Saturday, December 29, 2012

#866. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

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

Cannibal Holocaust is an early entry in what has become known as the “found footage” subgenre, and thanks to several scenes featuring real-life animal violence, it’s also one of the most controversial horror movies ever made.

Soon after the disappearance of American filmmaker Alan Yates (Carl Gabriel Yorke) and his crew, who had traveled deep into the Amazon to capture footage of indigenous cannibal tribes, anthropologist Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) leads another expedition into the area to find them.  Monroe eventually discovers that Yates and the others are dead, but is able to recover several canisters of film, containing all the material they shot. Once back in New York, Monroe views this footage and, in so doing, learns how - and why - Yates and his crew were killed.

Director Ruggero Deodato brings a documentary feel to Cannibal Holocaust, which 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 (the scenes in which Yates and his team are slaughtered seem very real).

Yet what makes Cannibal Holocaust so notorious 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 that 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, using any and all means at their disposal. Well before the final credits roll on Cannibal Holocaust, it becomes painfully clear that Yates and the others got exactly what they deserved!


Anonymous said...

I've managed to watch this film twice, which is probably one time (if not two times) more than most people. It's totally repulsive, obviously, but it's just well enough made that you can't just dismiss it as trash. What strikes me is that this film is the one that's infamous for the real animal slaughter, and yet that was a tendency within the Italian cannibal film. Never understood why this one gets singled out for it, unless it's just because it's the one most people have heard of even if they haven't actually seen it.

Amandasweird said...

Honestly, I think it's the turtle. They show the entire turtle slaughter, and I think that's what really sticks with people. Honestly, it was the most disturbing scene for me in the movie. The second was the muskrat - anyone who's had to kill their own food (and I have) knows the most effective ways to kill something. They let that poor little animal suffer terribly before they killed it properly. They shove a knife in it three times before they kill it. The movie does succeed in making its point with regards to sensationalism and unethical journalistic practices. I didn't give a damn about any of them by the end. I thought that it seemed somewhat realistic, but I was surprised to hear that people at one point thought the actors were actually murdered. I thought it seemed pretty obvious that they weren't.

Indy said...

I've seen this flick a few times. It's not an easy watch, but it is a great bit of exploitation cannibal horror (probably the best of the sub-genre). The real animal killings are indeed disturbing, although I recall reading that all of the animals that were killed during the shoot were subsequently cooked and eaten (so I guess that makes it slightly better than them being hacked up for the movie and then tossed in the river).

I got to meet the Ruggero Deodato, Carl Yorke, and Francesca Ciardi at a convention last October. All of them were very cool. To hear Carl tell it, in fact none of the animal deaths were real. They were just faked really, really well, so they could get away with actually killing the natives later on. Movie magic.

Unknown said...
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James Robert Smith said...

I've never seen it, and the descriptions of it over the years do not appeal to me in any way.