REVIEW: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)



Cannibal Holocaust (1980): A

This grandfather of the found footage genre is so grotesque that it makes Dead Alive look like Monsters Inc. The first time I saw it, it went from brutally violent, to funny, to brutally violent-er, to just plain sick, to art. The guy who made it was arrested after purporting that some actors died on camera. Right after it was released, the film was banned in multiple countries because they killed REAL animals for the movie (totally fucked) and there were all sorts of snuff legends surrounding the movie after the director got busted.

This film reviews the found footage of some white kids with their shit-eating white grins who go into the Amazon to look for a missing film crew. They find clues about where the crew disappeared to and they also find some cannibal tribes. I’ll let you fill in the blanks there.

You’ll get your gore-fix for sure with this one. There are plenty of gruesome corpses and quivering soon-to-be corpses including an iconic impaled American girl at the end (many believed this to be a real corpse, feeding the snuff rumors).

For me, the most fucked up scene is where the white search party tortures and butchers a large tropical turtle; the turtle dies slowly and painfully on camera. Why is this so messed up? It is a real turtle, not a fake turtle. No CGI turtle or turtle puppet. There is a real suffering animal dying on-screen. Ask anyone who has seen the film about “the turtle scene” and watch their facial expression change. It’s one of the few times in a horror film where, for me, there isn’t an ounce of amusement. The white kids rip it open, play with its guts as it squirms, and they do some eating. There are also real deaths of a snake, a tarantula, a couple of monkeys, and a pig, all of which are fucking sickening and sad.

These scenes are all onion-layers of depravity; it’s a totally evil Lord of the Flies style commentary on the real meaning of the words “civilization” and “savagery” because the American city clickers enter the mysterious “tribal” regions of the jungle and act like bigger barbarians than the actual cannibals who live there and cannibalize people. Then, when you zoom out another layer, you have to think about how the filmmakers sat there and filmed the torturous murders of real living things to try to convey the moral.

The “we are the real monsters” vibes are amplified in a way I have never seen in another horror movie. I can’t say that this film “scared” me, but it certainly pushed the envelope (and all my buttons) in a way that I will never forget.