Director: Ruggero Deodato
Starring: Robert Kerman, Carl Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi
The most controversial movie of all-time
An American film crew has gone missing while shooting a documentary on the cannibal tribes deep in the deep rainforest of South America. The team of four will do anything to get their footage, even if it means they have to stage it. This time they go too far though and they never return from the jungle…
An anthropologist from the New York University, Harold Monroe, agrees to go on a rescue mission to find the lost film crew, or whatever is left of them. What he find and is able to get with him home is the footage of the lost crew, footage that will leave everybody shocked and disgusted.
Cannibal Holocaust. Perhaps the most controversial movie of all time. The movie stirred up so much trouble that the director Ruggero Deodato had to meet up in court to prove that what was shown in this film wasn’t actually real murders! The mixture of real animal violence and the realistic special effects used for the violence against humans might have fooled people back when this was released, but (thankfully) no humans were seriously harmed during filming of this movie.
I guess it’s hard to avoid talking about the animal violence that are displayed here. It is very unsettling to see real death of animals on screen and if you are a very dedicated animal lover you might want to skip this film. I expect (and hope) that there will never be footage like this in a film again, but I do give the filmmakers a pass for this due to the film being made 35+ years ago.
The way Deodato used the found footage from the lost film crew gives it a very realistic feeling. The way the story is set up and the characters are presented makes the film one of the most uncomfortable viewings you can sit through. It is a very strong film that might be too much for some. There is such a grueling feeling going through you while all the atrocities are being shown on the screen.
The film is made as a commentary on media and their abuse of real violence to draw in audiences. It’s a subject that are even more relevant today than it was back in 1980 with news coverage becoming more and more exploitative and tabloid. It has been argued that the film isn’t any better than the media it is trying to point a finger towards, but I don’t think that takes away from the commentary of it.
It can also be argued that the characters are based on the guys behind the popular 1960’s mondo movies and perhaps even pointing criticism towards them aswell for tricking viewers into thinking they are being delivered real violence and death (a lot of the footage in the mondo films were faked).
The acting is mostly good. Robert Kerman, perhaps better known as Richard Bolla from plenty of adult movies, does a really good job as the anthropologist Harold Monroe. The film crew, made up of the actors Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen and Luca Barbareschi all give genuine performances and make their characters become realistic.
Regardless of all the other great films that Ruggero Deodato has made before and after this film, this is what he will always be remembered for. Looking past all the gruesome stuff that goes on, there is no denying that Deodato directs the hell out of this film with a close eye to even the smallest details. He takes full advantage of the Colombian amazon jungle and he basically creates the found footage subgenre that would go on to become huge in the horror genre 30 years after this film.
You can also not talk about this movie without mentioning the incredible soundtrack by Riz Ortolani. Ortolani had played a part in creating the scores for some of the most popular mondo movies of the 60’s, so it was a choice that made a lot of sense. The main theme song is so sad and powerful. It is one of my favorite scores of all time, regardless of genre. Ortolani passed away earlier this year and in my opinion he was quite underrated in the world of cinema.
Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most powerful and shocking films ever created. It is masterfully created by a great director who was willing to go further than most. The animal cruelty can be too much for some, with good reasons, but if you can manage to stick through that then you should have a film here that will stay with you for the rest of your life. This is a classic film that deserves its place in cinema history.