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Cannibal Holocaust


bloodyminded

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This is part of the so-called "exploitation horror" movement that was dominated by Italian directors in the 1970's. Evidently, some of these films, though shocking and explicit, have some real merit. Well, I can't argue for or against this claim. But Cannibal Holocaust seems to me to lack merit absolutely.

I enjoy hardcore, bloodletting, nihilistic horror movies. But not this piece of relentless garbage.

Is has a couple of moments that are truly scary--truly horrific. At bottom, this is what a horror movie is supposed to do. It should make you uncomfortable; that's part of the point. (And that's why most slasher-flicks are "horror movies" in name only, as they are not particularly scary; they don't produce the sense of real dread that a good horror movie does.)

But mostly, CH is just an exercise in unremitting brutality. It didn't scare me. It made me feel disgusted, like a particularly nasty piece of pornography.

The reason I watched it is because, among some circles, it is utterly notorious (though I hadn't even heard of it until recently). Released in 1979 or 1980, it was a whole other world in comparison to horror films contemporary to it. It was banned in many, mnay countries; in some places,only a version with the animal cruelty excised is legally available.

But I thought it might be quite good.

For some reason.

It isn't, however. It is most notable for rapes (at least three, very explicit), graphic disembowelments, heads chopped off, impalements, a grotesque infanticide, and the killing of animals.

I thought it was juvenile in the meanest possible way. I thought it racist. And the animal killings were real, a point which has probably raised the most controversy (and which the director himself, to his slight credit, now deeply regrets, claiming that this was stupid and unnecessary and totally indefensible).

The only really interesting thing this movie did was to (arguably) invent the "found footage documentary" theme that spawned "Blair Witch," "Cloverfield," "Paranormal Activity" and a bunch of others.

Still...I heartily recommend you don't see this movie. It gets my vote for the ugliest film I've ever seen.

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The only really interesting thing this movie did was to (arguably) invent the "found footage documentary" theme that spawned "Blair Witch," "Cloverfield," "Paranormal Activity" and a bunch of others.

The "found footage" concept goes back a lot longer. Perhaps not in movies, but certainly in fiction. H.P. Lovecraft wrote lots of stories where the only testimony of some terrible event is the written statement of a doomed author. (The part in The Lord of the Rings where Gandalf reads from the book containing the last words of the doomed dwarves is another example.) It's an effective "frame" for a writer to use, because it creates instant foreboding... the reader knows that the person who wrote the words isn't around to tell their story, and that probably means things didn't end happily for them.

The short story "Notebook Found in an Abandoned House" by Robert Bloch is a good example of how this frame can be used effectively in horror.

-k

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The "found footage" concept goes back a lot longer. Perhaps not in movies, but certainly in fiction. H.P. Lovecraft wrote lots of stories where the only testimony of some terrible event is the written statement of a doomed author. (The part in The Lord of the Rings where Gandalf reads from the book containing the last words of the doomed dwarves is another example.) It's an effective "frame" for a writer to use, because it creates instant foreboding... the reader knows that the person who wrote the words isn't around to tell their story, and that probably means things didn't end happily for them.

The short story "Notebook Found in an Abandoned House" by Robert Bloch is a good example of how this frame can be used effectively in horror.

-k

Those are good points, and I think they're valid because films aren't made in a vacuum.

And far be it from me to try to defend Cannibal Holocaust's genius. :)

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I heartily recommend you don't see this movie. It gets my vote for the ugliest film I've ever seen.

Maybe I'm just horribly desensitised, but I found the movie boring and the special effects not even all that great. But, then, what can be expected from a film that has as its main star a man who's acting career otherwise consisted of porn?

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Maybe I'm just horribly desensitised, but I found the movie boring and the special effects not even all that great.

Oh, I agree that it was boring. And yes, I'm desensitized too; the only horror movies that scare me at all are those with actual acting, believable characters, competent filmmaking and so on. (These things are more important than how "good" the story is, incidentally; the French film Inside is basically another cat-and-mouse, killer stalking somebody movie, but I found it riveting.)

No, when I call CH "ugly," I don't mean because of the high level of gore and violence; I mean something more elusive: call it the movie's sensibilities. The gore isn't repugnant: but the movie is repugnant.

It might have something to do with the killing of animals, I dunno. Or the (arguable, yes) racism. Or the way the rape scenes don't seem to be meant to horrify, but to titillate.

Piece of garbage.

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I'm desensitized too; the only horror movies that scare me at all are those with actual acting, believable characters, competent filmmaking and so on.

Have you ever seen Wolf Creek? There are few movies that leave me disturbed at the end, but that one did. It was clearly done on a budget, but the directors made it work. A really blunt, creepy film.

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Have you ever seen Wolf Creek? There are few movies that leave me disturbed at the end, but that one did. It was clearly done on a budget, but the directors made it work. A really blunt, creepy film.

Yes, I thought it was...unpleasant, but in a good way. This sort of film, with a plausible, very human but extremely brutal killer has lately been replacing the old slasher flicks, which tended to contain supernatural or semi-supernatural villains; and where both the villains and the protaganists were extremely one-dimensional. Plus, those movies aren't very scary.

Wolf Creek is a good example of a decently scary movie. So is Eden Lake, a pretty nasty little piece of nihilism from the UK, which features a group of twelve and thirteen year old thugs (who are quite believable, not just caricatures of evil) harassing and then hunting a young couple. And like I've said elsewhere, there are the French films Inside and Martyrs, both extremely disturbing.

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