How the hell do I sum up this film in anything less than 5000 words? I’ll have a go.
This is undoubtedly the most controversial film to appear on this list. Some may think that it’s inclusion in this Halloween countdown is a curious one but there is no denying that Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most horrifying films ever made and is still, thirty years later, a challenging, and frequently excruciating, experience from a brave director.
It would be easy to dismiss 1980′s Cannibal Holocaust as simply nothing more than standard, trashy Italian cannibal fare like Man from Deep River or Cannibal Ferox,but to do that would be to diminish the considerable achievements of Deodato’s film.
Be warned though, this is not the most accessible of movies. Not everyone will like it. Some will even hate it. Few will enjoy it. It’s an unapologetically nasty but excellent piece of cinema.
Cannibal Holocaust follows New York anthropologist Harold Monroe, who travels to the South American rainforest in an effort to discover the fate of a film crew that have gone missing several months earlier, while making a documentary on lost, indigenous cannibal tribes.
Monroe happens across the remains of the crew, alongside the film that they shot prior to their disappearance. He returns to the US and screens the film, in which the four person crew are seen staging events in their documentary in an attempt to create the most shocking documentary possible. The film-makers torture and abuse the natives until the cannibal tribe get their own back.
Ruggero Deodato is a very talented film-maker. With Cannibal Holocaust, he expands on what he did with Last Cannibal World and turns the nightmare up to eleven. He intertwines very real violence towards animals and real execution footage, with fake staged violence. Having the audience watch these real executions and real-life animal slaughter are powerful tools in convincing the brain that everything you are watching is real. It’s a stunningly savage method and it works. The cinéma vérité style footage adds greater depth of realism and drags you deeper into the horror.
In it’s native Italy, the film was believed by many to be a snuff film and Deodato was called upon to prove that all of his actors, including the woman impaled on a wooden spike, were still alive. When all parties were satisfied, Deodato was called to task yet again, this time over the animal slayings and the film was banned on grounds of cruelty. This ban spread to many other countries…including the UK.
Ah yes. My lovely native UK. The country that recently banned Human Centipede 2: (Full Sequence) and The Bunny Game.
In the 1980′s, several public groups and politicians lobbied for a ban on many videotapes, citing them as obscene and likely to do real harm to whomever watched them. Some of the banned titles included Faces of Death, Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters, Joseph Ellison’s Don’t Go In The House, Abel Ferrara’s The Driller Killer… and Cannibal Holocaust, which was held up as one of the most reviled tapes of the whole “Video Nasties” fiasco, one of the most shameful periods in British film history, despite the fact that many of the 72 films on the list were banned based on nothing more than the box art or the inclusion of the word “cannibal” in the title, among other ludicrous, loose reasons. Many films hadn’t even been watched by the people railing against them.
The tape was banned and anyone found in possession of a copy of Cannibal Holocaust, or supplying it, could be fined or face imprisonment. The ban was subsequently lifted, with all animal cruelty and sexualised violence removed but this year, an uncut version was delivered to the BBFC and all previous cuts, bar one scene involving the slaughter of a coatimundi, were overturned.
The actors involved are all excellent, given all that they had to do during the filming this movie. One of the film’s strongest areas comes courtesy of Riz Ortolani’s incredible soundtrack, with the main theme being a gentle melody that is jarringly beautiful when heard following the hugely violent events that precede it.
So Cannibal Holocaust. Viewed by many as a serious and viciously effective social commentary and as one of the finest horror movies ever made. On the flip side, it is equally seen as an abhorrent, brutal film with few redeeming features. It’s hard for me to recommend this film. It’s not an easy watch by any means. I don’t want anyone to watch this film and then lambast me for it’s inclusion on this list, if it messes you up or disgusts you.
If you are open-minded and mature enough to view Cannibal Holocaust as the remarkable, genre defining film that I, among many others, believe it to be, although you still probably won’t necessarily enjoy it, you will absolutely NEVER forget it. This is a rare film. It has been copied and imitated countless times but never as well as it was done by Deodato. It will NEVER be bettered. Cannibal Holocaust blew me away when I first watched it and continues to do so now, anytime I take the bold step to view it again.
Tread carefully, readers.