Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Human Buffet: Cannibal Holocaust

Are you ready to face down the 'worst' film ever (save for Faces of Death)?  Today's film is Cannibal Holocaust.  Shall we get the important stuff out of the way first?  Since I can't actually hear you, I'll just assume that you said 'yes.'  Cannibal Holocaust is controversial because it features graphic violence, realistic enough effects to convince the Italian Police that it's Director killed his Actors and features real footage of animals being killed on-screen.  All of these factors- mostly the first and third ones- landed the film on the infamous Video Nasty List from the BBFC.  Did we get all of that?  Okay, good.  Now let's get to the more interesting stuff: the actual film.  While I admit that the film is rough and I've only watched it twice- about four years apart-, I do still like it a lot.  While I won't compare it quality-wise, it's like reading a really dense, tough-to-read book like, say, 'Ulysses.'  The film is a rough one, I won't lie.  That said, it's an experience that I think people should have, even if it is only once.  Even if you don't necessarily like films like this, it's important to see stuff outside your comfort zone every once in a while.  Oh and 'don't judge a book by its cover' or whatever cliche about open-mindedness you prefer.  To find out what happens in this rough, but unique film, read on...
In New York, a Reporter talks about a film crew that went missing out in the Jungle.  It's a dark, unexplored place, yet it exists so close to our modern society.  Symbolism?
After some more set-up, an Anthropologist (mostly-Porn Star Robert Kerman) goes to the Jungle to find them.  They have a guide- who's only there since he's been wounded- who guides them into the 'Green Inferno.'
The group follow the trail- including foreshadowing of scenes we'll see later- and eventually help out one Tribe in defending themselves against the other.  They pay the Tribe with a Tape Recorder in exchange for the film cans belonging to the missing Crew.

Oh and they're totally dead.  Like 'skeletons on a pike' dead.
Back in New York, Kerman gets a look at the Crew's previous film.  It's about Rebels in Africa- originally to be something else in the first Script- getting killed by the General.  As it turns out, they gave the Rebels up, in exchange for the right to film their murders.  Joy.

Oh and this is real footage of actual murder- another reason it is a Video Nasty-, so I'm very selective here.
The most infamous scene- besides the finale- is probably this one.  It's a lengthy scene where a Turtle is caught and cruelly-killed.  I skipped this scene on my second viewing, but it is important for the characters.

Would I rather it not have been shot?  Yeah.  So would Ruggero Deodato, in fact.  What can you do?
As the footage shot by the Crew is seen, we learn that they are real, real assholes.  They burn down a Village and attack the people, just so they can film the aftermath of a 'rival Tribe's attack.'
In one of the film's creepiest moments, Alan (the leader of the Crew) is caught smiling as they examine the body of a Tribal Girl put on a pike 'by the Villagers.'  When reprimanded, he immediately does a 180 and starts a 'heart-felt' speech about the cruelty on display.

Seriously, if that doesn't give you chills, then nothing will!
The crew are finally chased down and killed in very graphic fashion.  It's a rough, rough scene.

The crazy part is that they keep staying behind to film.  The Crew will watch their friend be mutilated or the poor girl in the crew be raped...but won't break the shot.  It's all of the Commentary that was supposedly in Cloverfield, but isn't.
In The End, the Corporate Executives decide to burn the footage, rather than to air it for the Ratings.  It takes all of the deaths to do this, which says a lot.  Kerman muses in a way that we would see many times later- including in Diary of the Dead- and the film ends.
It's a rough trip, but one you should definitely take.  Don't get me wrong- the film is not perfect.  There are many gaffes here and there, the Pacing is a bit odd at times and there are some unnecessary parts to it.  It's also got quite a bit of male nudity, which does bother many people.  The reason why I stand by this film is simple: the message.  Is the message of violence in society unique?  No.  It is just done so well here.  What makes it work for me is how unflinching the film is about showing you everything.  It's one thing for me to say that 'violence is bad,' but it's another to show you the stuff that the film shows you.  Not counting the animal footage- which is rough for all of the right and wrong reasons-, there are many scenes that force you to watch them.  I would cite the scene where they rape and attack the Villager- who later ends up on the pike- as one.  The people are so quickly covered in mud that you can tell that not much really happens, but you really feel the drama.  It's especially rough as the Crew's one lady tries to stop them, only to be held down.  It's one thing to rape someone- no matter who they are-, but it's a step above (or below) to do it in front of your girlfriend like it's nothing!  The film doesn't just tell you what's wrong and why it's wrong- it shows you.  On the animal scenes, they can be completely avoided if you just choose the 'Animal Cruelty Free' Cut offered on the Grindhouse Releasing release.  In the end, Holocaust is something that, again, I think that you need to see.  If you hate it, that's fine.  All I ask is that you give it a chance to make you decide one way or another.  Just try to ignore this Space Mutiny-style Continuity Error...
Next up, we finish the Trilogy with an oft-forgotten Deodato film.  It's got many familiar names, but a very different story.  Stay tuned...

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