The infamous 'Cannibal Holocaust' is a 1980 found footage horror film directed by Ruggero Deodato. Chances are you've heard of this film, nearly anyone who enjoys film knows about this film. Banned in several countries for its grisly depictions of rape and violence has thrust this film into infamy. The film was banned in Australia ever since release and it wasn't until 2005 that the film was released in a cut R18+ version. In 2006 however, the uncut version was allowed a release. Siren Visual then released a special edition of Cannibal Holocaust on Blu-ray, full uncut.
I put the disc in and was ready for what the cover described to be a 'shot-gun blast to the senses.' And it was exactly what it described it to be. Robert Kerman portrays Professor Harold Monroe who travels to the Amazonian rainforest to track down a group of documentary filmmakers creating a movie about the indigenous tribes. They later recover the film canisters and view the footage they collected. What follows is a film depicting real tribes that Deodato went out and directed for his movie and scenes of rape, animal cruelty and grotesque violence.
Eli Roth says in the notes book that 'Cannibal Holocaust is a lost form of cinema. People don't make films this dangerous anymore...' And Cannibal Holocaust is extremely dangerous. Everything in this movie screams grind house material. Everything from the grainy shots of the camera to the real insects this film truly encapsulates the feel of the Amazon, you feel like you're there because everything is done practical. There is no effect here. This is what truly hit me with Deodato's direction. Even getting the main actors to hide for a year after the film was released made people think he actually murdered them on set and filmed it made Deodato a criminal. He was trialed but let go when he proved everything he did was just an effect. (Impalement scene in particular.) The Siren Visual release contains two cuts of the film on it. The 'Original Theatrical Version.' This is the version I chose to watch. And the 'Animal Cruelty Free Version.' I heard there were scenes of real animal deaths and I went ahead and watched it anyway to see what I was in for. But several times during the viewing I sat there and said out loud, 'Jesus Christ.' I didn't expect how visceral and gruesome these scenes were and while this may absolutely turn some people off, it's worthy to point out that the cast and crew were actually living in the Amazon at the time for the shooting and they ate everything they killed to survive themselves. This further pushes the merit of the film. I must point out that the 'Turtle Scene' was for me the most difficult to sit through. It's extremely gruesome and very in your face.
As time went on and people began to view the film analytically rather than just shock value, it poses the comparison between Western Civilized society and indigenous tribal society who are uncivilized. This is shown with the actions of the documentary makers who act forceful and very disgustingly towards the natives and their fates are justified. Rape and acts of violence fuel their need to conquer anything they see because they have the guns and the cameras. We also see how sexual activities and virginity are treated in tribal cultures during very intense scenes involving the female genitals which will make you wince and cringe. And I find Deodato is at his strongest when he shows the stark differences in these cultures. It's what makes Cannibal Holocaust just that little bit more special and gives it another level of film-making merit.
While Kerman holds the first half of the film together, when he's taken out the main actors who are the documentary group are pretty awful at acting. Slow delivery of lines, annoying dialogue and just stupid attitudes make them extremely unlikable and just not believable in the slightest. Especially Gabriel Yorke's character Alan Yates. His stiff acting everytime he was on camera made me beg for him to leave the shot. Francesca Ciardi's character of Faye Daniels is also extremely unbelievable as the voice of reason for the group as she tries to stop the cruel acts they commit upon the tribes. Then goes and has sex with one of the men straight after it. Yeah okay.
Despite this, Cannibal Holocaust is deemed 'THE MOTHER OF ALL CANNIBAL MOVIES.' And rightfully so. This is the film that went all the way to shock your senses with a disgusting look into human mentality towards those they deem below themselves. And after 35 years, its an astounding feat that it can still shock and disgust modern audiences.
. Filming on location captures the realism and the feel of the film.
. The practical effects make the film look good to this day.
. Every time the tribes are on camera.
. Theme of Western Civilization opposed to uncivilized culture.
. The score composed by Ritz Ortolani is great.
. All the acting by the four documentary makers.
. The script is a little haphazard at times with awkward lines.
. Animal murder will turn some people off.