Director: Ruggero Deodato
Stars: Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen
I first became a fan of the horror genre when I was around 14 years old and so I became fascinated to discover all the classics of the genre. I started viewing films such as Halloween and The Exorcist and became obsessed with all the old classics. I then started moving my way in on more violent and disturbing stuff (for me, at the time) such as the Saw series and eventually seeing and loving hardcore horror from other countries, particularly France with Inside and Martyrs. However, one film was popped up on disturbing movie lists and that was Cannibal Holocaust. Reading how horrifying it was, I decided to wait until I was over 18. I finally summed up the courage to watch it yesterday (I’ve just turned 20) and was pretty bloody appalled.
Cannibal Holocaust is an uneasy mix of campy 70’s naffness and utterly repugnant violence. I fail to see why it is considered a classic of the genre, let alone a masterpiece of film. Reviewers lead you under the impression that the entire film is done in a found footage manner, when actually it’s only the final forty minutes which dips in and out of lost footage being watched by other characters. The first fifty minutes is the more tedious, although less repulsive half, which follows a team going into investigate what happened to a bunch of naïve students who went onto an island overrun by cannibals.
It’s difficult to believe that Cannibal Holocaust was released in 1980 because it comes across as so dated. As with most Italian horror movies at the time the acting is absolutely atrocious. It doesn’t help that the dubbing doesn’t quite match with their mouths and every line is delivered in a wooden manner. I read somewhere that one of the actors was actually a porn star, so that gives you an idea of the calibre of acting you can expect.
The direction is almost as bad. At times it came across as a parody, especially when the natives started blowing poison darts at the group. It comes across as extremely rough and amateurish, which I suppose prepares us for the final third where we’re shown footage from actual amateurs. The music was also pretty awful with an ill-fitting romantic main theme and another piece of strange electronic music which sounds like someone pressing random keys on a cheap keyboard.
What absolutely turns my stomach is the actual real footage of animals being killed. Cannibal Holocaust is obviously renowned for this, however I still wasn’t prepared. It is completely vile and totally unnecessary. The image of two men pulling a giant sea turtle out of the water and slicing its head off whilst its legs are still kicking will never leave me. The image of a man cutting its shell off with its organs and tissue spilling out will also never leave me. The descriptions you read of the scenes will never prepare you for the actual graphic content which is shown on screen.
The worst thing about it is that the film has absolutely zero artistic merit. The only reason why animals are killed on screen is to shock. It has nothing to do with the story, which is barely there. I would recommend that you think really carefully before watching the film because I’ve never actually felt so upset or sick whilst watching a film.
This film is obviously the work of a sadist and I find the film’s message of sensationalism in the media and the psychotic nature of human beings absolutely laughable. The entire film is the perfect example of hypocrisy at its worst. How dare a sadistic director lecture us about human nature! A man who is quite happy to torture and kill animals for shock value should not be making a film about how civilised people can be more barbaric than cannibals. Apparently the director was also vile towards all the native extras and was particularly nasty towards the ones who couldn’t speak Italian or English.
I rarely get angry about films but this one makes my blood boil. I can’t stand films which are only there to shock people and Cannibal Holocaust is just a string of shocking scenes. Some of them look laughable (the rape scenes) however, some of them are just repugnant (the forced abortion scene) and totally cross the line (real animal torture). I didn’t even realise I had limits until I watched Cannibal Holocaust, and that is not a recommendation. The sheer level of hypocrisy in the films heavy-handed themes is beyond laughable and it is just not made well in the slightest. People who hail this film as a masterpiece are either delusional or sadistic. Maybe both.