Mar 16, 2021

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)


I was inclined to avoid reviewing this one since it's so well known, becoming more and more infamous over the years.  With the initial controversy (resulting in actual murder charges against Deodato) inviting urban myths that this was actually snuff, the film's cult status was assured.  So, let's take a walk through this notorious cannibal film.

Playing on the TVs at "Television City"..

News of an American film crew who disappeared in the Amazon rainforest while filming a documentary about indigenous cannibal tribes. On the screen is Faye Daniels (Francesca Ciardi), one of the missing crew, a screenwriter.

Professor Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman), an anthropologist at New York University, agrees to lead a rescue mission in hopes of finding the missing filmmakers. 

Monroe gets a military escort to the middle of nowhere along the Amazon and is introduced to his guide, Chaco Losojos (Salvatore Basile).

They journey through the rainforest.

They witness what will be the first of many atrocities. 

They see a native woman (Lucia Costantini) being pulled through the mud, punished for adultery.

Lucia Costantini is actually white (an Italian), so they ensured she was covered in mud to look like a native.  The crew couldn't get any of the local natives to perform this grueling scene.  So, Constantini, who was working in the wardrobe department, volunteered.  Lucia Costantini had previously worked on about fifteen films as a seamstress and wardrobe crew; this is her only acting credit.  I find it crazy that this wardrobe girl would agree to such explicit material - I mean, it's pretty damn revealing and not the sort of thing you'd expect a random seamstress to just volunteer for.  Go figure.

The male natived proceeds to rape her with a stone/mud concoction and then bashes her head in with a phallic shaped rock.

Then her dead body is dragged to the boat and set afloat.

Monroe and Chaco arrive at the Yacumo village

There they find clues of the missing filmmakers - via a trinket left behind.

They enjoy the local cuisine before heading further into the rainforest.

They witness atrocity number two.

Shamatari tribesmen are raping and pillaging Ya̧nomamö villagers.

Monroe and the rest save the Ya̧nomamö and he is repaid by the native women.

Then he comes upon the skeletal remains of the filmmakers.  Proof positive they are all dead.

Before leaving, they hang with the Ya̧nomamö and obtain reels of film.

Monroe delivers the story on TV.

Monroe meets with executives to finance and create a documentary about the deceased filmmakers.

And so, Monroe views the recovered reels of film.  The film crew, L-R: Jack Anders - cameraman (Perry Pirkanen), Mark Tomaso (Luca Barbareschi) cameraman, Faye Daniels (Francesca Ciardi) script writer, and Alan Yates (Carl Gabriel Yorke) director.

Faye smiles at the camera as they fly deep into the rainforest.

We get a look at Faye as the crew gets ready in a small cabin before setting off on foot.

The infamous "turtle scene" where a giant turtle is killed and eaten. Sorry, I find this shit unnecessary and not fun to watch. I'm up for any manner of "problematic" scenes: rape, murder, torture... but it's okay because it's only a movie.  Tell that to the turtle who was really fucking killed. 

As Monroe edits the film, they find more and more disturbing material.

The filmmakers arrive at the Yacumo village.

They proceed to burn it down, and shoot anyone trying to escape. Alan cites "survival of the fittest".

Faye and Alan have sex.. which is rather disgusting considering they're doing on the ashes of the village.

They take delight in filming a grotesque scene.

Monroe says, fuck this.  He doesn't want to be associated with this project any more after seeing this footage.

Monroe shows the executives the final bit of footage which will surely convince the executives to call off the project.

The final two reels are shown to the executives.

It shows them grabbing a Ya̧nomamö girl and raping her.

They later find the same Ya̧nomamö impaled on a stake for losing her virginity.  In other words it was their damn fault.

An iconic scene; highly disturbing.

The final bit has Faye being raped in the most horrific manner imaginable.  It's filmed as if the camera were held by a native, jostling and blurry - which makes it all the more realistic.  This part, more than any other, feels like a snuff film.

Faye screams as her clothes are ripped off.

After being raped by dozens of natives, she falls limp to the ground.

Her body is carried to another spot to be beaten.  Francesca Ciardi provides some explicit views here. When asked about it, she said: "I felt uncomfortable, not so much an issue with nudity but with how director Ruggero Deodato filmed the nude scenes. This bothered me very much and I felt I was being asked to do something I didn't want to do. But he was right. Looking at the film some 30 years on, this was how it needed to be filmed."

And so, for the next few minutes, we just stare at Faye's crotch as she's repeatedly clubbed, then beheaded.

The executives are horrified and order the footage destroyed.

Monroe walks the city streets leaving us to ponder who the real cannibals are in this world.

It's a brutal and effective film, deserving of the notoriety it has earned.  Truly a textbook example of the Streisand Effect. Italy banned it for 3 years, the US banned it for 5 years, and Norway banned it until 2003. So, yeah, of you're going to want to see it.  I remember Faces of Death having the same macabre allure back in the eighties.

Enough has been said about this film, so I'll just end by saying that I can appreciate the skill and dark imagination that went into making this movie.  However, it's good for a one time view, so you can wear your "I rode the roller coaster" t-shirt.  Beyond that, I can't see the value. 


No comments:

Post a Comment