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February 3, 2012

Movie Review: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Directed by Ruggero Deodato

Starring Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi and Perry Pirkanen

Cannibal Holocaust is basically set up as a 2 part movie. The first part of the film centers around a New York university professor who has been hired to trek into the Amazon jungle in search of 4 documentary film makers who have gone missing after trying to capture footage of a pair of cannibal tribes hidden deep in the jungle. Along with his savvy and experienced guide and his helper they manage to find the tribes and by using their wits they are able infiltrate their way into the inner social circle of these primitives, and soon discover that the four missing film makers have met a gruesome end. While trying to figure out why the tribe would slaughter them in such a barbaric way they happen across the canisters containing all of the original crews footage. Once they secure the footage, they make their way back to civilization.

Buy Cannibal Holocaust on DVD

Which brings us to the second part of Cannibal Holocaust, Where professor Monroe is talked into being a part of a new documentary film based on the found footage. As he sits with the editor and the producers to view the films, a truly horrifying story begins to unfold before them. Our four unfortunate film makers it seems, were in no way, shape or form “victims” but were in fact quite cruel and sadistic in the way they treated members of these primitive tribes, for the sole purpose of getting sensational footage. The only innocent one in the bunch is the script girl, Faye, who tries to intervene during the gang-rape of a village girl and the slaughter of a group of villagers who have been rounded up into a hut which is then set on fire, burning to death everyone inside. Soon after these atrocities the group are picked off, one by one, dismembered and eaten in a wild orgy of blood-lust and revenge. All except for Faye, she is caught and savagely gang-raped by the villagers before her head is hacked off and her body dragged off to be eaten. After viewing the disturbing footage, professor Monroe and the producers decide maybe it wasn't such a good idea making the footage into a documentary after all.

Disturbing in its raw and realistic feel, Cannibal Holocaust, 30 plus years after its release is still an amazing and shocking movie. There are few horror movies out there that can truly be called a classic and this is one of them. I really did forget that I was watching a movie for a brief few moments and felt as if I was there, experiencing something very real, and very unsettling. Which to me is the highest compliment one can pay to a film, and the highest achievement for a film maker. If you are watching the uncut version, you are getting the one that includes scenes of the actual killing of animals. The beheading of a live monkey and tortoise and an unfortunate baby pig that is shot in the head. Its cruel stuff, without a doubt. But I find it fascinating and perplexing what censors and people in general deem unacceptable for viewing. In the cut version of this movie they don't want you to see animals killed, but it is perfectly acceptable to view simulated rape, murder, dismemberment and cannibalism (not to mention the scene involving a woman who is raped with a large rock and then beaten to death with it).....go figure. Anyway, above all the gore, shock and violence there is an actual social commentary director Ruggero Deodato is trying to get across to the viewer, in my opinion. Maybe asking the viewer to look inside his or herself and ask the question, Are any of us truly “civilized”?

One of the surprising high points of this movie for me was the score, it absolutely killed. A sort of melancholy flowing melody that just set a perfect tone for the shocking content. Its brutal, its disturbing and its reprehensible at times, which makes it an absolute must-see for those wanting to take a walk through the dark, wild and primitive side of shock cinema.

8.5 out of 10

Reviewed by KennyB

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