Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust ★★★★★

I can't understand the reason for such cruelty.

There are some movies where I think there's a before and an after. You're a certain way before you watch something, and then afterwards, good or bad, you're something else. This is one of those movies, in case that wasn't obvious. Cannibal Holocaust has three types of violence in it. The first is violence that isn't real and doesn't look real whatsoever. The second is violence that isn't real but looks disturbingly real. The third is violence that looks disturbingly real because it is real. (Animal lovers, stay the fuck away.) As the film concluded, my mind and my stomach still felt like they were located somewhere else, not in my body. For extremely different reasons, the last time I felt that way with a movie was watching Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together. I initially gave it four stars when it was over, then upped it to five later in the same day. It's now in my top five favorite films of all-time. If five star movies can be decided not just from a critical analysis but from a gut feeling, then despite possible moral objections that are currently swirling around in my mind, I have to say it and do it just so it's out.

Yes, I think Cannibal Holocaust is a five star film. I've expressed that gut feeling on it, so now let me try to tell you and even tell myself why I can further defend that. This is a movie that gets to have it both ways in a manner I think no other movie I've seen was able to do. It's an examination, a meditation on the nature of exploitation in film while the film itself is without any question the most "exploitative" thing I've seen. Nearly every reprehensible thing you can think of in a movie is here, and not suggested either. If it's here, it's shown. Not often when a film is proceeded with a multiple sentence content warning, but to say this movie is more than deserving of one would be a gross understatement. The film I think offers statements and ponders questions revolving around that concept of exploitation. Don't stick your head where it doesn't belong. Certain cultures are inherently cruel to others, even when that cruelty is mirrored in the onlooking culture. Violence is cyclical. The truth can easily be manipulated. These aren't new concepts, but I'm currently hard-pressed to think of other movies that are willing to "go there" with these topics, for better and worse. (To go back to the animal stuff, no, that absolutely did not need to be done to real animals. I will defend the movie beyond that, but even I can say that what is done to certain animals in this movie is not defensible in the slightest, and quite frankly, shame on you if you do defend it.)

There are two notable shifts in this movie that tipped me off onto it being more than the "average" exploitation film. Number one, you get two movies in one. A quest for pieces of a movie, and then that movie being created before our very eyes. Both "movies" reflect each other and offer their own horrors. Number two, that second movie really is as horrific as you have heard it made out to be. But, the most horrific moments don't come from what, or who, you expect. Who would've thought you could make a movie featuring cannibalistic Amazon natives and a filmmaking crew, and it's that latter group that you could argue treats the other worse? There eventually comes a point where you go from "It's terrible what happened to these people." to "It's still terrible, but you know what, I don't feel as bad about it." Perhaps that even speaks to whatever fucked up nature I have within myself. I've intentionally not said certain things and yet I've already said too much. An integral part of this movie working for me, at least with this first (and possibly final) viewing, was not knowing most of what was coming. This is not like any other movie I've given the rating I am. This is not an entertaining movie. As I just said, this might even be a one and done film. If that is the case, however positive I can be in this next statement, I am glad I bit the bullet and watched it. It's time for dinner now. Let's see how that goes.

(Somehow forgot to mention the musical score. It's fantastic.)


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