Friday, October 29, 2010

Cannibal Holocaust: The Myth, The Legend, The Dog Turd...

During this lovely October month, after compiling lists of my favorite underrated and essential horror films alike, I noticed that some feedback I had gotten involved a nasty little exploitation film that is the absolute definition of a "cult" film, just because of all the controversy it has garnered from the day it was filmed.

The film I'm talking about is "Cannibal Holocaust".

I was a teenager when I first about this film, which was first brought to my attention by Pantera and Down vocalist Phil Anselmo who frequently referenced it on Pantera's DVD as well as some lyrics when he was with Viking Crown. I became interested and immediately scoured the internet, which in 2000 wasn't nearly as massive and information filled as it is today, and managed to find some information out about it that really drew my interest...

Banned in 50 countries

So controversial that its director was sent to prison

The most violent and disgusting horror film ever conceived

And so on and so forth. My interest was quite peaked, and only a couple years later did I finally manage to track down an uncut VHS tape of the 1980 film that I had to have imported over here. And like that, I watched it...and the end results weren't pretty. When I say that however, I'm talking about the film itself...looking back on it now, it's dreadfully overrated.

Storyline wise, the plot revolves around an American anthropologist who travels to the South American jungle after a documentary film crew had disappeared. He recovers a reel of their footage, and soon learns the truth that this crew terrorized, tortured, raped, and murdered the cannibal natives in an effort to stage and sensationalize their documentary film...but never got the chance to because they all get what they deserve.

For starters, the reason that it has been banned in so many countries (many of which have lifted said ban) is not because of its violent content, but for the fact that it actually contains footage of animal cruelty and animal killing. A turtle, monkey, snake, and more so are all slaughtered before the camera, only because director Ruggero Deodato and his film crew were so deep in the amazon jungle without restrictions that he felt he could do just about anything he wanted. Deodato had desired to direct a cannibal film that satired the lengths the media goes to in presenting violent content to its audience, and wound up helping create the legend that goes along with his ultra-violent vision.

Upon the film's first cut and viewing, Deodato found himself arrested and charged with making a snuff movie. The deaths that take place in "Cannibal Holocaust" were so realistic that people thought Deodato actually had these people murdered. That in itself only adds to the "I have to see this for myself" factor of this film. In the end, Deodato would be cleared after presenting all of the actors as still alive, and even staged some effects shots and stunts to prove that it was all in fact fake.

With all that being said, on to the film itself. For the most part, after getting through Deodato's somewhat heavyhanded (though he denies it) approach to pointing the finger at the media, he doesn't make things easy to watch. The film is brutal and unforgiving in its content of murder, cannibalism, rape, and overall just plain cruelty. Even now at 26 and as cynical a gorehound as I've become, I have a hard time watching this thing all the way through. It isn't so much the gore that gets to me, it's just the nihlistic and cruel tone. It's practically pure sadism, which is the one thing I detest about all the torture horror flicks of today like the "Saw" series, and as much as I love horror and gore and all that nasty stuff, sadism just isn't my thing. Plus the acting and dubbing are occasionally atrocious, and Deodato's film technique is just...well...not very talented. Plus, seeing animals get slaughtered? Never more thankful for a fast-forward button in all my life. Needless to say, "Cannibal Holocaust" isn't just a horror film you can have fun with a couple beers to, but it does have its own philosophy to it, which is much more than nearly any horror film around today can offer.

Though "Cannibal Holocaust" may not have the household name of many other films of its ilk despite its somewhat nigh-legendary status, its effect on horror films today can still be seen. The whole handheld camera-POV-style of horror made popular by "The Blair Witch Project"? Thank "Cannibal Holocaust" for that. Without it, we wouldn't have "Blair Witch", or "Cloverfield", or "Diary of the Dead", or even my beloved "The Last Broadcast". This was the movie that set the stage for all of that and more, including all the generic torture flicks that are all the rage today as well.

So with October coming to a close, I fucking dare you to watch "Cannibal Holocaust" if you can get your mitts on it. A couple years back it finally made its way to uncut DVD form, and can still be found online. Watch it if you dare...

Happy Halloween!

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