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.