not someone you’d want to owe a million space bucks to, and not films you’d want to order a pizza after seeing either.
Growing up in a seaside UK town in the eighties, a Chinese takeaway round our way meant dishing out 40p at the chippy for a spring roll of questionable authenticity served in a paper bag. It’s no wonder then, that the white cartons full of exotic steaming noodles eaten by US movie and TV characters (using chopsticks, not two-pronged wooden mini-forks) looked like the manna of heaven to our eyes. That is, until we saw The Lost Boys, and It.
Kiefer Sutherland’s vamp in Joel Schumacher’s 1987 The Lost Boys presents newcomer Michael (Jason Patric) with the Chinese takeaway from hell (think: maggots), as part of his initiation into the lair, but it’s the Chinese restaurant scene from 1990 television movie It, adapted from the Stephen King novel, that leaves a particularly bad taste in your mouth. The gang of seven childhood friends enjoy a Chinese meal topped off with fortune cookies containing not fortunes but blood, a beetle, an eyeball, and, most horribly of all, a bird foetus. Still fancy that Kung Po chicken?
Unsurprisingly enough, body horror auteur David Cronenberg makes more than one appearance in this list, and his first is for the Chinese restaurant scene in 1990’s eXistenZ. Inside a virtual reality world, Jude Law’s Ted Pikul orders a mutant amphibian platter and tucks in, following a “game urge”, though the meal disgusts him. What he eats wouldn’t be out of place in a Bush Tucker Trial, though luckily for Ted, it does lead to becoming the proud owener of a very disgusting flesh, bone and teeth gun. Is it more off-putting, though, than the rejuvenating dumplings with the special ingredient served up in cross-cultural Asian horror trilogy Three…Extremes? That’ll be a no.
There are plenty of reasons to be squeamish about seafood before we even come to the film scenes that’ll make you say sayonara to squid, shrimp, sushi and the like. Eyeballs are a popular cause of discomfort, as are claws, tentacles, and that little dark vein that should really be removed from prawns before you start chewing. But as if all that wasn’t enough, filmmakers have seen fit to involve raw fish and seafood in some of cinema’s most horribly memorable scenes.
Towards the bottom of the pile, seeing as he’s devolved into a somewhat sad monstrous creature by this point in The Lord of the Rings, comes Gollum’s lip-smacking devouring of his “juicy sweet” fish in The Two Towers. Raw and wriggling, it’s enough to put anyone off their fish supper. Tom Hanks in Castaway also chomped on some raw fish, as did Kirstie Alley in 1988 action thriller Shoot to Kill, but neither were quite as stomach churning as these next two entries. First up is Danny DeVito as The Penguin in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, who snacks on slimy sardines with black bile running down his chin, but the winner has to be Min-sik Choi in 2003 Korean cult flick Oldboy, noshing on a baby octopus that’s not just raw, it’s alive and flailing around…
A renowned scene in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby shows lead Mia Farrow – at the time a committed vegetarian – gobbling down raw liver “take after take” to sate both the demonic hunger of the child her character carries and that of her director co-star, Polanski. Copper-y dark and straight from the fridge, it’s one of the least appetising meals in cinema, but is it worse than the fifth A Nightmare on Elm Street film, in which poor model Greta was forced not just to eat any old raw organs, but her own? As if liver needed any more bad PR…
Surely the king of all disgusting meat scenes in the movies though, much worse than any act of cannibalism or the aftermath of the Brazilian kebabs in last year’s Bridesmaids, is the steak scene from 1982’s Poltergeist. Those that have seen it will know exactly what we’re talking about, and those that haven’t, you’re not advised to look it up on YouTube unless you’re happy to never indulge in a rib-eye ever again. After getting the steak out of the fridge, the hapless late-night snacker watches as the meat slowly creeps, unaided, along the worktop, before exploding into buboes and bubbling with tumours. It’s so disgusting he’s forced to drop the chicken leg he’s been absent-mindedly gnawing on, only to watch it crawl with maggots the moment it hits the floor. Vegetarianism? Sign us up.
While not in pie-form, 1973’s Soylent Green helped to popularise the horror notion of er, unexpected ingredients turning up in movie foods, and now the meat pie continues that legacy. 1992 comedy horror Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies was a light-hearted spin on cannibalism in pie form, a theme that recurred Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street adaptation in 2007 and countless others. Now, this could be an unpopular thing to admit, but we can’t be alone in thinking that Mrs Lovett’s man-filled pies looked a sight tastier than the cat ones?
Aardman’s 2000 film Chicken Run functioned more in the way that Babe put a generation of kids off bacon, by anthropomorphising the ingredients of a chicken pie, and turning the pie-maker into the villain. Anyone who doesn’t feel a little twinge in their conscience when tucking into a deep-filled chicken or pork pie after watching either of those movies can’t have been hugged enough as a child.
It’s not just meat pies that the movies will put you off having for dinner, as seen in our opening nod to Jason Biggs’ amorous apple pie-related activities. Sweet pies have similarly been ruined for those with sensitive stomachs by two huge movies, one from 1986, and one from 2011.
The earlier instance is a fantastic scene in Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me, as the boys listen to a campfire story from Gordie Lachance’s young imagination. The story’s about Lardass Hogan, a bullied fat kid who gets his revenge on his small town during a pie-eating contest, and if the contest itself isn’t enough to make you push away a slice of pie after watching it, then the resultant projectile vomiting scene will be.
Similarly enjoyable is the story of The Help’s Minny Jackson and “the terrible awful”, another revenge in pie-form. After wrongful dismissal and years of mistreatment at the hands of her employer’s bigoted daughter, maid Minny bakes up a rather special chocolate cream pie with her very own added ingredient. It may not put you off for life, but like Jason Biggs’ buttocks and the apple variety, it’s pretty difficult to look a chocolate pie these days and not think of Minny.
Speaking of chocolate, many are the films that would put sensitive types off the brown stuff, for as long as the movie lasted at any rate. First up for me as a child was Nicolas Roeg’s 1990 adaptation of The Witches (a nightmare-causing kids picture if ever there was one), in which chocolate was used first as child-bait, then as a vehicle to get the dastardly Formula 86 children-into-mice potion into kids around the world. If the thought of mouse-potion contamination didn’t put you off, then 1987 comedy horror The Monster Squad contained a scene in which tough-guy Rudy forces E.J to eat the pavement-squished Snickers bar he knocked out of Horace’s hand. Doesn’t necessarily make you want to run out and buy one.
Neither does the legendary Caddyshack scene in which an unwrapped Baby Ruth bar is found floating in the club swimming pool and (cue Jaws music) mistaken for something much less tasty. Bill Murray’s character retrieves the bar from the bottom of the emptied pool, and freaks out his employer by taking an enthusiastic bite. Yum.
Cakes & Doughnuts
Meat and seafood both have intrinsic levels of grossness you don’t even need the twisted imaginations of horror directors to tease out, but you’d have thought a nice cake, doughnut or cream puff would be safe territory. What terrors could possibly lie within a sponge-y baked treat in the movies? Well, take a look at the dinner scene of Sam Raimi’s 2009 picture Drag Me to Hell, then tell me you can trust even a slice of home-made cake.
Similarly, David Cronenberg’s The Fly remake has ruined doughnuts for many, after the sight of Jeff Goldblum regurgitating his pre-digesting fluids onto said sugary snack. Cheers for that Jeff. The same goes for cream puffs, which – as anyone who’s seen National Lampoon’s Van Wilder will attest to – can be pretty off-putting if their cream filling isn’t 100% dairy product (we’ll go no further, but it’s really, truly revolting).
While we’re on the subject of added ingredients in gross-out movie food, a few (dis)honourable mentions have to go out to miscellaneous entries, the first of which is 2000 comedy, Road Trip. It’s one of those film scenes that reminds us all to be really, really nice to restaurant waiting staff, and never to send something back to the kitchen if you don’t want it to return to your table after a jaunt in a sweaty guy’s pants, which is exactly what happens to the French Toast kid in Road Trip.
Similar treatment is dished out by Jason Lee’s Brodie in Kevin Smith’s 1995 comedy Mallrats, when he offers a bag of melting chocolate-covered pretzels to his victim after giving him the stink-palm (it’s when you…ugh, perhaps just use your imagination?). Nasty stuff.
Not quite as nasty perhaps as the added ingredients in the high-end restaurant’s lobster bisque in Fight Club, or the clam chowder for that matter. A more recent stomach-churner comes from Lena Dunham’s 2010 film Tiny Furniture, in which a most unsavoury omelette ingredient is discussed. We’re off omelettes for life thanks to that one.
There are others of course: try watching Eraserhead then tucking into a roast chicken for your Sunday lunch, or digging into some mashed potatoes after John Belushi’s “I’m a zit” gag in Animal House. Everyone will have their own stories of movie foods that turned their stomachs and put a formerly-loved foodstuff onto the “don’t touch” list. For me, it has to be custard. Since Peter Jackson’s 1990 comedy horror Braindead, a bowl of custard’s never quite looked the same…
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