So in honor of the success of my quiz at CUPS Coffee and Tea in Roanoke Virginia (Shameless plug status achieved), let’s talk about a film that was the answer to one of the questions on my quiz… Which also happens to be one of the most violent, gory, disturbing, and controversial films ever made.
Directed by Italian Film Director and screen writer Ruggero Deodato, Cannibal Holocaust is easily the most popular film within the Amazon Cannibal genre… Which I am sad to inform you that that is actually a thing. While the film has all the tropes of a film from this genre, what really sets this film apart from the others is the legacy that it holds. You see, unlike the other movies from the Italian Cannibal Movie Genre of the early 1980’s, neither Eaten Alive or Cannibal Ferox have the distinct honor of having their director prove in front of a Grand Jury that he did not kill his actors in the making of the film. The film has been boasted as one of if not the most violent film ever made and has been banned in countries the world over, the peaking number being 50. Not to mention being one of the 38 films labeled a ‘video nasty’ in the United Kingdom.
While I can understand the outcry, especially with the animal cruelty, I really don’t see how people could get too angry with the film. It isn’t like it is being deceptive. Whenever you hear the title Cannibal Holocaust, it leaves very little to the imagination. There is no way you are going to go into this thing with any delusions that you are about to watch a movie that is anything but graphic, bloody, and disturbing. All things considered though… The film isn’t that bad. I’d even goes as far as to call it one of the best horror films that I have ever seen. Sure there is plenty of controversy surrounding it, but give me a controversial film any day over a boring one.
The film is told in a rather strange fashion as it jumps from newscasts of a missing film crew in the Amazon, to the rescue party lead by Debbie Does Dallas star himself, Robert Kerman… Or by the name he was given in the film Dr. Harold Monroe, and then finally it cuts to Dr. Monroe fighting with the producers of the now deceased film crew and the debate on whether or not to air the found footage (Which of course we see).
Very Well Acted
The actors in this movie do a damn good job. Not only does the actors playing the film crew come across as real people, complete assholes but real people. But the acting from the people playing their family members, the bit parts, and the rescue party are all done very very well.
I do find it a shame that Robert Kerman was not in more movies other than his exploits in porn as well as this and surprisingly Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. He did do more with his career besides this, but really the man does a good job. He portrays a professor who is on the hunt for this missing film crew, he isn’t in any way a badass or an ‘Indiana Jones’ type. In fact the two guides he has with them do most of the work while Monroe observes and occasionally participates with the tribe.
Compared to the piss poor acting in the horror movie genre today, I have to say that modern horror and exploitation film makers should take advice from movies such as Cannibal Holocaust on how to properly cast your movie.
The Film Builds Good Suspense and Mystery to a Satisfying Pay Out (Spoilers)
I am a man who always loves a good mystery and I will say this, this film does a phenomenal job on building suspense and intrigue as the story progresses. When I watched the opening and the subsequent first act where Monroe and his crew are hunting for the missing film crew, I knew something bad had happened to them, but I could not look away from the screen. I wanted to know what happened to them, how it happened to them, and why it happened to them. Even when they return with the film footage, the audience and the characters in the movie know that absolutely nothing good can come from watching that found footage… But they do anyways and the climax is very satisfying.
You see this film crew be terrible people and you see them get what is coming to them. it is graphic, it is bloody, and it sure as shit is disturbing… But you just can’t look away. The whole film builds and builds to the moment where you see the end of that film reel and it does not disappoint in the slightest.
The Music is Surprisingly Relaxing Which Compliments the Film
I love the music that plays in the opening and later when the film crew is burning down the tribal camp. It just adds a great contrast to what you are watching and gives an even more disturbing feel to the film than if they went with a more ominous and malevolent score.
That damn easy-going score will haunt your dreams for weeks after you watch this movie.
The Portrayal of Amazonians
I suppose this can be attributed to the whole Amazon Cannibal genre, but the portrayal of Amazonian Tribes can be down right offensive. Granted this film actually is… less offensive than others. But there are several moments where the film crew and the rescue crew come across… rituals and I use that word loosely that are really just there for shock and gore material. Some of the scenes do build a modicum of suspense but ultimately a lot of it is superfluous to the plot and just gives off the impression that these people are savages and thus BAD. The one scene that comes to mind is the scene where a man is punishing a woman for being unfaithful to him. The whole scene that follows his him basically raping her with a rock before bashing her to death with said rock (Along with shots of Monroe and his team spliced in). There really is no need for that scene other than to say, ‘look at these savage cannibals’.
I suppose this is a moot point since… well I’m reviewing a movie that is in the Amazonian Cannibal genre, of course they are not going to be presenting these people as little more than base subhuman savages… But it is still very irritating.
The Animal Cruelty
This could be the definition of superfluous. Throughout this whole film there are moments of animal cruelty ALL of which has absolutely no significant to the plot, feels out-of-place, and detracts from the story at large, thus slowing the pace. There is a near 5 minute long scene in which the film crew catches, dissects, and later eats a turtle. Plus a moment where a pig is shot by one of the film crew members, and a snake, a muskrat, and a monkey are all killed and beheaded by knives or machetes.
You know what the worst part about all of this is? None of this is special effects. These are all animals that were actually killed in the making of this movie. What you are watching is really actors killing these animals.
I am not going to be one of these people who calls foul on an exploitation movie but then praise a movie like Apocalypse Now for doing the same damn thing. There is a line that should not be crossed in film making and one of those is the taking of life, any life! Whether it be animal or human, you should not kill something just for other people’s entertainment.
And for all of you who are about to say different, you want to know who agrees with me on this? Ruggero Deodato! Deodato condemned his actions and stated in a later interview that it was ‘stupid to include animals’, which is an understatement to be sure.
There are cuts of this film (mostly thanks to being a video nasty) that cut out all of the animal cruelty in the film… Which takes away absolutely nothing from the film and actually helps the pacing.
This film is actually pretty damn good, all things considered. It is well acted, it is suspenseful, and really it is a very successful horror film. The pacing is pretty damn good too if they eliminate the superfluous scenes of animal cruelty and random tribal savages being savages.
The film is graphic to be sure and if you are not a fan of horror films or have a weak stomach, then you sure as hell aren’t going to like it. But if you are a horror fan, a gore hound, or just a person who loves a good movie and a good mystery, then pick it up.
Final Score 3/5
Thank you for reading. If you liked this review please like and subscribe for more.
I am just getting into the process of moving to Ohio, so in the up and coming weeks so when that day comes around, understand that a few of my reviews might be on the short side.
Also I have just finished the script on my latest project and if all goes as plan the film will be in pre-production very soon. I will be sure to keep you updated.