Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bald Mountain Night 30: Cannibal Holocaust

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

When I was in high school a friend, who shall remain nameless due to his current posting as an officer in the United States Army, entertained me with stories of Cannibal Holocaust, the "goriest, most disgusting and offensive movie ever made!" Intrigued at the notion of making such a claim to fame as having endured a cinematic ordeal of this type, we sought it out. Indeed, one day I found it a copy at a used record store. But when I brought my friend back to purchase the DVD, it was gone, vanished, forever mocking us. Now, six years later, I return to conquer the most extreme horror exploitation film ever made.

The plot of Cannibal Holocaust matters more than you think. It's premise was somewhat stolen/adapted by The Blair Witch Project many years later: a group of young filmmakers goes missing in the Amazon while making a documentary about the cannibal tribes that have lived undisturbed in the rainforest by civilized man since time immemorial. An anthropology professor (played with relative virtuosity by honest-to-god porn star Robert Kerman) is sent to find them, and after negotiating with one of the tribes is able to secure several canisters of film left behind by the missing expedition. What follows is a grisly orgy of murder, cannibalism, rape, and mutilation- all filmed with disquieting realism.

After years of buildup, Cannibal Holocaust didn't terrify me so much as it disturbed me. The killings and torture etc. featured in the film are brutal and shocking beyond most things the average filmgoer (and not-quite-average filmgoer such as myself) is used to, even in violent films. A lot of the stuff I can't even go into in a family-oriented blog like this one.

The goes is so excessive and realistic that director Ruggero Deodato was actually brought up on murder charges until he could prove that his actors were still alive. On top of that, there are a series of terrible actual animal killings in the movie that I genuinely found myself offended by. This all goes without saying that the depiction of the South American natives in this film is just out-and-out racist, but that's honestly the least of this film's crimes for some reason.

There's some attempts at social commentary through the frame narrative where a TV network is trying to show the footage for ratings, knowing that sensationalism equals cash. But the film seeks to condemn the very thing it indulges in, almost as if it's offended that you would even watch it. Cannibal Holocaust seemingly exists in a netherworld between grindhouse exploitation and serious art, or at least it thinks it does.

Having conquered the "Green Inferno" of Cannibal Holocaust, I honestly feel live a little worse of a person, but I suppose that's the price I pay for doing this feature.

But was it scary? Even for a seasoned gorehound such as myself, this was a bit much. I wasn't so much scared as depressed, even angered. This usually doesn't happen, people.

Final Verdict: 0 Congos. Alright, I watched you, Cannibal Holocaust; I have no more need of you now.