Tagging this as "Horror" because of the opening sequence. The rest is more than tame in terms of gore.
Other titles are "Alferd Packer: The Musical" and "Alfred Packer: The Musical". Notice the very important difference. Sometimes the character is referred to as "Alferd", but I'll be calling him "Alfred" for now on; both spellings are accepted, though.
The film opens with a horrific depiction of Alfred Packer's cannibalistic behavior concerning the people he was supposed to guide to Colorado. When the sequence ends we find that this is all told by the prosecuting attorney in court, while a baffled Packer awaits his sentence. He is then convicted to death by hanging but a curious reporter, believing him to be innocent, begins an independent investigation to uncover the truth.
Through their discussion we find out what actually happened: Alfred Packer is unwillingly chosen as the leader of a party headed for Colorado in search of gold. On the way they encounter various obstacles, such as other gold diggers, strange characters and Indians. Also, Packer is devastated when his horse "leaves" him and decides to secretly go look for her by pretending to guide the group in the right direction (which he didn't know to begin with). But winter creeps up on them while still in the mountains and they soon have to resort to desperate measures to remain alive and sane.
Waidda minute I didn't do that!
Being a musical, the music is key; if it sucks, so will the movie. I expected to see and hear something mediocre-to-mildly-annoying, and I couldn't have been more surprised. The songs are so catchy that you'll sing along for days and the lyrics are clever enough to surprise you. Here, try it; the makers of this movie are offering it for free download right on their site. I know this can be annoying at times, but the songs are surprisingly good for an independent movie with a low budget.
As a comedy, Alfred Packer relies heavily on parodying cliches. For example, I loved the clever jabs at old westerns, particularly on the subject of racial diversity: in those old films, the Bad Indian Guys were actually played by Europeans or even Asians (reasons include racial discrimination and, well, plain ignorance - who's going to tell the difference, right?). Another instance of this is when Packer and his group first encounter the "Indians": they speak in Japanese and the subtitles provided explain that they're actually mocking the movie itself (therefore mocking the typical public who doesn't have a clue about what they're hearing). Even funnier is the translation by a member of Packer's party, which couldn't have been more off.
Snowman building can be fun! (and also extremely creepy (two scenes joined))
I was taken aback by the opening sequence because I didn't expect it to be so violent, but when it was over and I saw Packer's reaction to it I burst out laughing. I can see how the more squeamish wouldn't like it, so you can skip ahead if you want and don't have to fear about missing an important plot point (though it does contribute to the humor so I recommend you at least try to watch it).
As for the overall aspect and the sets, I'll admit that at times they look downright cheap, but I for one couldn't expect very high quality from a movie made as a continuation of a college project. In fact, I'd say the quality is appropriate since a "cheap" feel suits the topic and I didn't feel the need to see special effects we have these days.
Some jokes aren't that funny, such as the scene with the "Cyclops". That one was just...bizarre, and I'll detail it below. It ultimately boils down to personal preference and to each individual's sense of humor. I won't say everyone will hate it, just that the guys who made this movie are now the ones behind South Park. 'Nuff said, methinks.
The Plain WTF
At one point, Packer's party encounters the rumored "Cyclops", a one-eyed shepherd who lives deep in the mountains. Said cyclops, upon discovering that Packer's party isn't made up of "Southern boys", gets really pissed and yells at them, simultaneously squirting pus from his bad eye. This scene is kind of pointless and came out of nowhere, so it's safe to skip.
The trappers are not impressed by Packer's rants.
Sheriff Amos Wall of Saguache: Alferd Packer, any last words?
Alferd Packer: Yes.
Sheriff Amos Wall of Saguache: [sighs] Oh well, make it quick.
Alferd Packer: Probably the most important thing is that when things get really bad and the world looks its darkest, you just have to throw up your hands and say "Well, alright!" cause it's probably gonna get a whole hell of a lot worse.
Sheriff Amos Wall of Saguache: Jolly good! Now let's get on with the hanging!
[reaching the Grand Canyon]
Alferd Packer: Come on, we can just walk around it. It can't be that big.
Well this sucks.
Verdict and recommendations
If you can sit through the opening sequence, I guarantee you'll have a blast watching this, as long as you don't take it too seriously. The humor is more on the crude side - hey, these are the creators of South Park after all - but there are also clever jokes and entertaining situations. Be sure to pay attention to the references!
Pictured: the only sane character in this movie.
As far as I know (from both personal experience and Internet browsing), this movie is the perfect introduction to the world of Troma movies. It's funny, witty, and it's not afraid to try things that are usually deemed exaggerated or strange. So if you're planning to give Troma a chance, start with this one and you won't be disappointed. The others are more crude and, as far as I'm concerned, inferior in quality to Cannibal.
Overall, it's a good watch when you just want to unwind and have some lighthearted fun.
Originality + creativity: 1.5 points
Actors: 1.5 points
Soundtrack: 2 points
Special effects/Natural flow: 0.5 points
How much I enjoyed it: 2 points
My rating: (7.5 out of 10, rounded to 8)
Cannibal! The Musical (1993) on IMDb.com