Regardless if you’re a hardcore cineaste, or just a person who goes to the movies, and likes to peruse video stores casually, you have at one point during your fandom heard of “Cannibal Holocaust”. I’ve never seen this film before, and it’s not one of those films I purposely avoided, but I just never crossed paths with it. Until now. It’s somewhat of a mythical film to me, especially as lifelong horror buff. Oft discussed, referenced here and there, and depicted through images in “Fangoria” more times than I can remember, it’s a film Savini and Nicotero love to discuss, and it’s a film “director” Eli Roth emulates.
“Cannibal Holocaust”, banned in over 60 countries, mostly for its incredibly realistic depiction of violence (the animal deaths are genuine, though), is a film that really has, and continues to test the limits of our idea of free speech, how willing we are to allow artistic expression only until it offends us. Art is not supposed to be exultant and inspiring all the time, art also should depress, sadden us, and in a sense make us look at ourselves in a different light. And, “Cannibal Holocaust” does in a sense perform that idea. Sure, its exploitation, but the example of its being banned almost everywhere because it features incredibly realistic depictions of cannibalism is a clear cut exemplification of censorship.
If that didn’t exist we wouldn’t have had to see three disclaimers before the actual film began. The fact that the artist has to indeed censor himself is a clear cut illustration on how unwilling we are to let artists create. It does, though, account for us how large and mystifying this planet can be, and how, as one reporter states, we should learn more about our own world before exploring others. Film has a power, a power never used, to help us gain a better understanding of many ideas and concepts, and in a sense learn to understand human nature. That’s why propaganda films were a key tool in the world wars; directors have the ability to convey their message to their audience, it’s a powerful idea that they can use if performed with the right resource. It’s a power that very few filmmakers exercise today.
And it seems that the message of censorship continues as director Deodato has recently revealed that creating films, especially horror films, are becoming harder and harder in Italy. Ancient are the days becoming when we’ll see another Giallo entry, or an Argento film. Ancient are the days when we’ll again see an iconic film like this ever again. “Cannibal Holocaust” though for all the baggage that comes with it is a very good, if not uneven film that has been mimicked in films like “The Blair Witch Project”, the mock documentary film within a film about friends exploring and suddenly disappearing one day. But undoubtedly, there’s no other film like it. There will never be.
The plot involves an expedition crew whom venture in to the Amazon jungle to retrieve footage left from an American documentary crew. There, they hope to retrieve the footage and discover the origins of these people’s deaths. As the film progresses it constantly changes from an exploration in to alternate cultures, then an adventure film, then a murder mystery, but it doesn’t become engrossing and compelling until we finally view the footage left behind, and then it takes on an entirely new life of its own.
There, we’re able to discover what exactly happened, and the events that unfold are shocking, surprising, and basically thought-provoking. I won’t ruin what the plot twist entails, but it will have you re-thinking the entire story for days. It’s a very dramatic dissection of humanity and how we perceive ourselves and others. “Cannibal Holocaust” is not based solely around the brutality and gore it features (thought the climax is utterly gruesome), but is a shocking parable of what true monsters humans can be and ends on an ironic and utterly breathtaking last line that really did have me reeling in my seat. If art is supposed to challenge us, what sort of people will we become when we’re no longer challenged?
The DVD itself is a beautiful presentation for any hardcore fan of the film with excellent casing, and gorgeous film presentation, crisp sound, and a great widescreen format, while the extras are almost endless from its original trailers, mock documents on the filmmakers and tribes shown, and rare documentary’s exploring the film’s production. Fans of the film are finally paid respect with an excellent release for this excellent and legendary film that I loved.