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Review: ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ is Highly Effective in Getting the Message Across

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Review: 'Cannibal Holocaust' is Highly Effective in Getting the Message Across

Considered to be the start of the found footage genre, Cannibal Holocaust is a film that is so controversial that even this review will face criticism. Part of the “cannibal films” genre which were highly inspired by the “mondo films” genre, Cannibal Holocaust made it’s debut in 1980 right in the middle of the craze. It is typically considered to be the most well known film of its type and is still banned in several places to date. Director Ruggero Deodato has even faced charges for the film. The movie is often dubbed as “unwatchable” due to the graphic violence and has even released an “animal cruelty free” version for viewers that can not take the full effect of the film.

An anthropologist is propositioned to lead a rescue mission for an American film crew that have gone missing in the Amazon. The anthropologist agrees and they find the crew. The remains of the crew, that is. However, they do find their film reels and take them back to be reviewed. Meanwhile, a team of broadcasting executives are insistent on using the found footage for a documentary. The anthropologist fights back, showing the executives the raw footage in hopes of changing their minds.

So what about this film has made it so famous? Why all the controversy and bans? Could it be the depiction of taboo topics like cannibalism? Rape? Torture? Was it the animal killings? Was it the actual footage of executions? Or maybe it was the message of media sensationalism that makes people reflect on who the real “savages” are? I would say all of it, but the animals killings come in at a close second. Deodato has expressed regret for including the animal cruelty scenes. One shining light of the animals killings is that the movie was filmed with actual South American tribes and were given to the tribes. That still does not make the scenes easy to watch which is why many fans are thankful for the “cruelty free” versions available.

Cannibal Holocaust Still 1

As previously mentioned, Deodato was arrested ten days after the films release and was charged with “Obscenity” by the Italian government. He was also initially charged with murder. Deodato had originally written it into the actors contracts that they would disappear for a year after the films release to keep up the illusion of them being dead, but that secret was quickly out with murder charges at the forefront. The actors appeared in court to show that they were still alive and well. The famous impalement scene was even called into question and Deodato was forced to reveal the movie magic. I have an ex that I’m sure still maintains to this day that this scene could not have possibly been faked.

Cannibal Holocaust is not supposed to be easy to watch. It’s a social commentary on the reality of sensationalism. Deodato was inspired partly due to seeing a news cast depicting a terrorist attack and he believed some things were shot to specifically focus on the violence and some things were possibly even faked to make the violence seem worse. The film truly is a masterpiece and is highly effective in getting the message across. The found footage style was highly innovative for its time and gave the film the realistic feel that we all needed to buy the subject matter. It’s dirty, it’s raw, it seems too real to be fake and just when you think you’ve had enough, you get a break with scenes of the anthropologist and the executives. A short break and then you’re right back into the madness all over again. It’s considered to be one of those “gauntlet” movies for fans of the disturbing genre. It’s almost a right of passage to sit down and make it through the whole thing. Oh yeah, and it has one of the best soundtracks in movie history.

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