Monday, 6 July 2015

Cannibal Holocaust

"Cannibal Holocaust" (1980, Ruggero Deodato, United Artists) is an Italian cannibal exploitation movie about a group of young people, lead by Alan Yates (Gabriel Yorke), who go into the Amazon Rainforest to film a documentary about cannibal tribes and fail to return.

We follow Prof. Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) who has been tasked with going into the rainforest to search for the missing film makers. He is helped by the military who take a young indigenous tribesman hostage to help them bargain with the tribes.

During their journey they come across some horrific scenes of cannibalism and butchery of wildlife. After randomly bathing naked, Monroe and his team are taken to the cannibals' place of worship where they have to join in the feast in exchange for getting the remaining film cannisters back from the first group, who they have learned by now are dead and eaten.

Monroe takes the surviving film back to New York where he learns from watching it that Yates and his team were far from nice people and possibly deserving of their horrific fates...

Essentially this film is gross. Gross beyond gross. The number of real animals slaughtered live on camera is just sickening and, considering that is just for the film's benefit, kind of marrs any comment the film was making about documentaries creating situations for effect... One particularly graphic scene involving a monkey's face and a knife I'll never unsee. There is also a lot of torture of women and sexual violence, the iconic skewered woman scene and the slicing of body parts for food. I'm not afraid of gore. I enjoy gore, even. But I like my gore fun and fake.

Really the film is more than just a gross out movie about cannibals, but the style of it was more car crash than intrigue: I couldn't look away but I wasn't enjoying what I was seeing. It's a social commentary about journalistic practice, integrity and ethics. But it's also a shock-film made to make you squirm, and while it is highly successful in doing that, I wouldn't say that I enjoyed it or would put myself through watching it again.

Image: United Artists