Tuesday, October 14, 2008
#91: Cannibal Holocaust
Directed by Roggero Deodato
Written by Gianfranco Clerici
Released February 7, 1980 (Italy)
I've honestly never been more hesitant during this project to not watch a film than I was with Roggero Deodato's infamous, notorious pseudo documentary Cannibal Holocaust. I actually thought of just sending the movie back to Netflix without even putting it into my DVD player. I was that worried about being permanently scarred. Once the disc was in the player, I still avoided watching it for over two hours, flipping around to see what else was on TV.
What was making me so hesitant, you might be asking? Well, first there's the fact that Deodato was forced, after the movie's release, to prove that the actors in this movie were not actually murdered. No kidding. He literally had to produce the living actors to avoid being charged with multiple counts of murder. Second, a number of animals were actually murdered in the making of the film. Supposedly, the natives involved in the making of the picture ate the animals, but that still doesn't excuse Deodato's disgusting decision to murder animals to make the other horrors of his picture seem all the more savage.
Eventually, I gathered the courage and intestinal fortitude to hit Play.
There's no doubt that Cannibal Holocaust had a massive influence on the makers of The Blair Witch Project, as the primary conceit of the movie is that it presents the lost footage of a film crew whose fate is only learned upon viewing of the film they were trying to make. In the case of the former, four young and cocky film makers make an ill-fated trip into the Amazon jungle (constantly referred to in the film as "the Green Inferno") to document the lives of natives.
The first half of the movie focuses on the recovery of the footage, making the crew's documentary a movie-within-a-movie something we hear about but don't actually witness until later. The expedition to recover the footage is lead by Harold Monroe, an anthropologist, and two jungle guides who help him navigate the dangerous tribes inhabiting the jungle and keeping the remains of his film team in a shrine. He negotiates a trade and returns to New York with the footage.
As Monroe views the footage, he also begins to talk to the colleagues of documentary director Alan Yates. It seems Yates was known to be a provocateur, staging scenes for his films and even paying his subjects to commit horrible acts for better footage. Everyone Monroe encounters, from his father to his ex-wife, hates Yates with passion.
It won't take long for you to hate Yates -- or, more aptly, Deodato -- as you watch the first reels of the "lost" footage. The film crew enters the jungle and quickly dispatching animals they cross, whether it be a turtle they disembowel for food or snakes and spiders that threaten them. By the time they get to a certain scene with a monkey (which Deodato filmed two times, meaning two monkeys met a horrible fate), you won't have to be a card-carrying PETA member to want to seriously fuck up the director and anyone else who had anything to do with these sequences. Then again, that organization is so twisted that they could actually hold this up as a positive, making meat eaters confront what happens to their dinner every day.
Soon, the film crew has stumbled upon the same village where Monroe recovered their film, and they waste no time in pushing the villagers around and threatening them with their weapons. Then, they inexplicably force the villagers into a hut and set it on fire. What the fuck?
It doesn't take an intellectual road map to figure out where Deodato is going with these scenes: the Westerners are the real savages. The most retarded thing about Deodato's heavy handed thesis is that he is the one setting up scenes where actors murder animals, and he is the one making a racist movie about people in uncivilized regions eating people (the tribes in the film are actual tribes, who behave nothing like this in real life). He's perpetuating the very thing, the savagery, he's pretending on which to comment.
The documentary crew's film gets more and more ridiculous by the minute. Who would act like this, especially on camera? Killing animals, having sex in front of the villagers they just terrorized, even gang raping a woman from another tribe? It's preposterous, and then Deodato heaps insult on top of everything by then trying to make the retaliatory acts of the tribespeople horrifying.
The movie's final line, "I wonder who the real cannibals are," would have made me laugh out loud if I hadn't been so disgusted by what preceded it. If I could have put up with a second viewing, I would have watched it with the commentary track on to see how the director justified making this exploitative hunk of shit.
For more on Cannibal Holocaust:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- Buy the DVD. Then, tell no one you own this thing. If you find this in your boyfriend or girlfriend's movie collection, dump his/her ass.
To watch the trailer for Cannibal Holocaust, follow this link.