THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT caused scares and controversy for its mix of supposedly ‘real’ found footage, and its pervasive presence on the internet, strengthening the idea that it was footage of a real thing that actually happened. This was a revelation in filmmak—Wait. What? Huh, my editor is telling me I’m wrong. Apparently THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT wasn’t the first to try this out, it was a little film called CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which I own on blu-ray. There wasn’t an internet at the time, so THE BlAIR WITCH PROJECT was the first with the availability to run such an excellent marketing strategy. But as far as found footage films claiming to be real, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST started that. So let’s talk about it.
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST likes to call itself ‘the most controversial movie of all time’, and although I don’t necessarily agree with that tagline, I can certainly see why it makes that claim to fame. With its set-up with the illusion of actual ‘real’ footage, the events that take place are not only shocking and unforgettable, they’re also damn near unforgivable. I’ve watched this film in its uncut, uncensored, ‘glory’ a few times, and it doesn’t get any easier with multiple viewings. And just so you know, I’m not a hardcore fan of this movie, or even a huge fan of this movie. I only own it because it is a part of film history, horror film history.
So what was so controversial? Barbaric animal cruelty, scenes of rape, extreme torture, and haunting visuals sure do the trick. The film is set up half and half. Half of the film is the ‘real’ footage done in the ‘green inferno’ of the Amazon, the other half is cinematic footage of an anthropologist not only getting the footage back from the ‘green inferno’ but trying to block its showing by a distribution company. It is interesting to see how both sides of this films coin show the same ‘type’ of scenes (the barbarism, torture, and such spoken about earlier in this paragraph), and yet they both give the same uneasy, queasy, feeling in the pit of your stomach. If you can sit back and watch this movie unaffected, you must be a sociopath.
Watching this movie again (first time in maybe a decade) for this review reminded me why I’ve only watched it twice before, it’s really hard to get through without wanting to take out the disc, burn it, and pray for forgiveness. But I soldiered on, wanting to make this review as clearly as I could. But even that didn’t help a lot. There’s just some stuff I really would rather not talk about, other than a quick-fire series of blurbs. Here goes.
There’s cannibalism, painting primitive tribes as evil savages, muskrat torture and murder, tortoise torture and murder, tiny boar torture and murder, rape, rape with multiple foreign objects, more cannibalism, dismemberment, scary huge ass spiders, gang rape, impalement, a really bad circumcision (the famous de-dicking scene towards the end), female full frontal nudity, male full frontal nudity, even more cannibalism, aggressive sex that is just a step shy of rape, poison blow darts, firing squad executions, primitives being shot by guns (both regular and flare), setting fire to a village hut with primitives inside, documentarians acting like vicious dickholes, a lot of blunt force murder, decapitations, and I’m still leaving some of it out. This is what I would call irresponsible filmmaking, and so does the anthropologist in this film.
The good news is, the fate of the documentary crew isn’t as bad as it could have been. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nightmarish and awful, but they all really deserved it through their asshat antics throughout the ‘real’ footage. I’m watching them manipulate sequences for better footage, and other acts of dickery that makes me not feel all that bad when they get their comeuppance at the end of the last reel. It can be argued that the girl didn’t deserve it, but I would argue that as she is (except for the gang rape) standing by silently as these horrific events occur, she’s just as complicit.
Even better news, if animal torture isn’t your thing (hopefully it isn’t your thing) you can choose a separate version of the film, the animal cruelty free version, to watch. I know it’s available on the blu-ray that I own, and I’m pretty sure it was available on the regular DVD releases as well. So at least that’s one thing. Unfortunately for me, I watched the full version because I needed all the facts before I reviewed it. Trust me, if I ever watch this again, it’ll be the animal cruelty free edition as I’ve ‘been there, done that’ already.
The one good thing in this movie is the opening, where a reporter is talking about the ‘green inferno’ and cannibals and how it’s ‘eat or be eaten’, and how vicious and savage the ‘green inferno’ is. The reason this is awesome is this audio plays behind images of New York City. The parallel is not lost on me, and hopefully not on you, either.
Also, Eli Roth has a project called THE GREEN INFERNO that is in the same tone as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Supposed to have been released last September, but it got pushed back. Well here we are in May and I've heard nothing new. Anybody got any info on a release date for THE GREEN INFERNO?
When it comes down to it, should you watch this movie? I have a gut of iron and so film images inducing nausea or worse doesn’t happen to me. I can certainly see this film making someone vomit if they’re prone to do that sort of thing. This is a great piece of film history, a look into a bygone era of hardcore films that will hopefully never happen again. If you’re a student of film, watch with caution. If you’re just looking, look elsewhere.