Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cannibal Holocaust DVD Review (Grindhouse 2-Disc Special Edition)


Grindhouse 25th Aniversary 2 Disc Special Edition Cover Art.


OK, after many, many years of reading about this film (and many, many years of avoiding it)- I finally bought Grindhouse Releasing's 25th Anniversary Edition 2 disc set, one of only 11,111 DVD's released. 

I'm no stranger to Italian gore films, as I've enjoyed such fare as Dario Argento (Tenebrae, Deep Red), Lucio Fulci (Zombie, The Beyond), Mario Bava (Twitch of the Death Nerve), Umberto Lenzi (Make Them Die Slowly), & Luigi Cozzi (Contamination). 

I've kinda of avoided the whole 1980's Italian cannibal genre because I really wasn't fond of the sexual content of such films. I don't like the way those Italian horror films chose to show violence against women. That's just the line I draw. 

After much debate with my horror friends, I decided to give it a chance and watch the granddaddy of the Italian cannibal films - "Cannibal Holocaust". This film spawned numerous imitators and is considered, even by today's standards, as truly horrific in content - bordering on the obscene in it's graphic depiction of the subject matter.

After viewing it, I can tell you that it does, indeed, live up to and greatly surpasses it's reputation.


 An anthropologist, Harold Monroe (played by Robert Kerman) goes to the deepest jungles of the Amazon in search of a missing documentary team of young filmmakers. After witnessing several atrocities of the various tribes, he finds the remains of the crew.  He is able to negotiate with the leader of the "Tree People" for the film canisters belonging to the missing documentary crew.

After viewing the "lost footage", we discover that the documentary crew were cruel, sadistic people willing to do anything to obtain the shots they wanted. The cannibal tribe turned on them, killed them & ate them.

There are scenes of tribal rape & torture, gang rape of a native girl by the film crew, the actual killing of several animals, be-headings, genital mutilations, an impalement of grotesque proportions  and, of course, graphic cannibalism.


When "Cannibal Holocaust" was released in 1980, the director was arrested and charged with several crimes. He actually had to prove that no actors were killed during the production of the film because the scenes were so realistically portrayed! Of course, he was not prosecuted after the actors had all been accounted for.

The film does, however, show the actual killing of several animals- the most revolting was a large river turtle that the missing crew would cook and eat. These scenes are un-nerving as the camera does not pan away for reaction shots, it focuses strictly and closely to the graphic deaths of the animals.

The rape scenes are horrific and repulsive and leaves very little to the imagination as to the brutality of the acts. The deaths of the missing film crew are especially graphic and I can see how some might think that the deaths were real. 

The infamous impalement scene.

I think it's realism comes from the fact that it's a "movie within a movie", shot documentary style. The missing film crew as they were portrayed to the audience were totally unsympathetic and unworthy of any concern an audience member might have had for them if they were of innocent character. Oh no, these characters were despicable, sleazy, low life criminals. Their deaths were no surprise, but the depictions of their deaths are what is haunting.

Here's my observation regarding the films construction: By setting up the viewer to see actual animal deaths on screen, the viewers mind is prepared to take whatever happens next as being real as well. This is why I think the deaths depicted later in the film are so powerful to a viewer on such a guttural level.

However, the film has great cinematography, music and a well-organized narrative. The film used real Amazonian natives to play the three tribes depicted in the film: the Yanomamo and the Shamatari and the Yacumo. 

I'm not usually shocked or repulsed by horror films- but this one did the trick for me. I almost grimaced throughout the entire run and actually was repulsed by several scenes in the movie. I can see and understand how the film was banned & censored in several countries.

The Special Edition was restored and  presented uncut, as the director had intended. 

If cannibalism & sadism is your idea of horror, then "Cannibal Holocaust" is for you. If you like being repulsed and having to turn away from the realistic depiction of graphic violence - "Cannibal Holocaust" has it in spades.

Would I recommend it? That depends. I waited 30 years to watch it. Now that I have- I probably will never watch it again. Not because it's a bad horror movie, but because it's too good of a horror movie. It portrayed violence, gore & taboo subjects in an all to real manner - that truly horrified & repulsed me. If that's the goal of a horror movie, then "Cannibal Holocaust" is one you would want to see.

One viewing was enough for me. 

If you want to know more regarding this film, you should go directly to the source:

Other films in this genre include: "Cannibal Ferox", "Jungle Holocaust" and Eli Roth's upcoming "Green Inferno". 

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