Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Umberto Lenzi started it all with Deep River Savages in 1972 but nothing could prepare you for Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust. The king of all cannibal movies. When people discuss cannibal movies most people think of Cannibal Ferox (1981) directed by Umberto Lenzi but made a year or so after Deodato’s Holocaust. Cannibal Ferox comes off rather sleazy and campy even with its brutal violence which does not always come across as believable. Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust was so believable that the director and ,I believe, its producer were arrested and hauled into court after having the film seized because they were accused of actually really killing people in the film.
Before the filming commenced the actors were asked to sign a contract that prohibited them from working on another film or anything for a year and just “lay low”. That contract was broken and the actors were asked to come to court in order to prove they were not dead.
This movie is uncompromising, unflinching, brutal in its depiction of violence including quite a lot of rape, torture, forced abortion and other various nastiness. I do not think one would call the cannibal film horror like Halloween is, but it is an horrific genre and Cannibal Holocaust is an horrific film.
Cannibal Holocaust has been described as the unofficial inspiration for The Blair Witch Project.
Mainly due to the way it is structured. The first half of the film is shot like a regular movie would be. But it is after that point where things get interesting. What we have now is a movie-within-a-movie as we watch Dr. Monroe and a panel of television executives, who want to display the “found footage” to the nation, watch in horror as Alan and the three other film makers commit atrocities towards the natives, manipulating their situations so as to “document” the wild. Ultimately deciding their fate as the natives seek their revenge.
One instance that stands out is: they arrive at a village and in order to fabricate an attack on the village by a rival tribe they force the villagers into a hut and light the hut on fire and film as the people burn to death. Constantly yelling things like “survival of the fittest.”
Four young film makers set out to the Amazon to make a documentary and never return. After months go by an anthropologist , Dr. Monroe is asked to take a team into the jungle and locate them. Upon arrival it appears as though something terrible has happened to them. Discovering that they died at the hands of one of the South American tribes he locates the footage the young film makers shot and brings it back to New York. After Dr. Monroe sees to footage through to the end he tries to convince everyone not to release to footage because it is that horrible. In the end the television executives agree and order the footage destroyed.
As Dr. Monroe leaves the building he asks himself who the real cannibals are. There is also real footage of a death squad killing a group of people which is footage that is used to bridge the gap between the first and second half of the film.
I believe this film is a reaction by Ruggero Deodato to the way violence was handled in the media in Italy at the time it was made and it poses the question, in our concrete jungle who are the savages and what if the primitives depicted in this film came to our houses, ate our food and treated us with such disrespect. Would we react any differently?
This film is not for everybody and I’m not sure I can recommend it unless you are sure you are interested. I love this film but it is not fun or entertaining. Along with its fake violence towards people, yes the rumors are true, it depicts real violence towards animals which is very hard to take. Particularly the scene with the giant turtle which is quite graphic and disturbing. I will not go into detail.
This is a review of the Limited Two disk 25th Anniversary Collectors Edition released through Grindhouse Releasing. There is a new hi-definition 16×9 digital restoration of the uncut version, and a ton of special features. Including an “animal cruelty free version” of the film.