Drama, Horror

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

0 Comments 10 July 2014

cannibal holocaust blu

Studio: Grindhouse Releasing

Theatrical Release: June 19, 1985

Blu Ray Release: July 1, 2014

Director: Ruggero Deodato

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

Ok gore fans, this one is for you. Considered to be one of the most controversial films ever made, a film that the director himself was arrested and tried for obscenity and blamed for the murder of his own actors (all untrue) Cannibal Holocaust still remains to this day one of the most disturbing horror films ever made. Before The Blair Witch Project broke the way in starting a new sub-genre of “found footage” films, Cannibal Holocaust may have been one, if not the first to do so. However, it is still the most effective.

Professor Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman, best known for being in the original Debbie Does Dallas) is a New York University professor who is asked to travel to the Amazon jungle in search of four missing college students who were shooting a documentary on the Amazon jungles and it’s tribes. What the professor soon finds out is that these kids stumbled upon a dangerous cannibal tribe where they ultimately met their demise.

Cannibal holocaust

As the professor and his guide try and blend in with the tribe at the risk of being murdered and eaten, they come across the remains of the students but thankfully their film footage is still intact. When the professor gets back to NY, he screens the footage with several of the university staff but what they soon witness is more shocking and repulsive than what they had expected.

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Cannibal Holocaust then switches focus to the four missing students: director Alan Yates (Carl Gabriel Yorke) his girlfriend Faye (Francesca Ciardi) cameramen Jack (Perry Pirkanen) and Mark (Luca Barbareschi). The four students seem to be a bunch of carefree kids looking to make a meaningful documentary but like a flick of a switch their attitude and personalities change. They start to kill animals, destroy villages, rape tribeswomen, and ultimately kill. That is until the tribes people fight back and enact the most gruesome and savage revenge.

cannibal

While the second half of the film has the most shocking and disturbing sequences, my biggest complaint in the movie is the motivation behind these amateur film makers. If these students are documentary film makers, what is it that makes them suddenly become so vile and evil? It seems too out of character, too sudden, too bizarre. This may be my biggest complaint of the film. I just don’t buy it (however, maybe my favorite moment is when Alan Yates is smiling while looking at a dead woman impaled on a giant spear with Jack hollering at him that the camera is on, forcing Alan to suddenly frown in disgust). If the film took some time in building some sort of character back story, I could have bought it more. I would have enjoyed seeing these students become sociopaths or show some resemblance of being off their rocker right from the start.

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Cannibal Holocaust may be filled with graphic violence, rape, full frontal male and female nudity, and drug use but what caused the film to be so controversial is the real on screen deaths of several animals. There is no question about it, it’s very difficult to watch some of these moments when these animals are butchered on screen. To this day, Deodato regrets these moments (several key cast members were ready to walk if another animal was harmed, Yorke himself thought he was in a snuff film and feared for his life) and while the animals were used as food by the crew or the actual villagers used in the film, it is still nonetheless distasteful. Grindhouse Releasing even went so far as to provide an option of viewing an alternate cut of the film, which has excised all footage of the animal deaths.

Speaking of the Grindhouse blu ray, this 3 disc set is one fans will be drooling over but don’t sell or toss out your old DVD just yet. There are a few special features on the older Grindhouse DVD that have not be ported over to the blu ray. The Making of Cannibal Holocaust is unfortunately missing, a huge loss to fans who may not have picked up the older DVD. I happened to be a big fan of this documentary as it showed rare behind the scenes footage on the making of the film. And what happened to the music video directed by Jim Van Bebber (The Manson Family)? That too is gone. But what is on this new blu ray are several interviews with cast and crew as well as a new audio commentary track by Carl Gabriel Yorke and Francesca Ciardi that I found just as entertaining as watching the film. My favorite moments are when the two are at odds at what happened on set and when Yorke starts to get upset over the actual on screen deaths. Both actors are still amazed at how this film is actually loved by people. It was nice seeing the Cinema Wasteland Cannibal Holocaust / Deodato panel that took place in Cleveland as that was an event yours truly was at. It was also the last public appearance by the late, great David Hess who worked with Deodato on House on the Edge of the Park and Body Count. But the biggest addition to the blu ray is the third disc, a CD of the entire soundtrack by Riz Ortolani. The music is both beautiful and haunting. Oh and how about the new upgraded picture? Perfect. The film doesn’t look like it has a yellow-ish filter anymore. There is now an option to listen to the film in either stereo or mono which is a great addition.

alan yates

Although beautiful shot with a masterful score, Cannibal Holocaust is still a savage, brutal, unapologetic shocker that still packs a punch after 35 years. There is no question that Deodato is at the top of his game here and while I am proud to own this in my collection, it is not a film that I can recommend to semi-timid film fans who have not yet witnessed this gruesome gem.

Movie and Blu Ray Rating: ★★★★☆

 

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