Yes, you read that correctly! I watched a film that was banned in Italy, the U.K., Australia, and many more (even the U.S.). The film I watched for this article is called, Cannibal Holocaust.
I decided to watch the film after the second episode of TGON’s podcast, I was warned and recommended to not watch the film. But I took that as more of an incentive to watch it and boy, we have a lot to discuss. But before I go into my review, let’s go into the background of the film.
Cannibal Holocaust is a horror film directed by Ruggero Deodato. This Italian film came out in 1985 and is based on “sensationalized news coverage of terrorist organization the Red Brigades in the ‘70s,” according to Bloody Disgusting. The following description of the film is by Google, “During a rescue mission into the Amazon rainforest, a professor stumbles across lost film shot by a missing documentary crew whose goal was to study the region’s indigenous cannibalistic tribes.”
As you can tell, this movie will have cannibalism in it, but that isn’t why the movie was banned. The movie was very controversial and broke many taboos; graphic sex, cruel murder, and real animal cruelty. Yes, they committed real animal cruelty and killed five real animals on set. I won’t explicitly state how the animals were killed on film, but if you’re curious, you can read that at Bloody Disgusting (I am warning you, this is very explicit). Cannibal Holocaust isn’t nearly as bloody and gruesome as Quentin Tarantino’s work, but it was for the 80s. Even Tarantino didn’t commit animal cruelty, so this film tops the list as the most stomach-turning. This once-banned film also depicts rape, incest, and mutilation of sexual organs.
According to Gamesradar, ” As a result, Italian authorities seized prints of the movie after its release, and Deodato landed a variety of snuff film charges. There were even accusations that the deaths in the movies were real, leading to Deodato being put on trial; the director was forced to bring in his cast to prove that none of them had, in fact, perished during filming.” Though the film isn’t as brutal compared to some 2020 films, it is still very much realistic and much so when it comes to the difficulty of watching it. Cannibal Holocaust is also credited to be the inventor of found-footage horror since the movie showed the missing group of documentarians footage. The director certainly put in the work to the realism of the horror film: from casting unknown-young actors to having the same actors live under the radar a year after filming.
But the controversy does not end, nope it doesn’t end at animal cruelty. According to Gamesradar, allegedly the cast of the film was mistreated, “The indigenous peoples who appear in the movie went completely unpaid for their (often dangerous) work, leading to claims of exploitation. Many of the actors involved individually expressed their disgust at the animal killings, with lead actor Robert Kerman allegedly calling Deodato “a sadist” for his directorial approach. Actors guilds, and workers’ rights, have developed, and this would simply not be allowed to happen.”
Are you still reading? If so, here is my review and the live notes I took during the film. Mind you, I did no research before watching this.
I curled up comfortably on my couch, but I’m not alone. I got my soft-gray blanket, Hot Cheetos, and a glass of apple juice. I’m ready, or so I believed. I start my rental of the uncensored and uncut version of Cannibal Holocaust, then a paragraph flashed on the TV screen. The paragraph consisted of a warning to what’s to come, this is when I take a deep breath in and out. I pressed on, shortly after the intro, we are given a brief background by a reporter. Four young people venture to document tribes (Green Inferno) that still partake in cannibalism. The group consists of Alan Yates (director), Faye Daniels (director’s girlfriend), Jack Anders (cameraman), and Mark Tomaso (cameraman and long-time friends of Anders). The reporter makes a point that the group has not returned and ponders on where they could be.
The film soon cuts to footage of the young group expressing that they’re not scared for what’s to come, I made a note saying, “Obvious bad acting.” It made me surprised that people felt this was real because I felt the actors were either new to acting or it just didn’t come naturally to them. The audience is then introduced to professor Monroe (NYU anthropologist) who embarks on a mission to figure out what happened to the young group. The scenes that follow shows, armed men chasing after a tribe that is caught eating meat off of (fake) human bones, this leads to one tribesman being captured.
Professor Monroe asks the help of the armed men and seeks out someone to guide him around the amazon jungle to Green Inferno. This is when we find out there are two tribes of interest, Ya̧nomamö, and the Shamatari. Professor Monroe (after the discovery of Daniels’ gold lighter) is traveling on foot with Miguel (one of the armed men), the Yacumo tribesman, and Mr. Chaco (a guide). Soon Mr. Chaco trips and falls onto a decaying corpse, and for no reason, no reason at all, Mr. Chaco picks the maggots out of the corpse with a knife. Mr. Chaco’s nonsense causes professor Monroe to throw up. The audience realizes the corpse is Filipe Ocanya, one of the guides that work with Mr. Chaco.
The scene I’m about to mention made me pause the film and lookup if the scene was real or movie magic. Miguel is shown to kill a Coati (Miguel calls it a muskrat) for food. Once looking it up, the scene didn’t sit well with me. With the body language of the Coati and the unbearable sound it made, I had to look away and feel my stomach turn and tighten up. My notes on this were, “I questioned myself on whether I should continue or not. I continued begrudgingly.” I decided to continue watching because it’s for the sake of an article and hopefully a good one and so I can cross this off my horror movie buff list. But this scene and the other scenes of actual cruelty to animals have not gone away from my mind. Earlier I did mention an article that will list the animals and how they were killed on film, I won’t state the other scenes here for my own sake.
The next scene happens immediately after the Coati scene, this scene consists of a tribeswoman having her sexual organs mutilated and raped because she was caught committing adultery. I have personally experienced trauma (specifically rape) and I couldn’t look at the screen, I curled up into a ball and started to cry. Mind you, I watch horror movies for fun, but I have never felt this sick over a movie or made me cry.
Fast forward, professor Monroe respects the Ya̧nomamö tribe and interacts in their rituals (though the tribe is understandingly suspicious of him), once Monroe gains respect, the leader of Ya̧nomamö gave Monroe the cans of the film the missing group had used to record their documentary. This comes after Monroe and the team had discovered the bones of the missing group. What happens next is Monroe and some TV corporates viewing the missing group’s footage.
The number one thing that happens in the found footage is the disrespect the group gives to the tribe and their culture. Not one ounce of respect or courtesy, the group even purposely angered the tribes to cause some ‘film-worthy’ scenes (rape, violence between tribes, murder, and cannibalism). It was disgusting to see how the group treated the Ya̧nomamö tribe. How the group treated each other individually was equally disgusting. Yates treating Daniels as his piece of meat to share with the cameramen (sexually mind you). I am putting all of this lightly, because what they did was atrocious (burning a group of tribesmen, raping a tribeswoman, sexually assaulting Daniels, animal cruelty, etc.)
The acts of the group have understandingly lead the Ya̧nomamö tribe to enact revenge on each group member. From decapitating to castration and necrophilia. My mind was numb by now and I honestly lost track of the plot and the theme. I honestly looked forward to the movie ending, which ended with Monroe being deep and woke out of nowhere with his “who are the real cannibals” line.
I don’t recommend anyone watching this unless you can stomach it or a horror movie buff like me. I didn’t find the movie to be horror-esque. The only parts of the film that I considered horror was the real animal cruelty. Nothing seemed all that scary, but was more so making me uncomfortable and sick to my stomach rather than scared. The plot was ok. I honestly was not interested in the plot. Even without animal cruelty, I honestly don’t see myself watching this movie again. I would give this movie 0/5 stars, yikes, I know. I do think the movie would have been good if it didn’t use such animal cruelty. But on the rape scenes, I am biased due to my trauma, I find rape scenes to be hard to watch, and these scenes were very difficult to watch. I especially don’t recommend people that have survived similar trauma (like me) to watch this.
I do plan to watch the 2014 film that was inspired by Cannibal Holocaust called, The Green Inferno. Let me know if you also want a review on The Green Inferno on twitter, @ShelbyTolly.