March 18, 2010

Justify My Netflix: Cannibal Holocaust

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Cannibal Holocaust

Today's movie: Cannibal Holocaust, 1980 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is a must-see touchstone in the horror genre, which just recently came out on DVD for the first time ever (a loving restoration by a grindhouse-focused distribution company, no less), a precursor to such "torture porn" by Eli Roth and company, and so brutally realistic that the director actually got arrested on murder charges, until he was able to drag his cast to a talk show and prove that they were indeed still alive.

(NOTE: The above video is of the film's original trailer, so is not so bad when it comes to violence. You can find MUCH more disgusting excerpts over at YouTube, if you're interested in seeing what all the hype is about.)

The reality: WowEE, what a violent movie this is! And that's what makes its relatively smart and low-key script an even bigger shocker, especially when combined with its late-'70s height-of-exploitation production date: because the film itself is actually more Blair Witch than I Spit On Your Grave, or I suppose I should say Blair Witch combined with Apocalypse Now, in that the rural wilds that our camera-toting crew go to this time is actually the Amazon instead of New England, to supposedly film a documentary about the various villagers there who have yet to be influenced by industrialized society. That film disappeared in the jungle, along with the crew itself; our film, then, starts a year later, with a new documentary crew traveling in to make a film about the film. But behold, they actually track down the original footage, which is then more and more cut into our own as the whole thing continues, which is where we learn the awful truth -- that after brutalizing the villagers to get more sensational footage, and then kind of going jungle-crazy and participating in all kinds of violently sexual debauchery, the original crew of "shock filmmakers" were literally torn apart on-camera by the pissed-off villagers in question.

And oh man, both the sexual violence and violence violence is in high gear here; for example, during one of the many fascinating supplemental pieces that come with this two-disc set, we learn all about the special rigging that Italian splatter-film veteran Ruggero Deodato had to invent to pull off the supremely realistic impaling scene that was featured on the original film's poster, which it turns out that he had to detail originally in open court, in that it was so disgusting that jury members first refused to believe that it could possibly be fake. I emphasize all this so much today because I want there to be no misunderstanding if you end up renting it yourself; but that said, I do recommend doing so if you have the stomach for it, because the movie also turns out to be an inventive and sometimes funny comment on '70s filmmaking as well, a sort of revenge fantasy against out-of-control mavericks that just happened to be released the same year as maverick Michael Cimino's out-of-control Heaven's Gate. Much better than an exploitation film has any right to be, it's easy to see why a grindhouse-focused distributor might choose this as a title to lavish the full restoration treatment on, and it's highly recommended for those who have a hard time understanding how both Woodstock and the Manson Family could've happened at nearly the same moment in history.

Strangest piece of trivia: What, getting arrested on murder charges for making a fictional horror film isn't enough for you?

Worth your time? Yes, but not for the faint-hearted

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:37 AM, March 18, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |