CHALLENGE 2 – CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST: Suggested by Nick
I see your Cannibal Holocaust, Nick, and I raise you a big, fat raspberry noise. I chose this one from the comments first, as you simply put the title there, with no explanation as to why this film is apparently so terrible. I assumed the worst... I assumed no explanation was needed. I ordered it, got all cosy with some blankets, and prepared myself to grimace for all the wrong reasons. Hell, I even put a pizza in the oven, just to mark the occasion if it so happened that you would manage to thwart my plans of loving all horror. *Grins*….. But you didn’t thwart my plans Nick… there was no thwarting here. Thwart. Sorry, I just like the word ‘thwart’. It goes hand in hand with other beloved words that I seldom hear these days, like plonker and twonk. But I digress….
Na na na na na! You handed me what you thought was a soggy lump of coal, but guess what Nick? It’s actually gold… GOLD I TELL YOU!!!! Cannibal Holocaust isn’t pleasant to watch, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a modern cinematic triumph, despite the fact that it was released in 1980. And I’ll tell you why!
Before we go ahead, I do need to issue a spoiler alert.
WARNING. SPOILERS AHEAD.
There, you’ve been warned.
Okay, we’ll start with a brief summary: A documentary film crew goes into the amazon rainforest to make a film about the cannibal tribes that live there. They never return, and our film starts with an expedition team, led by a knowledgeable professor, going into the rainforest to find them. The documentary people are, alas, no more, but their camera footage remains. The professor returns to ‘civilised’ land to view the footage, and we get to see most of the film from the camera’s point of view to witness the grisly fate of the documentarians.
REASONS THIS FILM IS AWESOME….
1) If I’m not mistaken (and please, let me know if I am because I can’t be spouting nonsense on the net), Cannibal Holocaust is the first movie comprised of ‘found footage’ material. If you’re a fan of ‘found footage’ horror, you can thank this movie for paving the way for the likes of The Blair Witch Project (dir. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, 1999), Rec. (dir. Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, 2007), and Paranormal Activity (dir. Oren Peli, 2007), to name just a few.
In fact, ‘found footage’ was such a new concept that director Ruggero Deodato was actually arrested for murdering his cast. Any film with a scandal like that to go with it has to be worth it’s salt, I say.
2) We quite often get to see fluffy monkeys and other wildlife. They’re cute.
3) SFX… is impressive, to say the least. It’s 1980, remember, and these effects have stood the test of time. There’s a real authentic feel to the dismembered body parts (including a severed head, and oh man, who doesn’t love great head?... What.. why are you sniggering?), skulls, human bones, etc. There’s even a woman impaled on a huge spike, and a scene in which another poor woman is being sawn down the middle, and they’re very convincing. And let me tell you, I’m not easily impressed by special effects, I’m Queen Scrutiny if anything, but I give this film the thumbs up. The gore is balanced, well done, and presented in a realistic way that sort of made me feel sick.
4) This point is really for those of you who enjoy seeing naked people, because there are breasts and dangling things everywhere in this feature, including a whimsical scene involving one lone man bathing in a river who suddenly becomes surrounded by a small group of giggling, jiggling ladies. The nudity is so common actually, that after a while you get used to it and it loses its ‘taboo’ factor. Just remember not to get too comfortable with that mindset… remember, its okay in films but don’t casually stroll to the shop to pick up some milk with your nether regions exposed. In today’s society, that’s seen as inappropriate and you might get arrested. Not that I made that mistake…. *whistles*
5) The real reason…. Subtext and metaphors and social commentary, oh my! We initially assume that the barbarianism will come straight from those pesky cannibals. We think we’ve called it as soon as we heard the very word ‘cannibal’. The expedition team know the documentarians are toast, and so do we (hehe… toast..food.. cannibals.. see what I did there?). But everything we see in this film slaps us in the face, and hard too. Because it’s not just forest-dwelling tribe folk who are capable of brutality. After all, we all belong to a tribe, don’t we? It’s just that we all have our own brand of brutality, and who are we to judge someone else’s?
We get some lovely shots of New York, and the general meat market that is a city. People rammed together, bustling around, avoiding eye contact as they shove past each other. Like a herd of animals, actually. This presents us with a contrast between how ‘civilised’ people like ourselves live.. you know, avoiding others, lacking empathy for our fellow man, and the ‘savages’ that live in trees, which are actually a close, bonded community. The tribe people may be cannibals, but at least they’re not gang-raping a defenseless woman, rounding up a village of people into a hut just to burn it down, and ‘bumping uglies’ (oh yeah, I’m down with the lingo yo) in front of dozens of people with no shame. Which are all things the apparently civilized documentarians do to/in front of the tribes they are filming. And those are just a few examples of their animalistic behaviour. They feel superior to the tribes, and thus, lack empathy for them because they are the dreaded ‘other’, viewed not as humans but merely other beings that aren’t ‘like us’.
It’s not just the documentarians that lack empathy either.. the expedition team witnesses a woman being horrifically abused, and though they could, they do nothing to stop it. But they do sit there and watch the whole thing. The university that the professor returns to with the footage are adamant about showing it to the world, despite the horrors contained in the tape, because hey, good TV, right? Not unlike Big Brother, or TV talent shows, now I think of it.
They’re all single-minded, out to get what they want, and willing to collapse moral and emotional barriers to get it. They’re all non-empathetic consumers… and so are we. Because while we’re watching, if we’re being completely honest, we want to see those documentarians get eaten. They’re immoral and vicious people, and so we lose all empathy for them. They’re not like us, we think, and therefore they have it coming. Just like they thought the tribe had it coming. They are our own dreaded ‘other’. By the time we get to the end, we’re just as cold and heartless as they are, even a little sadistic, because there’s a peculiar sense of enjoyment to be had from watching people get their comeuppance.
This film isn’t for the faint of heart, and it’s not exactly an enjoyable watch in the regular sense of the word, but it’s a scathing reflection of society in the 80s, and perhaps even more so of society today. I will warn you, if you’re going to watch it, that it does contain some animal cruelty, but there is a version without this available (and for the record, I don’t condone animal cruelty in any way, shape, or form, especially not for entertainment. It breaks my heart, and as a reviewer it’s my duty to warn you of this, so you can make the choice and not go into this film blind).
It’s cleverly written, executed to perfection with the right amount of suspense, and above all, has something important to say. I’m going to go ahead and throw a 9/10 rating at this one, guys.
You’re going to have to do a lot better than that suggestion to get a bad horror film review out of me… but I eagerly await the next challenge. If you have one, leave it in the comments below. Go on… come at me, bro.