Cannibal Holocaust Review

Movie: Cannibal Holocaust
By: The Stunted Boy Wonder
Date: April 18, 2011

Cannibal Holocaust: a grim trip into the green inferno

Watching “Cannibal Holocaust” is akin to stepping into a gruesome haunted house ride in a theme park: around every corner lurks another terrible sight. The difference, though, is that some of the sights in “Cannibal Holocaust” are real.

Real or not?

Ever since its release the movie Cannibal Holocaust has been a source of controversy. The effects are very convincing - for a low-budget, Italian exploitation movie - and make up in spades for the rather terrible acting. But acting is not what the movie is about, obviously, as this movie is but one in a whole sub-genre of 70’s and 80’s euro-exploitation movies, cousin to the zombie -and soft porn genre. The actors role in this is to glue together a collage of violent and revolting imagery. What makes this movie stand out head and shoulders above its competitors in the genre are the special effects. And what makes these blend in better than normally is the interspersed real violence (against animals) and stock footage of executions and casualties of war. The characters kill and butcher a number of critters in full view of the camera, giving the audience maybe more gore than they asked for. A muskrat and a turtle are slaughtered for food and several other animals gave their lives for the filmmakers as well. The unease and revolt that these scenes arouse lingers on to the staged performances.

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The movie may be in bad taste, but director Deodato still manages to give it a little extra weight by presenting a strong message about savagery. The plot revolves around an expedition trying to locate a group of controversial documentary filmmakers in the Amazonian jungle. The missing group went there to create a shock-doc about cannibalism amongst the various tribes residing there. The expedition eventually finds the remains of the filmmakers in a small village: they were murdered. The film they shot survived in large part and the rough cut is taken back to civilization, where it is examined. What they find is indeed savage, but on the side of the filmmakers rather than the indigenous people. What the filmcans reveal is an overzealous quartet of young filmmakers stepping over all ethical boundaries to create the next shocking documentary. When their guide is bitten by a snake and his leg needs to be amputated, the director insists that the amputation is filmed. After the fact he is shown waving the leg around as a kind of trophy. When they find a tribe of cannibals, they discover they are not as spectacularly gruesome as they had hoped and they learn that the cannibalism is bound to strict rules and traditions. They only eat the remains of slain members of enemy tribes. The filmmakers decide this will not do and take matters in to their own hands and fake a war between the two tribes. They shoot one tribesman in the leg and later film his wound.

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After that they drive a group of people into a hut with their guns and set the hut on fire. This is all filmed. They also rape an indigenous girl, taking turns and calling her “Little Monkey”. This was not meant to go into the documentary but they filmed it for their own pleasure anyway. Later in the film, “Little Monkey” is found impaled. The director grins at the sight and starts an on-camera hypocritical rant about savage justice. Who impaled the girl - the filmmakers or the tribe - is open for debate. This scene is so realistic that director Deodato later had to appear in court to prove that the scene was indeed staged. In fact, the girl sat on a bicycle saddle and had a short pole in her mouth. When they go to find the opposing tribe, things start to go wrong for the crew. The enemy tribe - presumably after learning about what happened in the other village - decide to take action before they meet with the same fate. They surround the filmmakers and after a short battle they kill them. One after the other dies a gruesome deaths at the hands and mouths of the cannibals, all filmed from the bushes by the last survivor. The last shot is of his head being smashed in.

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‘Bad taste’

“Cannibal Holocaust” leaves you with a sour taste in your mouth (pun intended). Did you really have to see all these animals being butchered and those women being raped in order to get the point that civilized people are more savage than you realize? You can argue that the butchery serves a purpose (nourishment) and that it plays a role in the plot (as opposed to being only a shock gimmick) but is this movie something society has to accept? That is what the Italian justice system wondered about as well. Deodato, the producers, the screenwriter, and their United Artist representative were convicted of obscenity and violence. They received a four-month suspended sentence and the movie was banned. Deodato later got it unbanned, but a point was made. “Cannibal Holocaust” crossed a line that has not been crossed after by any film of any significance and is still ‘hard to stomach’ for horror aficionados today.



Cannibal Holocaust


Cannibal Holocaust


Ruggero Deodato






Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi, Salvatore Basile,