Month of Horror Prevues: CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST
If you’re looking for the kind of horror movie that will gross you out completely, Ruggero Deodato’s 1980 Grindhouse shock masterpiece CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST will surely do it for you. Deodato was inspired to make this movie because of all the violence he was seeing on television at the time and his interest in the way journalists reported the events they were covering. Cannibal Holocaust was also one of the first films in the “found footage” genre which would become popular years later.
When four award winning documentary journalists suddenly go missing after a trip to South America to do a story of cannibal tribes, Dr. Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) a professor of anthropology, decides to try to track them down and find out what happened. Monroe arrives in the exotic yet dangerous jungle and encounters a war going on between two tribes. Soon he and his guide find discarded belongings of the filmmakers including several film cannisters. When Monroe returns to New York City to screen the footage on the film reels he is gobsmacked at what he sees taking place. The four young documentary journalists, Tina “Faye” Daniels (Francesca Ciardi), Alan Yates (Gabriel Yorke), Jerry Anders (Perry Pirkanen) and Mark Tomasso (Luca Barberschi) recorded their adventure in the jungles while observing the tribes but something is clearly not right. What they did on this educational excursion was something truly terrible and completely outside the bounds of the law. They are shown doing such despicable acts as burning a village, gangraping a tribeswoman, killing a sea turtle and generally running amuck. This ultimately causes the tribes (who are cannibals) to seek revenge for their disrespectful intrusion and senseless violence against their people. The way they are dealt with is extremely disturbing and graphic but in actuality is a justified payback for what they took part in. The movie is obviously shot in a documentary fashion which only heightens the impact of all the nastiness we see onscreen. Throughout you wonder what’s real and what’s not. It should be stated that several of the animal related deaths which are shown did happen.
Ever since its release, Cannibal Holocaust has been mired in controversy and for good reason. This is a film that must be seen to be believed. Decades later another movie that became a massive hit, would take direct inspiration from it: The Blair Witch Project. Where that movie used psychological thrills to scare the viewer, Cannibal Holocaust showed how brutal and gory you could get with its no holds barred, visceral style. The result is a one of a kind film that is hard to watch and nothing you’d want to revisit often, but still a very strong work of cinema. One of the main highlights in the movie besides the outrageous visuals is the score by the late composer Riz Ortolani. You would expect “horror” type music to work best but his audio acts as a stark contrast to the content through its use of beautiful sounds (ex: The Main Theme) and modern electronic cues that go against the uncivilized proceedings. It’s a brilliant composition that just makes the film even better. If you’re squeamish you might want to skip this one for something lighter but if you’ve got the moxie, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST will turn your stomach in a good way.