Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – By Brian Morton

 If you’ve seen The Blair Witch Project, you might’ve thought to yourself, ‘what a great idea, making a movie that looks like it’s cobbled together from actual footage of a doomed expedition’. Or, if you’re like me, you might’ve just thought, ‘wow, I just completely wasted $8 on a total piece of crap!’, but no matter what you thought of the movie, the idea behind Blair Witch was a sound one, though not a completely original one. Now, you can argue that with the advent of the internet, The Blair Witch Project took movie promotion to a whole new level, and you’d be right, but as far as the idea and the style of the movie, Blair Witch merely took the idea of a previous movie and updated it, but not all that well.

The movie I’m referring to is Cannibal Holocaust, a 1980 Italian horror movie that makes Blair Witch seem like Romper Room. If you’ve seen Blair Witch then the story here is going to sound familiar, a group of filmmakers go into the jungle in search of the real story behind the legends of cannibal tribes in the Amazon…they never return. Then, an expedition is sent to find them and uncovers their bodies and dozens of cans of film…getting the idea? Yeah, I thought so. The difference here is that Cannibal Holocaust isn’t played to keep the audience guessing what happened, instead we’re presented first with an anthropologist trekking into the jungle to make contact with these tribes in order to find the filmmakers, then when he finds the film and returns to New York to develop and view it, we see the wrong way to treat indigenous people and we see exactly why and how these people were killed. In essence, The Blair Witch Project is just Cannibal Holocaust without the heart!

Grindhouse Releasing presents Cannibal Holocaust on DVD in a great format. The movie looks great and is presented in three different ways, the original theatrical release unedited and uncensored, an on-camera commentary version (which lets you see commentary on the scene you’re watching without losing your place in the movie) and an animal cruelty-free version and I have to admit, though I’m no fan of censorship of any type, Grindhouse added the animal cruelty-free version at the behest of the film’s star, Robert Kerman and director Ruggero Deodato, both of whom claim to regret filming those scenes. Also included in this two disc special edition is a great ‘making of’ feature and interviews with the films star, the actor who played the main documentarian and the film’s score composer, and I have to admit that music stuck with me for a while, it’s at once beautiful and haunting. If you haven’t seen this movie, then you don’t know what you’re missing! To say that it’s just an 80s Italian gore movie, is selling Cannibal Holocaust short, way too short! Cannibal Holocaust isn’t just a story of people being killed and eaten, it’s more a story of indigenous people and how they interact with the outside world and it’s also a morality tale with a kind of ‘do unto others’ view. At first, we’re horrified to think that these poor filmmakers have been killed and eaten by these horrible natives, but then as their footage is unreeled before us, we begin to see them through different eyes. The scene that really says it all is the scene that contains the classic pic from the movie of the woman run through with the stake (and if you haven’t seen that, then you should head on over to GrindHouse just to see t for yourself), as the camera men are filming they have to remind their boss (the main documentarian) not to be smiling on camera, whereupon he wipes the smile off his faces and begins a speech about the horrors of the jungle, it’s a very telling scene!

It’s called Cannibal Holocaust and while it may not be for everyone, don’t dismiss it too quickly, it may not be what you think it is! You can see for yourself by running over to GrindHouse and checking it out for yourself, I highly recommend it! So, until next we meet, when I’ll taste a new cannibal recipe and comment that it “tastes like chicken”, remember that the best movies are bad movies!