Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust ★★★★½

Film 37/45 for Hooptober 4.0

2/3 of 3 People Eating People (non-zombie)

This is a 5-star film, in spite of my rating...but I’ll explain that.

Before I begin this review, I want to be clear on one thing: this may be the only movie that I have not let Oscar watch with me! I let him in the room for the last 20 minutes because there isn’t any animal violence during that time...and because he was about to claw through the door or figure out how to turn the knob, one or the other...but I will NOT let him see those animals get hurt! Not my baby. Not today. Not ever.

Damn, this is one intense f*cking movie, y’all. Seriously, it’s a 5-star film in spite of my rating...explanation coming. The first time I saw this was when the Grindhouse DVD was released and I'm quite sure I chose the “animal-cruelty free” version because, yes, that was an option and, yes, I preferred the cut version over seeing animals get hurt. I just can’t with the animals getting hurt. Tonight, I watched this on Shudder and that was not an option. I remembered ONLY after the first scene of animal violence that I had chosen that version before because JESUSFUCKINGCHRIST I am legit traumatized. So traumatized that I didn’t * out the U in that expletive because this movie didn’t do the same courtesy for me. It gave me ALL of the goddamn U.

Even though I will undoubtedly need therapy for those animal scenes, I cannot deny the fact that this is a brilliant movie. It is exploitation of the utmost caliber. It is (I believe) the first found footage movie made and its originality is quite genius in that approach. It’s unflinching depiction of the atrocities of which man is capable is engrossing, harrowing, and deeply disturbing. It’s argument that the real savages of humanity are those who consider themselves sophisticated is eerily valid, especially in today’s nightmare political climate where the very leader of our country is pretty much the missing link scientists have always searched for.

The documentary film crew on which the story focuses are possibly the most disgusting humans ever put on film and while I was more than happy to see them meet their brutal ends, the way in which Deodato chose to show that is unforgettably unsettling. The last twenty minutes of the movie truly feels like something you are NOT supposed to be seeing. The urge to look away is strong throughout the movie but it intensifies in the final scenes. I have to seriously applaud a movie that elicits that type of reaction from me. There is an onslaught of disturbing imagery to be found here and, perhaps given the format in which this was filmed, a lot of it seems sickeningly real. Of course, the animal violence was real and in no way do I ever condone anything like that, but, it happened and knowing that most of the actors were unaware of that truth and rightfully appalled when they learned about it...somehow makes it a tiny bit easier to tolerate...or maybe it just makes me feel slightly less disgusting to watch it.

I also want to talk about the music because this film contains the SINGLE MOST MISLEADING TITLE THEME IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF EVER. Seriously, it is a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL song that opens the film and honestly makes you think you’re in for an entirely different type of movie but it’s a goddamn trap because the movie is an outright assault on the very beauty its music creates. The title theme deserved every award you could have thrown at it but being part of such a brutal and revolting film, it was never destined to get any of them.

Part of me really wants to hate this film and part of me just can’t do that. The (possibly shameful) truth is that I love this film even though, in some ways, I also hate it. I originally gave the edited version I first saw a 4-star rating. Having seen the entire thing in its HD glory, I realize this is a 5-star film. I wholly detest the animal violence in every way possible but I cannot even pretend to deny the raw power this film contains. Not because of its disturbing human and animal violence content but because of the reaction that content creates. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like to see this when it was first released...when nothing like it had ever been shown before. I imagine the mix of shock, terror, and wonder would have been grossly euphoric. THIS IS A 5-STAR FILM and yet, I’m only going to give it 4.5 stars in order to somehow ease my conscience for loving a film that did those poor animals so damn unforgivably dirty...because it’s really all I can do. Not watching it won’t change anything and it’s a bit late for boycotting so, I guess, that’s just my way of saying it’s not right and it’s not ok? I can’t rate it any lower because it’s clearly a memorable, powerful film but if it weren’t for those scenes it would pretty much be perfect. Well, if I’m honest, it’s pretty much perfect with those scenes...but certainly not because of them. Or maybe, in fact, because of them. Damn it, that shit has me TORN, y’all. TORN and TORN UP.

I would have recommended seeing the “animal cruelty-free” version before tonight but now that I’ve seen the film in its entirety, I can safely say that you need to see it that way, if you are so inclined to watch it. You need to be traumatized by everything this film attempts to do. The impact of everything is important even if it is abhorrent. It isn’t supposed to be a rewatchable...or even likable...film. It’s not for everyone. It may not be for anyone. But if you do decide to watch it, just know that you’re going to react intensely to something in it...and that is the work of an utterly brilliant film.

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