Saturday, 22 August 2009

Cannibal Holocaust (Uncut) 1980

I first saw this film in its cut form a few years ago during a more rudimentary incarnation of this blog. My review is HERE. I said as much at the time that the film seemed disjointed and this was likely due to the cuts made by the BBFC. This is the case.

On re-watching Cannibal Holocaust in its full form one thing strikes me as ironic, the film really is a critique on the exploitation of media and how civilisation can commit its own acts of barbarism. This is ironic from what is truly a barbaric film. I mean that, quite often films are touted as being extreme or sickening or over the top (just look at the hype for Saw which was essentially rather tame) well Cannibal Holocaust lives up to this reputation and it leaves me feeling torn. You see for what is essentially a horror production values are quite good, cinematography is well done, music strange but fitting (even the “nice” main theme) and storyline very good indeed. The ethics behind the story are also well portrayed with the core idea being that although they are savages it does not mean that they are essentially different from our supposedly civilised form of savagery. It’s not even the rape and abuse scenes which bother me, I know the line between acting and the abhorrent is well portrayed in this film, the scenes of rape and abuse are not shown as pleasant acts.
No the problem that I have with this film was the decision to include real animal deaths. As a critique on savagery this seems so opposite to the idea of the film and leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. Now I am by no means squeamish as shown by my predilection for the animal autopsy programmes I have also reviewed (Elephant, Whale, Nile Crocodile and Giraffe) but this death for entertainment seems hideous to me. In fact even the much vaunted “Road to Hell” section which contains footage of real executions was easier to swallow. Possibly because even with the senseless death there it wasn’t done solely for the purposes of the movie, something our protagonists are responsible of in their movie within this movie. vlcsnap-2009-08-22-15h14m52s55
Of course an apparent fix to this would be to censer the animal deaths, as I said at the start this brutally mars the film making it far more fragmentary and would be difficult to do well by anyone's book. So here we are. I don't know whether to like what is essentially a good film or not. You see I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characterisation, it was satisfying to see the savages side of the story and to feel sympathy for them. On the flip side the “real” violence engendered purely for the film leave me conflicted. If you are wondering what exactly i will explain. (please note, no screenshots of this, any gore etc in my pictures is “staged gore”). We see a coatamundi stabbed in the throat several times and disembowelled while it screams, a turtle is hauled from the river and decapitated. The butchery is shown is detail, a squirrel monkey has its face cut off, a piglet is kicked and shot to death at close range a spider and a snake are also chopped to death. I know this is nature, I know that animals are killed for food all the time, I eat quite a few of them myself! Doing it for the purposes of a movie is wrong. vlcsnap-2009-08-22-15h15m52s142
So there you have it, Cannibal Holocaust, potentially a great film ruined by some poor decisions indeed. Far from being the enjoyable horror it should have been it has become a shrine to the gore soaked “faces of death” watchers. Had these scenes been faked it would have had far less notoriety, probably a lot less in sales receipts but a whole load more integrity.
Paul out…
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