A young American film crew vanishes in the Colombian rainforest while shooting an anthropology documentary. Their footage, found with their remains and boldly retrieved by a university professor (Robert Kerman), reveals the horrible truth behind their disappearance.
The footage shows that, after witnessing the barbaric practices of an Amazonian tribe, the sensation-seeking director, Alan Yates (Carl Gabriel Yorke), staged massacres for his camera crew resulting in the cannibal’s revenge and the deaths of the team.
The evils wrought by – and significantly upon – a barbaric tribe of cannibals are not left to the imagination in this Italian production.
But for all its crude excesses – a foetus is ripped from its mother’s womb, a tortoise is skinned alive, genitals are sliced off – Cannibal Holocaust achieves an undeniable visceral intensity.
This is largely due to director Ruggero Deodato’s pioneering use of the faux-documentary technique now adopted by every ‘found footage’ horror film, from Blair Witch onwards.
Every grisly animal killing in the film is completely genuine. The actors really did drag a giant turtle out of the water, behead it, pry its shell off, scoop out its intestines and eat it as its limbs twitched disturbingly.
A South American native really did scalp a monkey and eat its brains. A pig really was shot in the head, a spider and a snake really were hacked in two by a hatchet and a muskrat really was tied up and had its throat slit.
The appalling thing about this cannibalistic carnage is the laughable way that it purports to condemn the exploitative violence that it so obviously delights in depicting.
Until recently the film had nearly five minutes of cuts in the UK with all animal scenes removed. This surprisingly changed in 2011, when Shameless Entertainment resubmitted the film for Blu-ray release in the UK and were told they could reinstate all the animal slaughter footage, with the exception of the muskrat scene.
Professor Harold Monroe
Carl Gabriel Yorke