It's clear Cannibal Holocaust was made to shock people. But, what shocks me the most about the film is how well made it actually is, which brings me to my next point about the film being instantly controversial. Director Ruggero Deodato was actually put on trail and had to prove the film was a film. He brought the actors in court and they all appeared alive and well, so the charges were dropped.
Without this film, we would not have The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, or any other film that follows a 'found footage' formula.
Cannibal Holocaust is the tale of a anthropology professor who goes to the Amazon to look for a group of missing filmmakers. Along the way he discovers the very tribes he has been studying to be cannibals and not surprisingly, the group has become dinner. He returns to NYC with the found reels of footage the filmmakers were working on. He is stunned to find out the group is nothing but a bunch of scumbags who cause havoc to be sensational. It becomes clear, the Amazon tribe had had it with the Americans who:
- raped one of the female tribe members because virginity is sacred to the tribe, thus the woman will be killed because she is 'tainted'.
- randomly kill animals so they can eat them on film.
- burn down a hut of nearly half of the tribe.
- interfere with the botched abortion attempt with the tribe, which ends in the baby and the woman dying.
- AND perhaps killing their Amazonian guide via snakebite.
I had severely mixed feelings about Cannibal Holocaust. On one hand, it is extremely well made. I can totally see why people thought all of this was real back in 1980 - the killings look geniuine and it's amazing how much they were able to pull off. The acting is surprisingly good for this level of cinema. (I was shocked to learn that the professor, whom I thought was best in cast, was actually a porn star) And the story is really interesting and I was engaged in the film throughout. However, there is something disturbing about the film, and that is the real murders of animals on-screen. They are shocking, graphic, and disgusting. I literally turned away when a muskrat was slaughtered in closeup. And don't even get me started on the turtle scene - it is the stuff of legend and it should have never happened.
I was bothered by Cannibal Holocaust and it certainly is disturbing. It left me with a sick feeling and surprisingly, it's nearly just because of the animal killings. It's about how as society (even in 1980), violence is always glorified and cheap theatrics always gets people talking and paying. All in all, a great way to start this marathon off!!
Disturbing Elements: ***1/2
Movie Overall: ***