Cannibal Holocaust. This is a hard one for me. First of all, I want to say that I absolutely in no way endorse, support, or respect the decisions made in this film to use real animals being tortured and slaughtered. That is so far beyond my comprehension and mindset, I would prefer Ruggero Deodato had never made that choice. But he did (which he says he regrets now), so we must at least address it, because it is a huge reason the movie is so controversial. Furthermore, it somewhat proves the point of the movie, though I’d prefer fake animals being used, that “civilized” human beings are the true cannibals and degenerates, and that one’s home country does not determine its citizens brutality. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

This movie begins as a professor sets off to find a missing documentary crew that disappeared the year before while filming in the Amazon rainforest. What he finds is utterly shocking, and eye-opening. The crew, unsatisfied with the seemingly boring life of the natives there, attempt to make their own entertainment. They proceed to rape and torture some members of the tribe, kill their animals, and virtually destroy their environment. Though some of the natives are seen doing incredibly awful things, namely aborting a baby, raping a woman, and eating flesh, what the Americans, the “civilized” ones do, is much worse, for that simple fact alone. That said, I am glad that the tourists get what is coming to them, and it really speaks volumes about who is really civilized, and the fact that we are all not that far off from being “savages” ourselves.

As stated earlier, the director used real live animals and killed them onscreen for effect and entertainment, and the actors went along with it, including a particularly disturbing scene in which the crew takes a large tortoise out of the river, cuts its head off, cracks its shell open, and eats it. If nothing had ever made you sick in a movie, this likely will. I do not support this or endorse it in any way, as I am a huge animal activist, however, if one looks at if from purely film, it is not likely that the film would have been as effective if it had not been done. Now, that said, what that effect is is definitely questionable. It has an important message, but in this, the bad outweighed the good. I wish it had never happened or that the filmmakers felt that it was okay and fun. It is truly twisted, and once again proves the point that what we think is civilized is not always so clear-cut. The gore and violence looked so real to those at the time, the director was actually suspected of murder and making a snuff film, but was cleared. As the professor says at the end of the film, “I wonder who the real cannibals are”. Considering the nature of this brutal film, I do not think there could have been a more suitable sentence uttered. It is the most graphic film I think I’ve ever seen, and while I respect the point of the movie and the fake violence, it takes it down a few notches for me because of the senseless, needless killing of innocent animals. We cannot ignore that part of it.

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About Aloha Mister Hand

28, horror-loving chick, lover of animals, movies, and her boyfriend.

14 responses »

  1. rwhyan says:

    Oh boy. You know I read about this film in an Interview with Eli Roth who said it was one of the scariest movies he had ever seen so naturally I was interested in seeing it. One day while visiting some family in New York I came across this video store that had every movie you could imagine and I found Cannibal Holocaust in the far back (now I know why) so I bought it. Huge mistake. It’s a hard movie to sit through because it all just seems sooooo unnecessary. The ending was good, but I never recommend this one to people, it is just too much. Another great post, for a second there I thought you were going to say this is one of your favorites when I read the title and I was like, “Oh no!” haha.

    • Thanks! Yeah, it’s crazy. I do like the human parts of the movie, in that it has a message, but not the animal parts. I cannot deal with animal cruelty, I cannot even talk about it sometimes because it makes me so sad and mad. I get furious. I don’t think it’s scary, cuz it’s really not, just sickening. *lol* Insanityyyy!

  2. wintri says:

    This is a terrific review! You make some great points about the animal killings and I agree. I also agree that it makes you actually look forward to seeing the crew get killed. I watched a documentary on the making of this film and supposedly the crew was very upset about the killing of the animals, especially the turtle one, which you can see by the looks on their faces. However, since they were in a remote location in the middle of the jungle they weren’t able to just ‘walkd off the set’ and therefore were kind of forced to go along with it. Even after 30 years I consider this the most intense and gruesome horror movie out there.

    • Hey there, thanks a bunch! I agree, it is probably the most intense movie ever, horror or otherwise. The animal parts were atrocious and I felt dirty for even watching it, partially with my hands over my eyes for those parts. Actually, I thought the actors kind of enjoyed it, at least that one guy, because he held up the turtle’s leg to the camera and made a sarcastic-like face. Maybe he was acting, I don’t know. But you are right, they couldn’t just walk off set. But they could’ve objected or staged a protest or strike.Who knows? It was 1980…hard to say. Thanks so much for your comment! 🙂 Much appreciated!

  3. matts1970 says:

    I couldn’t stomach the animal violence when I begged my dad to take me to see this in a re-release in 1986. Yeah i actually saw this film in a theater. He usually tells people how he sat thru hell to make me happy. But seriously, the turtle scene really bugged me cos i love turtles my only hope would be that the filmmakers ate the animals after they killed em.

    Which brings to mind the death of a chicken between two actors in the cult classic Pink Flamingos. John Waters has been quoted as saying that they BBQ’d that chicken after it’s death..so it didn’t die senselessly. Although chicken between two people fucking…hum sounds yummy if you were a stoned hippie perhaps 😛

    Back to CH…yeah some intense kills…Italy made some really fucked up movies

  4. RaoulDukeKD says:

    Nice review. I personally wasn’t particularly disturbed by the animal scenes. I do, however, feel the turtle scene went on way, way too long. What’s most disturbing is the way the crew tormented the villagers, as you stated. I don’t think it’s all too great a film, but it does pack a punch, and deserves credit for that.

  5. While I love it when movies try to push as many boundaries as possible, I didn’t like seeing the real-life animal deaths. However, since those animals were slaughtered many years ago, I think it would be a worse crime if Deodato decided to remove those scenes from his movie at some point in the future. That said, I would disapprove of any movie made today that had animals slaughtered for the entertainment of viewers.

    I’ll probably have to adjust my rating of Cannibal Holocaust – while I consider the film’s message (and the film’s violence) to be powerful (and superbly executed), I found most of the movie kinda dull. The only other Deodato movie I’ve seen, is The House on the Edge of the Park – it wasn’t very gory, but I found it highly entertaining from start to finish (mostly because of David Hess).

    That said, your review was impressive, and I am glad to see you were able to properly appreciate the film. Most people write off Cannibal Holocaust, just because of the animal killings – which is totally unfair.

  6. karlails says:

    As you might know from my review, I really liked this movie, it is on my favourite movie list, but then again I can’t see a time in the near future, where I’d think “well, I’m in the mood for some Cannibal Holocaust”, mostly because of the horrible animal killings (nowadays I don’t think any actor wants to have some of those on his resume).
    And to the point of cannibalism and other violence on the natives part, the thing that seperates their cruelty from the civilized people, is that the civilized ones know better. The natives do what they’ve been doing since they don’t know when, so they wouldn’t even for a second consider that there’s something wrong with it.
    Anyway, great review!

    • Exactly! It’s not really a relaxing movie to watch on just any given day! LOL! Completely agree about the animal killings. I believe I cried or nearly cried at the turtle part….no way would I ever kill anything for a movie, I don’t care what it’s about. But there’s something about it, aside from those scenes, that really stands out to me.You’re so right about the commentary behind it! This world is really scary sometimes! Appreciate the comment! 🙂

      • karlails says:

        That turtle scene might be one of the worst things I’ve ever watched. I kept watching it for a few seconds, then turning away for a bit, then turning back and being surprised it’s still going on. It went on forever in movie-time. 😀

      • I know, I was like, are you kidding me?! I knew about the animal parts going in, but was not prepared for THAT! It’s just so rude and cruel and unnecessary and evil…..some people are really….just, bad.

  7. Agreed on the turtle front – but there’s a movie that outdoes it. A year after Cannibal Holocaust came out, Umberto Lenzi created a watered-down version of the same story called Cannibal Ferox – they suffering that a mongoose goes through, all in the name of making a shock-scene for a movie – is even harder to watch.

    • Yeah, I have heard of that, but never got around to watching it….I did read your review, and that part made me sick and really sad. I hate animal cruelty and all animal abusers, so anytime an animal is killed on purpose, especially for film no less, it realllllllllllly pisses me off. So stupid, unnecessary, and pointless. Thanks for the comment!

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