Splatter Time Fun Fest 2013: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

cannibal holocaust

And I now have a new worst movie of all time!

Story By: Gianfranco Clerici
Directed By: Ruggero Deodato

I’m a firm believer in the freedom to express your art anyway an artist chooses to express his or her art. It takes a lot for any piece of art to get to me, to really crawl under my skin and make me question whether or not I want to admit my humanity. The same is not true for my wife, she ran crying from the room the moment an innocent animal was killed on screen in Cannibal Holocaust. I may have a stronger stomach than my wife, but my wife’s initial reaction mirrors my reaction in total. There’s a place in my world for the freedom of art, but there really isn’t a place for something like Cannibal Holocaust.

Ruggero Deodato’s film is shocking, and it is graphic in the worst of ways. That’s all surface though, and being shocked and appalled is a surface reaction. I have no doubt that the intent behind Cannibal Holocaust was to shock those watching and to appall as many people as was possible. The more important aspect of Cannibal Holocaust is whether or not the shocks and the appalling scenes are earned. Do they severe a purpose other than to shock and appall? Even more importantly, was it necessary for innocent animals to be brutally murdered in the name of art? My answer to to all of those questions is a resounding no. That’s why, when I look long and hard at Cannibal Holocaust, I have nary a qualm in calling Signore Deodato’s film the worst I have ever seen.

There’s nothing to Cannibal Holocaust besides a sometimes haunting score. Riz Ortolani manages to squeeze blood out of a turnip by somehow ensconcing Cannibal Holocaust in an eerie and atmospheric score. The rest of the film has nothing to offer, it is the worst example of a simple horror film. Gianfranco Clerici would like for the audience to think that his stabs at “oooh, are the savages the cannibals, or are we civilized folks the cannibals,” are smart and thematically deep. He is mistaken, as any depth is lost in a screenplay, and dialogue, that is obvious and hits the audience over the head with the civilized cannibal theme repeatedly.

With Cannibal Holocaust offering nothing for the audience to latch on to except for its score that once again brings criticism of the film back to its shocking content. There’s no way that anyone involved with the film can justify the brutal murder of an endangered species of turtle. There’s no way that the various scenes of brutality can be construed as to having a purpose. Cannibal Holocaust has nothing at its core, and because of this the film gives horror a bad name.

I wish people weren’t constantly steered towards Cannibal Holocaust as some kind of landmark of controversial horror greatness. There’s nothing great about Cannibal Holocaust, there’s not even a second of film worth watching in the entire endeavor. As a horror film I was appalled by Cannibal Holocaust, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to associate with any horror fan who champions Cannibal Holocaust as some kind of standard of the horror genre. Innocent animals are brutalized for no reason whatsoever. Murder, rape, violence, and mayhem are the course of the day in a film that has no desire to provide any meaning behind its attempts to shock. For the few horror fans who haven’t as of yet watched Cannibal Holocaust; do yourself a favor and avoid this piece of garbage at all costs.

Rating:

1/2*

Cheers,
Bill

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15 responses to “Splatter Time Fun Fest 2013: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

  1. Yup, i hated this one as well and those first two sentences sum up my take as well. While this one’s terrifically awful, you’ll want to poke around on TLA.com or other sites that carry extreme horror flicks if you’re ever in the mood to see more along these lines. There’s a nicely sized niche market for it, but I’m one of those folks who isn’t into the extreme stuff at all (and lawd knows I’ve tried watching too much of it since the 80’s)…

  2. I don’t mind the extreme stuff, as long as it’s fake. When it’s real, and being perpetrated against innocents, that’;s when it gets to me.

  3. Oh, I should have pointed that out as well. Yeah, extreme and funny is fine or extreme and at least with some sort of point to it I can hack (pun intended). But I can’t think of anyone I know who’s seen this more than once and liked it (or liked it more upon repeat views). I’ve seen some other imports that are pretty cruel in terms of how victims are dispatched and/or disposed of, but the animal stuff here just tops it all because it’s not even necessary other than as shock value (and could have been done without any actual killing).

  4. Yeah, I’ve been having issues with the trope of killing an innocent animal in horror, even when it’s fake. So often it’s done to establish evil, and it’s been done so much over the years that I’d argue it’s become too lazy and obvious. The killing in Cannibal Holocaust is different, yet I’d also argue it’s lazy and obvious, with irresponsibility tossed into the mix.

  5. Interestingly enough, Eli Roth’s upcoming The Green Inferno is supposed to pay homage to this film (eek), but I don’t think he’s going for the same tone here. That said, It’ll no doubt be shocking to some extent, but I won’t go in with any expectations if I do decide to commit to seeing it…

  6. I’m not much of an Eli Roth fan, but I’ll probably get around to more of his work at some point.

  7. Yeah, his stuff is interesting in that “Oh, he saw a LOT of horror flicks from the 70’s and 80’s” way where you see the references. But it’s definitely not for all tastes. I think the best thing he did was that outrageous fake DON’T trailer from Grindhouse…

  8. That and Hostel are the only two works I’ve seen from him so far. The rest of his work hasn’t interested me enough to feel any rush to check it out.

  9. Not a big fan of those Hostel films, as they’re well made, but just grind away on the nerves after a while. Cabin Fever is worth a look because of some twists it has that take it a few unexpected places, but you’ll definitely see Roth’s influences throughout.

  10. Cabin Fever is the one I’ve had recommended to me the most. I’ll probably end up seeing that one before any others, maybe.

  11. I liked the opening music, but turned it off 20 minutes into the film, when the guy starts killing an animal. Horrible.

  12. That was pretty much my wife’s reaction.

  13. Pingback: Splatter Time Fun Fest 2013: The 4th Annual Bloody Machete Awards | Bill's Movie Emporium

  14. Bill, while I find your opinions insightful, I must disagree with you on this one. I agree that CH is an appallingly graphic exercise in disturbing filmmaking, but at the same time, I feel that perhaps Deodato’s message of our civilized society holding a voyeuristic obsession with violence, isn’t fully realized due to both financial and actor quality limitations. I hold this film as the lesser, lower grade version of Apocalypse Now. Both have shocking, disturbing imagery. Both have directors obsessed with their craft, to the point of committing the graphic violence their films purport to be critical of. Much like Deodato, Francis Ford Coppola’s film featured real animal slaughter, destruction of a natural habitat and unlike CH, AN featured actual corpses. Coppola’s treatment of the Filipino actors on his film was detestable. Forcing them to constantly put their lives in danger for a pittance and in using actual cadavers for scenes, he committed grave robbery . Yet AN is considered a grand epic (due to its financial backing and collection of talented actors). I’m not saying that Deodato would have produced Coppola’s film with the same finances, but what I am saying is that CH is the first found footage film (over 20 years before Blair Witch Project made it fashionable) and that it is an important (and loved by Sergio Leone), disturbing, heinous, exploitative, interesting, inventive and well-scored film. But, then again so are a whole handful of acclaimed, creative and subversive cinema (Apocalypse Now, Aguirre Wrath of God, etc…).

  15. The thing is, I agree with much of what you’re saying. But, I feel that the film said all of that within its first fifteen minutes or so. After that point it felt like needless excess and brutality. As a short, and obviously with the abhorrent animal cruelty removed, I think this could have been a great film instead of a bloated mess.

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