Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust ★★★

I really don't know if I'm going to be able to speak with any sort of clarity about Cannibal Holocaust. Just to say up front, I'm neither a vegan nor a vegetarian. I eat meat probably way more than I really should, in fact. But I am also wholly morally opposed to the absolutely wasteful killing of animals featured in this film. The scene where the film crew kills and tears apart a turtle is one of the most uncomfortable scenes I've watched in recent memory.

Yet at the same time, I am of the firm belief that the prime objective of any piece of art is to induce emotions from the audience. Whether that's joy or sadness or fear or even disgust. And from that standpoint, Cannibal Holocaust does succeed. Which isn't to excuse what they did, but it was successful in getting an emotional reaction out of me. Curiously, when the film does switch to the "documentary" footage and we see the mutilation of the various animals, it has an effect on the rest of the film. Because I know what I've just seen with the turtle and the tarantula and the snake and the pig is real, it lends a foreboding sense of reality to the later simulated violence against other people, which includes cannibalism, torture, a forced abortion, genital mutilation, and multiple sexual assaults.

I would also be remiss if I didn't point out that I have previously rated Apocalypse Now, which features a water buffalo being sacrificed, and Andrei Rublev, which features a horse being explicitly maimed, both five stars. I also love and have rated highly several Spaghetti Western features, many of which were not kind to their horses behind the scenes.

The fact is, Cannibal Holocaust is a deeply unpleasant viewing experience. It's one that is technically very impressive, with some astounding location shooting. But it's tough to reckon with it on any sort of moral level. Perhaps assigning a score of three on the basis of its filmmaking and what it set out to achieve is a cop out, given everything else. And I certainly would understand anyone rating it lower or even turning it off halfway through. I think to fully come to terms with my feelings on it, I would have to watch it again, which is something I am frankly unprepared to do for at least the near future.