Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Film Review: Cannibal Holocaust (1989)

Cannibal Holocaust (Review)
Italy/1989
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"The film rattles its audience with a heinous presentation."

Anthropologist Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) leads a rescue team into the Amazon to uncover the fate of a missing documentary crew who had entered the Green Inferno to film cannibal tribes...

Cannibal Holocaust can easily be split into two halves. The first half of the film follows Monroe as he's recruited to find a group of missing documentary filmmakers – Alan (Gabriel Yorke), Faye (Francesca Ciardi), Jack (Perry Pirkanen), and Mark (Luca Giorgio Barbareschi). Monroe enters the Amazon with his guide and finds remnants of the documentary crew's journey. He also witnesses several disturbing rituals. Eventually, Monroe discovers the deaths of the crew and recovers their footage – queue the second half. The latter half of the film follows Monroe and the television executives as they plan to broadcast the unfinished documentary. However, Monroe decides to view the footage first and his discovery is atrocious. This second half is more of a found-footage segment following the documentary crew. The film leads to a simple and disturbing but provocative ending.
Cannibal Holocaust is a controversial film – let me just get that off my chest. It is a film filled with savage, depraved violence. Yet, I can't say it's a bad film. In fact, I'd say Cannibal Holocaust is a very good film. The narrative may seem simple on the surface, but the film paints a very graphic portrait of humanity. It's not very subtle about its themes, but it really tackles the barbarity of humans and the sensationalist media. Although the question is obvious at the end, it really makes you ponder: who is really 'civilized'? What does 'civilized' really mean? These messages are delivered through uncompromising violence and nightmarish imagery. The film rattles its audience with a heinous presentation. It makes you feel, and that's something I love about film.

Of course, Cannibal Holocaust is a controversial film. I've always been one for pushing the envelope, but this film is truly appalling – and occasionally for the wrong reasons. You've probably heard it before, but this film contains real animal brutality. And, I'm not talking a quick and painless death, I'm talking depraved, unnecessary violence towards animals. Although the animals were consumed afterward, there really was no reason to slowly kill these animals for a piece of entertainment – no reason whatsoever. I don't completely dismiss the film's stronger qualities because of these scenes, but it does taint the experience. That's not too say the human violence isn't shocking on its own, but in these segments, you're essentially watching animal snuff films – no one wants to watch that.

The acting is mostly good. Robert Kerman is a great leading man, delivering an all-around strong performance. The supporting cast isn't as strong as Kerman, but they are more than serviceable. Francesca Ciardi, however, felt a bit overdone. With her often irritated character and overacting, she kind of reminded me of a cartoon. The film is shot well enough. As the original found footage film, I'm surprised the camerawork isn't as nauseating as modern films in the genre. We still get the often choppy footage, though. The music is great, though. I loved the soundtrack. The film is written by Gianfranco Clerici and directed by Ruggero Deodato. Clerici pens a great reflection of humanity,
criticizing both 'civilization' and the media. Deodato crafts an uncompromising and unforgettable horror experience. I understand his reasoning for the animal violence, but it really isn't acceptable in a piece of entertainment – then or now.

Overall, Cannibal Holocaust is a very good movie. The narrative is strong, bolstered by intriguing themes. The direction is also great, creating a truly disturbing experience. This is one of those films that make you feel, which I tend to enjoy. I did feel very dirty after watching it, but it effectively left an impression. The real animal violence is a very weak aspect, especially since it offered very little to the plot and themes. One thing is for certain: There won't be another bad guy like Cannibal Holocaust coming any time soon...

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Extreme violence and gore, full nudity and sex, including scenes of rape.

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