Written by: Tara Mae Jackson
Directed by: Ruggero Deodato
Cast: Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi
Most anyone who has delved into horror has heard of the infamous Italian Cannibal movies and their notorious content of animal deaths, full frontal nudity, graphic sexual content, jungle natives with bad haircuts, and just sheer violence. There have been many installments to this particular sub-genre, with many stand out acts as well as plenty that are just a ridiculous attempt to cash in. Umberto Lenzi is believed to have mostly kicked off the exploitation sub-genre with his movie Man From Deep River in 1972, but it’s Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust that has been hailed as THE cannibal film by many since its release in 1980. Few movies have captured quite the same level of brutality, nor the tension building atmosphere of impending violent revenge.
The music composed by Riz Ortolani is probably one of the other really stand out elements that helps push this film to the head of its pack, notably starting out with a hauntingly beautiful song it really belies the horrifying nature of the whole experience. So many elements seemed to come together to make Cannibal Holocaust not only work, but stand out, and keep people coming back for decades to revisit the sheer crazy brilliance of this gut munching gorefest. Even today this is a film people talk about, maybe warn about, and is always described in either tones of reverence or disgust, amusingly sometimes, both.
The film starts with an expedition into the aptly nicknamed “green inferno” of the amazon jungle, where Professor Harold Monroe is searching for a missing documentary crew. Finding out what happened to the three filmmakers is an adventure in itself as the Professor must get invited among the hostile natives, proving he is no threat to them, and this of course requires him to partake of their meals as well. Seemingly all that is left of the film crew are canisters of film, grisly remains, and terrified defensive jungle natives. As the movie progresses, from this point portions become a found footage film as the canisters content begin to be viewed, seeing what can be salvaged of the documentary they had been working on… as the events unfold we find that even so called civilized folk can be as savage as they come.
What becomes of the documentary crew, and what they themselves were up to inside the green inferno can be heeded as a lesson and a moral tale of the strongest nature. It is nearly impossible to walk away from this movie unaffected in some way, the images you’re subjected to, the thoughts that are provoked, and just the feeling that washes over you, particularly after the first viewing, it’s quite the experience. It may not be a movie that all could tolerate, I’m quite positive it would inspire outrage in some, and maybe can be considered another perverse gorefest for sick minds, however, for those true horror fans who love that sort of thing, this movie is pure gold!
As cannibal movies came before, cannibal movies have come after, and while some rise nearly to the level of this, and while many have tried for years, I still think that statements such as “the mother of all cannibal movies” and “the most controversial movie ever made” could never be more appropriately applied. Most recently we were offered Eli Roth’s Green Inferno, which drew heavy inspiration from this film among many of the sub-genre, and while it tried to reach you with striking visuals it really only proved that even today there isn’t a movie that can touch the magic Cannibal Holocaust somehow managed to capture, not even Ruggero Deodato’s other films eclipsed this title. This film truly went for the gut as it pulled no punches in the violent and bloody assault of images, the dominance of women, the destructive nature of man as they wish to conquer and succeed, and it even wreaked havoc on the animal kingdom.
I for one feel that die hard horror fans should not miss this film. It has been released and re-released ever since it took the exploitation sub-genre’s top spot, and for good reason. You find it hard to peel your eyes away from it, as graphic as it gets, the beautiful paradox the song creates, the bits of found footage that build towards a practical orgy of vengeful savagery, and just the message that the movie sends. It is not hard to see why this movie was banned, and why more than one cut of the film exists, including an animal friendly one, as the vicious nature can be considered rather offensive, but I do feel one cannot fully experience the film without viewing the Director’s cut as it was intended. This is one film where I am team cannibal all the way… those who have viewed will get it, those who have yet to view…you’ll just have to find out why!