Sunday, March 10, 2013
It's arguable whether or not this is the first found footage/mockumentary. While Punishment Park isn't a horror film per se, it's older than this. And of course, I'm sure there are many more that I'm just not aware of. Cannibal Holocaust certainly predates The Last Broadcast or The Blair Witch Project, though. It's more like 2 films combined together. The first half of the movie follows a professor and his guides as they make their way through cannibal country in search of 4 documentary filmmakers who are missing. The professor is kind of a doofus but, amazingly, his guides help keep him alive and he obtains the footage taken by the (now dead) people he was looking for. This part of the film has some gruesome scenes - after all, there are cannibals and lots of gross rain forest fauna to be dealt with - but it also is comparatively lighthearted. The professor swims in the nude and is joined by a bevy of naked young Yamomamo ladies, for example. Such levity disappears when he and his guides are welcomed by the tribe and partake in dinner with them, and in the second part of the film it's nowhere to be found.
This second part is a review of the footage taken by the documentary crew. While they are introduced off the bat as young, perhaps cocksure and reckless, they reveal themselves to be complete misanthropes when they meet up with the Yamomamo (treepeople) tribe. Apparently, they decide to take a preemptive strike in the name of "showing them who's boss" by crowding them into a hut and setting it on fire, shooting one of their tribe, and killing a pet pig who is clearly being raised for food. Not long after, 3 of the crew (all men) rape a young tribeswoman, who is then killed by the tribe. One of the rapists can't even keep a straight face when he's on camera looking at the dead girl. Of course, this leads to a climactic cannibalistic blowout where no sexual organ is left unsullied and no internal organ left inside their bodies. It's all pretty ghastly.
The music is at times cheesy and eerie, and plays off the revolting subject matter pretty well. This movie is infamous for its unblinking portrayal of animal cruelty, and it's easy to see why. A muskrat and turtle are slaughtered on camera. The turtle's death is particularly repugnant. Its legs kick rapidly when it's decapitated and its head continues to move around after it's cut off. Watching the guide pick at its innards might be the most disgusting thing in this entire movie. Also, the piglet being shot is gross. I found myself hoping that the cast and crew cooked it up and ate it after the scene was finished being filmed.
Cannibal Holocaust is a grimy film completely steeped in poor taste. It's a classic of a sort. I'm curious to see what Eli Roth will come up with in his (pretty much) remake when it's released next year, but for right now I'm going to take a shower.