Non Canon Review: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

FEBRUARY 27, 2008


One of the first times (possibly THE first; my memory is for shit) I went to the New Beverly was for a screening of Cannibal Holocaust, which if memory serves screened with a Fulci film. This was in like March of 2006, a few months after I moved to LA (and right around the time I finally had some sort of income that would allow me to go to the movies at all). The next month they showed Cannibal Ferox, another one I had never seen. So now, with like 600 movies seen since then, I had a lot of trouble remembering which was which. This is the one that DOESN’T have Giovanni Lombardo Radice, so therefore it’s not as good.

Sadly the crowd was pretty thin (and abnormally quiet – other than mimicking the legendary “Bwyoooooooo!” sound effect from the soundtrack, there was hardly a peep from anyone). And that's a real bummer for this movie in particular, because it’s so goddamn reprehensible, you need a big crowd (preferably a bit drunk) laughing at certain parts in order to enjoy it. Otherwise it’s just sort of an endurance test: can you watch the poor turtle get hacked up without looking away? Or any of the 2 or 3 rapes in the film? How bout the “pregnancy” scene? Etc. In short, it’s far from an enjoyable viewing experience for the most part.

Not that the film is entirely without levity. “He’s just switching reels” is an odd gutbuster, and the little kid running around in the park while our leads discuss the footage is also hilarious. The hauntingly beautiful “love theme” from the film also elicits a few chuckles, but you’re never more than 5 minutes away from another scene that’s just sort of awful.

Granted, the film is loaded with social commentary and the like, so we are supposed to be outraged or repulsed by certain parts of the film (mainly in the final half hour), but there’s little to enjoy alongside of it. Dawn of the Dead (or for a closer example – Diary) certainly have their share of commentary, but the films are still quite fun to watch at the same time. Not the case here – the characters are mostly despicable, the violence is too believable to be “fun”, and the nonstop animal killing is hardly entertainment.

This isn’t to say I dislike the film, in fact I think it’s quite good. But the New Bev is all about having a good time, so having this particular film play to an unusually subdued crowd (which wasn’t the case when I first saw it) had the opposite effect. Bummer.

What say you?


  1. I have the film uncut and I like it apart from the animal killings.The UK cut removes lots but leaves most of the other stuff in and is probably the film as it should be seen,since all the social commentary shines through and some extreme gore,but without the totally unnecessary turtle/monkey/rat vivisections.But it does leave in the pig shooting,which makes sense.
    Its too grim for most people to get into laughing and shouting at the screen mode.At least half the film would be hilarious if the other stuff wasn't so grotesque.

  2. i hate this movie and promised myself i would never watch it again. i can take a lot, but there's something about it that does not bode well with me in the least bit.

  3. I got to catch this one at a midnight screening in Chicago once. It was pretty quiet there too (considering everyone was pretty rowdy for the other films). I actually thought it was quite fitting and made the movie seem all the more powerful.

    I'll agree though, there is nothing fun about this movie. Still, seeing it on the big screen was an experience that I treasure

  4. The DVD version I saw had a sort of... disclaimer? From the distribution company that pretty much apologized for the movie but said (roughly) that such movies need to be preserved in their entirety in order for people to learn from them and not repeat them. It was a pretty awesome opening. I did have a hard time watching part of it. It's nothing held up to Hostel or whatever, but for what it is and when it's shot, it's ruff stuff.

  5. Uh, anyone who would dare compare this to Hostel is seriously lacking a great deal of their mind. If you're going to make anything a comparison to Hostel, make it Inside, which was utterly repulsive. I loved it, but it was repulsive. This movie is phenomenal. Its a commentary on the methodology of anthropology for years and years as well as a commentary on first and third world relations. Its well shot, well told, and believable, which makes it utterly horrifying. Just because the gore wasn't realistic, doesn't detract from the disgust you have to feel when you see the punishment for the adulterer. I didn't have any difficulty watching this, but I do recognize how utterly disgusting bits of it is. Oh, and the animal cruelty is just sad.

  6. I just saw this movie with a group of friends last week. Maybe it was the group I was with, maybe I'm more jaded than I thought, or maybe because I was working on felt flower and button bouquet, and was just enough displaced from what was happening on screen, but I was expecting something truly heinous and disturbing that would stick with me for days. I was very surprised to walk away thinking 'eh I've seen worse'. We were watching the uncut version with all the animal slaughter and rape on display. I bought it from my friend and plan to watch it again alone with no distraction to see what I get then. One funny thing three different people came into the room at different moments saw the lady playing the tv exec person said, "hey didn't know Reba McEntire was in this!"

  7. The turtle scene in this one, while despicable, is at least kinder than its copy in Cannibal Ferox - At least the poor thing in Holocaust had its head chopped off BEFORE it's flippers...

    The "New Directors cut" removes the animal stuff, and I'd recommend that edit to people who want to see a grim, but good, movie.

  8. The animal killings totally derail this movie for me. It pushed it from being just some extreme horror movie to something downright hypocritical. If were supposed to hate these characters for the violence they perpetuate, then why the fuck make your actors perform a lot of that violence for real? You completely deflate your "message" and expose yourself as the cheap exploitation "hey look how extreme I am" hack that you really are. Say what you will about A Serbian Film, but they didn't rape a real baby.

  9. Gosh, I remember when I watched it. It disturbed me for a month. I couldn´t cook meat at all without feeling a little sick. Even today when I refer to something in this movie (like the fact that it is probably the 1st found footage), I refuse to mention its name. I will never see it again, and I don't want anyone but hardcore horror fans to know I saw it. It is plain embarassing.

    That said, I liked the movie a lot, even admired it. And (despite my embarassement and disgust) I'm glad I saw it, and satisfied my curiosity. It is an awesome horror movie. I give it 9/10.


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