Cannibal Holocaust, 1980.
Directed by Ruggero Deodato.
Starring Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Carl Gabriel Yorke, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi, Salvatore Basile and Ricardo Fuentes.
An anthropologist ventures into the Amazon in search of a missing American documentary film crew and retrieves their footage, which documents the gruesome truth behind the ill-fated expedition.
One of the most notorious films of the ‘video nasty’ era, Cannibal Holocaust begins with anthropologist Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) preparing to venture into a remote area of the Amazon jungle known as the Green Inferno, hoping to rescue a missing film crew who were making a documentary on the primitive cannibal tribes that inhabit the region. With help from his guide, Monroe makes contact with several of the indigenous tribes and eventually gains their trust, enabling him to make a trade for the crew’s surviving film reels. Back in New York, Monroe agrees to host a documentary based upon the found footage and soon discovers the extreme methods employed by the group in order to acquire their footage. After forcing an entire village into a burning hut, the filmmakers went on to gang rape a young tribal girl, leading to a swift and brutal revenge attack from the cannibalistic natives.
Billed as ‘the most controversial film ever made,’ Cannibal Holocaust certainly makes a good case for living up to that tag, with its gruesome animal slaughter, sexual violence and stomach-churning cannibalism sequences combining to provide one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences in cinema history. There is a line of dialogue in Cannibal Holocaust from a television executive, who states their belief that in terms of audiences, “the more you rape their senses, the happier they are,” and this is a mantra to which Ruggero clearly subscribes. Along with the aforementioned animal killings, the director bombards us with brutal image after brutal image, including numerous rapes, explicit sexual assualts and a barbaric forced abortion, along with plenty of beheadings, penile amputation and savage acts of cannibalism (obviously).
Like the majority of ‘video nasties’, Cannibal Holocaust suffers from pretty poor acting, with former adult film star Robert Kerman (of Debbie Does Dallas ‘fame’) providing the best turn as the Bruce Parry-esque Monroe, but the plot itself is fairly engrossing and the film’s combination of traditional narrative and ‘found footage’ works surprisingly well. However, what really sets Cannibal Holocaust apart from its contemporaries is the astounding realism of its special effects and with lashings of gore on display through-out, it’s practically impossible to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t. The gore effects are genuinely top notch, Academy Award-worthy stuff and its remarkable how well they stand up some forty years later.
Never released in its uncut form in the U.K., ‘Ruggero Deodato’s New Edit’ from 2011 is sure to be the most complete edit of the cult shocker likely to gain approval by the British Board of Film Classification. Although fifteen seconds of cuts remain, this version incarnation restores almost six minutes to the previous Vipco home entertainment release, including the majority of the infamous unsimulated animal killings – a hugely contentious (and utterly appalling) aspect of the original film which served as the main catalyst for Deodato’s revisions to the movie. The addition of frame scratches over the animal cruelty does little to lessen their impact however, but even without these sequences Cannibal Holocaust remains a harrowing piece of film that will surely prove too much for many viewers.
Cannibal Holocaust isn’t the kind of film you’re going to ‘like’ by any means, but that doesn’t stop it from being a gripping and powerful experience, in a sick and twisted kind of way. It’s tough to watch, but if you’ve got the stomach for it then it will stay with you long after the end credits roll.
Gary Collinson – Flickering Myth Editor-in-Chief