(1980) [No Rating]
Cannibal Holocaust is the sort of film that turns lifelong meat-eaters into instant vegetarians. It's a vile piece of work that uses every miserable gory trope I've ever seen in a horror film, and some I haven't -- cannibalism (obviously), multiple rape scenes, genuine (i mean it) filmed animal killing...
Watching it, taking my screenshots, and then combing the screenshots for ones I could bear to use in a review means, pretty much, that I had to watch this movie three times in a row. I don't plan on ever seeing it again. I can't recommend it to viewers with even the sturdiest of stomachs, and to anyone who gets even the least bit queasy at a gory movie, you'll want to forget that a movie like this even exists. In fact, if you belong in the second category, you're probably going to want to close this window and go for a walk. I plan on doing just that when I'm done writing.
It's easy to know how to react when you see someone get eaten in a zombie movie. You think, "ugh," and -- if you're anything like me -- you think, "radical!" I'm at a loss here though, for a number of reasons.
For one, it's undeniable that there are cultures throughout the world that practice cannibalism for religious or funereal reasons, and as a celebration of conquest over a hostile tribe. Curiously, the tribal cannibalism portrayed in Cannibal Holocaust isn't anywhere near as disturbing as the one scene in which an American non-cannibal is offered human flesh -- he eats because it's either that or insult his hosts, who outnumber his crew, and are armed. The look on his face as he chews is that of a man who has just cut off a fat piece of his soul.
I caught screenshots of this, but you don't really want to see them. Here -- let's take a break and look at some daisies, shall we?
Another hurdle to knowing how to react to the cannibalism here, is that there are too many other kinds of carnage on display to single anything out as being worse. Plus, the cannibalism stuff is fictionalized -- there are honest-to-god animal deaths featured in the movie. Most disturbing is an involved scene in which a giant turtle is hacked open and cooked. According to the DVD commentary, actor Perry Pirkanen cried after filming this scene.
But that leads to another hurdle, which is that it feels hypocritical to be a meat-eater and be repulsed by a scene like this. We eat meat. It comes from an icky, violent process that we never have to see because the deed is done and shrinkwrapped by the time the meat gets to us. Doesn't make us innocent players in the exchange.
I thought for a while about star ratings and what I'd give this. Without a doubt, it's the most disgusting movie I've ever seen -- not to be confused with "Grossest" which is a title I could bestow upon either this or Dead Alive. But the crucial difference is that Dead Alive is funny and charming in addition to being gross. Cannibal Holocaust is joyless. There isn't a moment of fun to be had here. You watch movies like this for only voyeuristic reasons -- because you just have to see.
It certainly fulfills its purpose as a Grindhouse movie, which is to be appalling. One could argue that this makes it worthy of a 3.5 or even 4 star rating, but I won't bring myself to dole out rewards for this kind of filmmaking. I'm just not in the mood.
I need some fresh air.