Cannibal Holocaust Review
Written by: thegoldensimatar
*Note: I will mention some explict things done in the movie, so even though you might be a horror nut....it will shock you what happened. Enjoy.
Throughout the late 1970s through the 1980s a disturbing sub-genre to the horror movies emerged from Italy. Far more gruesome than Lucio Fulci's zombie movies and far more disturbing and creepy than Dario Argento's giallo movies. The short lived Cannibal Sub-Genre, probably the smallest of the horror sub-genres with to my knowledge only about a dozen or two of these movies ever made. Movies like Eaten Alive, Jungle Holocaust, and Cannibal Ferox is just to name a few. Each was filled with naked or near naked natives running in the jungle killing hapless people and devouring them. They were also known for the fact animals were really killed for the film, something that would never happen today. In 1980 Italian director Ruggero Deodato who had previously helmed the cannibal movie Last Cannibal World aka Jungle Holocaust created most likely the most disturbing movie in the history of horror, if not all of cienma for its repuation and what exists on film. His Cannibal Holocaust is the Citizen Kane of this terrifying sub-genre and it is a film that even the most hard core gore hound and horror hound would have some trouble watching this film.
Now, after that little build up, let's get to the meat of my review. The story is about a New York University Professor Harold Monroe played by adult film star Robert Kerman who heads into the deepest parts of the Amazon known as The Green Inferno in search of four documentary filmmakers who went missing in search of several rumored cannibal tribes. He goes into the jungle with his guides and comes across the first cannibal tribe known as the Yacumos. It is then he sees the path of death the filmmakers have left, a man injured by a gunshot, several huts burned down with skeletons inside. After a night with the tribe they press on and meet the two other tribes. The Shamatari and Yanomamos, both tribes never seen by white man...at least, by LIVING white men. They make friends with the Yanomamos after helping them in a skirmish against the Shamatari but are still regarded with some fear. They find out the reason soon enough. Monroe discovers the decomposed remains of the filmmakers and the film cannisters...it is obvious they were killed by the tribe. Monroe manages to get the cannisters from the Yanomamos and returns to NYC to see what was filmed.
That is about the first half hour forty five minutes of the film, the rest is like Blair Witch Project with the scratchy camera reels showing what had happened. This is the section of the film that makes me nearly vomit and I am a gorehound who can stomach the grossiest things from old splatter films, but what Deodato filmed was something I did not expect. It is hard to describe in words of how mentally terrifying and shocking it was, it has to be experianced. It is no secret that there were live animal killings on set for the cameras so that is one part of Deodato's creation. There are also several cases of native populace justice and other things. Things like balling sticks and mud and sticking into a woman's private parts, cleaning a dieseased pregnate woman, rape, the real animal killings, and gore so real that Deodato had to prove that the film was not snuff and they were really actors and they were not killed. For creating such a terrifying master piece I give Deodato high score, but for his irresponsiblity with animals...I mark him down.
The sometimes grainy, over exposed, and scratchy look of the documentary section of the film is well done. Better than BWP and of course nearly twenty years before that, a little note about people saying they ripped the idea of doing their movie like that from Holocaust, they said they never heard of the movie till after thier own came out...can't blame them, the movie is banned in some 60 countries. The doc film is shot very well and I do applaude the filmmakers for shooting handheld and making it look very gritty and making it look like it did come from an old 16mm camera and not from a standard 35mm.
The acting is very good for this kind of film, Kerman definatly is the best and I can only imagine what he and the rest of the cast was going through as they filmed this in the Amazon and watching animals die and the rape and other thigns go on before them. I cannot possibly imagine though how the actors playing the doc team were able to somehow keep a smile as they cut away at a river turtle and killed a pig. How they did it, I will never know.
The signature scene from the movie the woman impaled through her buttocks and the other end of the pole coming through her mouth. The most suprising thing is that this was no rubber dummy. According to Deodato, it was a real girl who sat on a bicyle seat on the tree and held some balsa wood in her mouth and then they applied the false blood. This feat alone deserves kudos for the woman who did it, being as still as a board during shooting and the makeup crew making everything look so real. The gore is very real too, no doubt for intensitnes and organs it was real guts of pigs or something but for the removal of body parts, it all looks very real and much more so than most horror movies at the time. This was one of the reasons the film was so shocking, people thought that the doc crew was real and they were actually killed by cannibals.
The music, Riz Ortolani's score is as memorable as any John Carpenter score but even more haunting. Orchestral and possibly some sythensizers create an opening score that is light and decieving of the horrors to come, then it switches to deep, slow, and impossibly to describe haunting voice...doing what music is suppose to do in movies, create image and emotion. it is one of the best horror music scores I have ever heard.
To sum up, Cannibal Holocaust is a film that is above the whole Cannibal Sub-Genre and out did its bretheren in brutality and horror. It is a film that finally has been released uncut, unrated, uncensored in any way shape or form in the USA through Grindhouse. The DVD is a must by for anyone interested in the extreme of horror genre or is a fan of the cults. Though it is not a movie for those virgin to the extreme genres. Holocaust lives up to its brutal reputation and then some. It is also not a film to watch on a full stomach, not something to watch while having a TV dinner nor before a meal. Though it sounds nasty, which it is, I love the movie and glad to own this piece of cienematic history.
Cannibal Holocaust and others of its dead genre are one of kind films. Unique to the 1970s and 80s. In today's world, it would be impossible to bring this genre back without a lot of balls and deterimation. Part of me would like to see some new life into this dead sub-genre, the zombies have returned starting with Resident Evil, so why not cannibals? Then again, another part of me hopes the Cannibal Sub-Genre never is reborn.