Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Jungle Film, Trash Film  |   Release Date - Jun 14, 1985 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - Italy  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Jason Buchanan

Everything you've heard about Ruggero Deodato's nauseating Grindhouse classic is true; and while it's hard to defend the director for some of the truly repugnant visuals with which he has chosen to convey his message, there is indeed an underlying point to the film, if one is able to look beyond the sometimes unwatchable images that assault the viewer. At one point in the film, a character makes a comment about Western media junkies living to have their senses raped, and in an age where television viewers bear witness on a weekly basis to such acts as game show contestants eating horses' eyeballs to win cash, this sentiment couldn't ring more true. It seems that some of these images shouldn't be as effective as they are over 20 years after the film's initial release, though the animal cruelty, combined with the other unspeakable atrocities that the protagonists commit, ultimately results in a film that does indeed rape the senses of the viewer in a nearly (some might argue entirely) unwatchable manner. While livestock farming and mass consumption has successfully taken the dirty work out of life as a carnivore for most people, many never see the faces of the animals they so readily consume without a second thought. The idea of death and mutilation is so far removed that it's easy to eat meat for one's entire life and never have to witness firsthand the slaughter of the animals one consumes. The actual onscreen killing of animals in this film is almost unforgivable upon initial reaction, though they were (with a few exceptions) consumed in true hunter-gatherer tradition. However, the treatment of the natives by the so-called "documentarians" who set out to expose their "primitive" lifestyles is unforgivable (even though conveyed by use of special effects); it is truly the most horrifying aspect of this film when one stops to consider the results of colonialism and the manner in which many modern societies have arrived at their current states. By the end of the film, the violent (literally and aesthetically) images leave viewers with an unshakable sickness that they won't soon forget. Composer Riz Ortolani's score effectively moves from a familiar, somewhat pensive melody into harsh tones that make viewers actually feel the violence they bear witness to onscreen. This is not a film that is watched, it is a film that is endured, and audiences that have any doubts about their ability to do so are best advised to follow their instincts.