Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust ★★★½

Cannibal Holocaust has to be one of the most controversial films in history. It was banned in the UK for many years as part of the “video nasties” scare and was also accused of being a snuff movie (where actors are killed for real onscreen), albeit the latter was eventually disproven in court. Nevertheless, it remains contentious even nowadays for the fact that, while the filmmakers spared the human cast (their gruesome deaths are faked), they didn’t extend the same respect to various hapless jungle animals such as a muskrat, a turtle and a monkey. There are also numerous scenes of grotesque sexual violence plus some stock documentary footage of executions.

It’s a tough, gruelling watch for sure. However, it works very effectively as a horror film in the truest sense of the word. Ruggero Deodato’s use of a cinema verite/found footage approach and the haunting, incongruously beautiful Riz Ortolani score both lend a lot to the impact of the sundry brutalities. Above all, it is misanthropic to an almost unreal degree, positing that civilised society is no better than the savage law of the jungle in its primal need to wallow in bloodshed.

While this is a difficult production to defend from a moral standpoint, it is undeniably better made and more purposeful than most exploitation flicks.

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