Directed By: Ruggero Deodato
Starring: Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen
Tag line: "The men you will see eaten alive, are the same who filmed these incredible sequences"
Trivia: The scene where an actor kills a monkey was shot twice, so two monkeys were killed for that scene
Presented as if it were a documentary, Cannibal Holocaust is an early entry in what is commonly referred to as the “found footage” genre, and thanks to several scenes showing real-life animal violence, it’s also one of the most notorious horror movies ever made.
Soon after the disappearance of American filmmaker Alan Yates (Carl Gabriel Yorke) and his crew, who traveled deep into the Amazon to capture footage of indigenous cannibal tribes, anthropologist Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) leads another expedition into the area to try and find them. During his journeys, Monroe learns that Yates and the others are dead, but is able to recover several canisters of film, containing all the material they shot. Upon his return to New York, Monroe views this footage and, in so doing, learns how, and why, Yates and his crew were killed.
Director Ruggero Deodato successfully brings a documentary feel to Cannibal Holocaust, which only adds to the overall shock value when the movie turns violent (shortly after its release, there were even rumors Deodato had made a snuff film). Yet what makes Cannibal Holocaust so memorable is the on-screen killing of a handful of animals, scenes all the more upsetting when you consider the violence is very real. Along with the slaying of a monkey and a pig, Cannibal Holocaust also shows, in brutal detail, the beheading and subsequent butchering of a sea turtle, a sequence so graphic it turned my stomach (and from the looks of it, actress Francesca Ciardi, who plays Yates’ girlfriend in the movie, couldn’t stomach it either; she stumbles away and vomits soon after the turtle’s head is cut off). When it came to murdering wildlife on screen, Deodato was certainly no novice; his earlier picture, Jungle Holocaust, also featured the deaths of several animals, including a crocodile. But as disturbing as Jungle Holocaust is, it pales in comparison to Cannibal Holocaust. In the slaughter department, this film is second to none.
Lost amid all the controversy, though, is Cannibal Holocaust’s very effective message regarding the lengths some artists will go to for their art. In the footage discovered by Dr. Monroe, we learn just how far Yates and his crew went in stirring up the natives, ignoring decency, and even the law, in their attempt to get the “perfect shot”. Not content with merely observing, they instead tried to “control” the story, by any and all means at their disposal. Well before the final credits roll on Cannibal Holocaust, it’s painfully clear that Yates and the others got exactly what they deserved.