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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Movie Archives: Cannibal Holocaust

No film in recent times have caused more outrage, has been more shocking, and has lived up to every bit of it's hype more so than Ruggero Deodato's 1979 film "Cannibal Holocaust". This film landed the director in court for murder and was banned in this and many countries for some time. For some, this film marks the end of an era for the grindhouse, explotation, B-movie genre of the late sixties and seventies. And if that's true, at least the genre went out with a bang, or better yet, a blood-curdling scream. 
We have not seen a film so controversial since 1915 with the silent film "Birth of a Nation". A film that shows the rise of the klu klux klan and is very much in favor of the klan. But this article is not just a bragging post of how controversial Cannibal Holocaust is, I want to examine why this film was so shocking and why we saw it as a threat to our well being.
First off, this film was the first to use the now famous gonzo amature shaking camera. The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Quarantine all owe it to this film for influencing a style that would be mainstream twenty years later. 
As I said earlier the director was in court for murder over this film. Of course, no one was murdered but people thought they were viewing a snuff film. (Deodato brought every actor that was killed in the film into the court room and all charges were dropped) The special effects and death scenes were so well done and so authentic and seamless that it looks real. I'm sure this means nothing to some, but in the days before computer effects and CGI, you have to give hats off to the make-up and effects departments on this film. If it looks real enough for people to think that it IS real... obviously the special effects Dept. did a brilliant job! Brian De Palma once said "If people get upset or offended by the violence in a film, then that means the director did it well"
The thing that upset audiences the most, and what is probably my least favorite aspect of the film is the REAL killing of several wild animals. This was a time before PETA and the film was shot on location deep in the amazon, so animal cruelty laws meant nothing in that time or place. In it's defense, any animals that were killed were given as food to the REAL tribes People used in the film. The natives would have killed and eaten these animals anyway, movie or no movie. 
With the controversies out of the way, I'll talk about the film itself. This movie is as brutal as it gets. This movie goes all the way and this one lives up to all it's hype. I'm sure you've taken someone's advise on a film saying it was the goriest, scariest, best ect. And you watched it and were disappointed. There is no BS here, everything you've heard about this movie is true. While it is very ruthless in it's depiction of violence, it has a better story and/or plot than I've seen in many mainstream and recent horror films. 
This movie is about an investigator who is sent to the jungles of the Amazon with a knowledgeable guide to find a group of documentary film makers who turned up missing while shooting their film in the cannibal populated jungle. I won't tell you anymore because I don't want to spoil anything, but this film has a twist worthy of a M. Night Shyamalan movie. 
I highly recommend this movie. If you are a horror fan it is worth at least one viewing just to say you saw the Godfather of them all. I am not a gorehound. I hate violence but I love film. I would rather see a million people killed in the worst possible way in a movie than see one person get punched in real life. Because the movie is fake and life is real. To me, real life is much more horrifing and scary than any horror movie. The monsters on screen are fake, the monsters in real life walk among us and look just like us. I feel the violence in Cannibal Holocaust is justified because nature is violent. Like I said, I am not excited to see animal killings on film, but in a nation where we hunt for sport.... do we really have room to get self righteous? 
This was the last big film of Grindhouse cinema. After it's release, the critics revolted, people protested. A genre that has always been known for the most dirty, sleazy, violent pictures, was now seen as unholy and morally wrong. People felt it was now taken too far. The eighties brought VHS and the Reagan era of conservatism and moral outlook, which was too much for the genre to live through. The theaters eventually dried up and most of the films stored away and forgotten. It was a interesting time in cinema where low budget movie makers found an outlet in people who wanted more than what mainstream cinema was offering and teenagers who would pay money and sit through any movie just to see some boobs or some good gory deaths. The genre is now finally getting the respect and exposer it deserves, but it was a time and place and will never be the same. In my mind, these brave film makers were pioneers. They showed that you don't need a big budget or a big star to make a good movie. They showed that when you don't have millions to throw at a movie you are forced to use your head, find more creative ways to make something happen than simply throw a pile of money at a special effect company. In these days of CGI, huge budget movies, commercialism, it makes you wonder if we've learned anything from them. These movies showed that if you have heart and truly love cinema, you can't make a bad movie. And if you did make a bad movie, at least you tried. 

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