Filmmaker Ruggero Deodato was arrested on obscenity charges immediately following the premiere of Cannibal Holocaust. That was just the beginning of the controversy surrounding the cult classic.
Here are five reasons to watch the film (for free, thanks to Shudder’s 30-day free trial, implemented due to COVID-19), and one very good reason to skip it.
1. It’s the first “found footage” film.
While The Blair Witch Project may have popularized the genre, it began with this 1980 Italian production.
2. It’s a video nasty that was banned.
The lure of the banned is always strong, especially when it comes to horror films. We always want to see what was considered to be too extreme. The cannibalism is abundant and equally graphic.
3. The additional controversy led to murder charges.
Today the realism of the found footage genre is all too familIar. Such was not the case when this film was released, and it was thought to be a snuff film. That fear was amplified by the fact that the core cast was in hiding for effect. This tactic worked so well they had to reveal themselves to save director Ruggero Deodato from murder charges.
4. It plays like an extreme response to ’70s American horror and grindhouse cinema.
Fans of Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, The Hills Have Eyes, Deliverance and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre may see the film as a natural evolution of the genre.
5. It’s ripe with socio-political commentary
The film satirizes the immorality of the media and its pursuit of sensationalism; alludes to the war crimes perpetrated in Vietnam; demonstrates the normalcy of violence against women; and depicts the traumatic nature of colonialism. It’s a very dense film.
The only reason not to watch Cannibal Holocaust is the very real and brutal animal violence; seven creatures were killed during the filming. While it’s implied that they’re eaten, there’s no guarantee. In any case, that may not be adequate justification for some. ■
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