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Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

How could anyone misconstrue this for a gratuitous films!?
How could anyone misconstrue this for a gratuitous films!?

Genre: Exploitation Adventure Horror (Italy)

Starring: Robert Kerman (Cannibal feroxDebbie Does Dallas), Francesca Ciardi

Directed By: Ruggero Deodato (The House on the Edge of the ParkBody Count)

Overview: When a film crew goes missing in the Amazon, an anthropologist retraces their steps in hopes of finding them. What he finds is their film footage: their final days as they document two cannibal tribes.

When I was offered a chance to delve into dark territory, I took the risk of watching, as one gore-torture-shock Horror-loving friend named, "the most disturbing and misogynistic film I'd ever seen".

Let me give you some background on the story: in 1966, a veteran film crew headed off to Africa, specifically those countries recently made independent and often under bloody circumstances. They document British soldiers shooting criminals dead on camera, they show piles of punished severed hands, narrating the barbarism of this new order as it documents the growing pains these countries must go through. The documentarists filmed elephant after elephant dropping to poacher's rifles and native spears. They record aerial photographs of missionaries slaughtered, blips of red-stained white robes spackling the horizon, and though seeming unbiased, this veteran crew managed to toss in enough slights about the stupidity inherent in destroying the savannas, as well as commenting on the inane individuals who would drive away those who have the skills to maintain order.

Though very near to it, the above description was not in fact the storyline of Cannibal Holocaust, but Farewell Africa (1966), the fifth film of the inventors of Mondo Cane, a style of documentary filmmaking synonymous with 'extreme', 'shocking' and 'bizarre' footage.  There is no doubt that films like Farewell Africa (1966) and the semi-fictional 'trashumentaries' that spawned from such productions are the intended target for the message conveyed by Cannibal Holocaust, a film where the expected protagonists are nothing but exploitive, murderously cruel barbarians making up stories for sensational reasons. 

And, for as graphic and rude as Cannibal Holocaust is, it's difficult to call a film gratuitous and obscene when it has the same theme and moral lesson as Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness.

With this context under my belt I was ready to defend this film. Yes, there are animal slaughter scenes that are deplorable, and the director has since stated his regret for putting them in his film, but stands by the fact that they were all eaten. The slow neck stabbing of a cute little Coatimundi, the beheading and tearing open of a large turtle for food, the shooting of a defenceless piglet, and a scene where a native chops the skulls off a monkey and eats the brain are admittedly hard to watch. Still with all this, I was ready to go against the grain and raise a flag of support for the underlying story behind Cannibal Holocaust, to resist the popular opinion in favour of the reason it was made.

And much to my surprise I found myself on the side of the majority. In all my research I found disclaimer and warning about the content of this film, yet they all had a declaration of 'but it's good, and important, and valid and though unrepentant, is not gratuitous.' 

And here I was ready to be different.  

No seriously, how could this lovely image be considered mysogenistic and perverse!?
No seriously, how could this lovely image be considered mysogenistic and perverse!?

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 7 Plot: 9 Mood: 10

Overall Rating: 84% (The End Is Quality)

The more extreme Mondo films, ripe with frequent real executions and animal poaching, is far more gratuitous than anything Cannibal Holocaust dares throw at us. The difference is plainly this, Cannibal Holocaust is fiction.

So what is the problem with this film? Why does it have such a reputation? Besides being seized for rumours of snuff, my uneducated answer is 'marketing'. I suppose the film was primarily aimed to is the Grindhouse gore crowd, which immediate associates it with lowbrow qualities, and vilifying the film's true message in the process.

Slant Magazine's Eric Henderson said it was "...artful enough to demand serious critical consideration, yet foul enough to christen you a pervert for even bothering."

And I mean seriously, look at that poster. Duh. 

Luckily this didn't top my list of 'most disturbing film'. That is still without a doubt Irreversible - also a poignant and richly delivered gaze into the darkness of the soul.

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This movie is hands down the most disturbing thing i've ever witnessed.....(on film or otherwise)......made the unrated version of Calligula seem like a made for tv special......and the Jim Rose Circus seem like bunch of nice choir boys next door.

 Spent a good 20 minutes of this film with my head turned, so as not to have the mental images of Turtles n Monkey's being dismembered engrained in my memory, though it seems ridiculuous in retrospect that I turned my head for that given the rest of what I had watched.

 I had no clue as to what this movie was about going into it, n while it was made instantly apparent what we were getting into, couldn't turn it off, as it was so well done.

 I would recommend it if someone has the stomach.....though it definately would help to know what you're about to watch beforehand.

Well now you can send them here for context :D

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