Food has always played a vital role in Life's rituals. The breaking of the bread, the last meal of the condemned man, and this meal. However informal it might appear, you can be sure that there was to be little, bonhommie. -The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Larry Cohen has always been a strange bird when it came to his directing choices, and The Stuff was no different. As an ice cream aficionado, The Stuff has always been a difficult story to swallow. Differing from Soylent Green which was used for civilians to survive, "the stuff" was a luxury food item, a new product without calories that was as sweet and creamy as ice cream. I'm sorry, but if someone promised me an item like that, I'd be all over it. In a world where we're constantly being shelled out new food fads one after the other, films like The Stuff completely tap into the fear that what we're eating...very well may be eating us. See also: Killer Tomatoes From Outer Space.
In many instances, the food itself isn't what scares us, it's the idea of being eaten. Dating all the way back to Nosferatu and Count Dracula, vampires were really the first to experience eating people in a sense with their blood lust. The vampire bite is arguably one of the most recognizable wounds in horror history and although they may not be "eating" us, they are drinking us, which is equally as horrifying. Hannibal Lecter may not have been the first cannibal, but he easily became the staple of man eating anti-heroes. Cannibalism is pretty self explanatory when it comes to why it's scary, so I'm not going to waste any more time insulting your intelligence trying to explain why you'd be freaked out if someone on bath salts came bum rushing after you in the nude. On that same coin, I'm not going to go on and on about why zombies are important because they feed on human flesh. If you're ill informed about the fear factor of zombies and cannibals...you're on the wrong blog, kid.
a cookbook centered around all of the meals in his films. My personal favorite (and I'm sure one of yours) is when Janet Leigh barely touches her toast as Norman expresses his relationship with his mother and his thoughts about the meaning of life in his room of taxidermy. For two solid minutes she holds a piece of toast and never moves it lower than it's initial placement other than to her lips. The tension the audience develops between her uneasiness with her final meal while listening to the banter of Norman Bates.
The scratching of plates, the sounds of swallowing, and the echos of bodies digesting food is a critical tool used to set the tone and mood of the situation. The silent dinner is a commonly used scenario, but it's when a happy and joyous dining experience is interrupted that catches the audience off guard and helps generate a more powerful scare. Look no further than the infamous "chestburster" scene from Alien. The gang seems to be laughing along before the choking sounds and bodily convulsions interrupt the happiness only to have dessert be a giant try of sprinting alien baby. One of the more unsettling scenes in Poltergeist is when diner is being prepared like any other day and the slab of meat begins to move on its own. If those aren't ways to destroy an appetite, I don't know what is.
The lack of food, or starvation is another fear many of us will hopefully never have to endure, but something that is very, very real. While horror movies aren't going to start focusing on our poverty crisis anytime soon, they have found many ways to give us the heebie jeebies at the thought of losing one of our most basic needs. In the film Dread, a vegetarian character is locked in a room with raw meat simply to see how long it will take her before she finally cracks and eats it. Watching the poor girl hide in the corners from the meat until her carnal instincts to feed take over was one of the more gut wrenching scenes and it was a very realistic portrayal of the human's response to hunger.
Of course I'm going to be missing plenty more examples and this is in no way a definitive analysis. Please feel free to discuss more examples and situations in the comment section and don't miss out on the conversations that occur over on the Day of the Woman facebook page.