Cannibal Holocaust (1980) [Review]



I finally watched Cannibal Holocaust, a film introduced to me at the peak for my love for horror movies, but I just didn’t have the courage to watch it as a kid as it had an infamous reputation from being banned in over 50 countries.

Here is my review – **Spoilers ahead**.

The Plot

The movie tells the story of a documentary crew who are lost on an expedition in the Amazon rainforest to film a documentary about cannibal tribes. We are introduced to an anthropologist by the name of Harold Monroe who is my personal favorite character of the movie: he is the most relatable to the viewer. Monroe agrees to lead a rescue team into the rainforest in hopes of finding the crew alive.
Monroe arrives at the rainforest and is introduced to his assistants Chaco and Miguel. They commence their search along with the hostage. After 7 days, they reach the Yacumbo Tribe who seem scared of them and they learn that the film crew was very aggressive towards the natives. The next day, Monroe and his crew move deeper into the rainforest to locate the more fierce tribes: the Yanomamo and the Shamatari’s. They encounter some Shamatari Warriors who are attacking members of the Yanomamo tribe. Monroe and the team scare the Shamatari’s away, saving the Yanomamo’s who are grateful and invite them to their village. However, the heads of the village don’t seem to trust their team yet. To gain their trust, Monroe bathes with a few Yanomamo women and gains their trust as a result (sweet move if you ask me)! Accompanied by the Yanomamo women, Monroe finds the remains of the film crew. Angry, Monroe runs back to their villages, pulls out a revolver, fires shots and plays a tape recorder of Amazonian-like music. Oh c’mon, we all do that when discovering dead remains!

The natives come out of their tree-houses and the leader seems to want the tape recorder previously played. In exchange for the tape recorder, they give Monroe the crew’s film footage. Afterward, they have a ceremony involving Monroe and he is forced to eat human meat.

Monroe then arrives back to New York with the footage and the executives of the PABC (Pan American Broadcast Company) want the footage to be broadcast on TV. Monroe insists that they should watch the footage first; in doing so, they uncover what really happened. The footage shows the very delinquent crew along with their guide Felipe.

Animal & Human Cruelty
An aspect which was very popular with cannibal movies, unfortunately, was the horrible and excessive use of animal cruelty. We see the film crew pull out an innocent giant turtle out of the lake and brutally kill it. Throughout the movie, a few animals were harmed, but the turtle scene is probably the most violent. Additionally, Felipe is bitten by a poisonous snake and the crew amputate his leg in an attempt to save him, but Felipe dies and they move on. They arrive at the Yacumbo camp, but not before shooting one of the members of the Yacumbo in the leg so they can follow him to the camp. At their arrival, they order the Yacumbo about, hurt them, bully them and burn their whole village down.

After we cut back to the executives and Monroe, Monroe shows concern at the footage, but they ignore him and they watch the final unedited footage which shows the male film crew members raping a Yanomamo girl. After gangraping her, she runs off and they find her impaled on a wooden pole and they assume the natives killed her (a very notorious scene of the movie). They move on and are attacked by the Yanomamo Tribe and we see the crew brutally murdered and eaten one by one. The only female member of the crew receives the worst death: she is sexually assaulted with a sharp stone before being torn apart and eaten. The footage concludes and the executives order the footage to be burned. The movie ends.



Other then the animal cruelty, Cannibal Holocaust is an excellent movie. Strangely, it is the tribes that viewers sympathizes with because they were treated with nothing other than violence from the crew members. The crew’s deaths were seeing the tribe have justice for their actions in the village against the Yanomamo Tribe. The music is outstandingly brilliant, eerie and haunting typical of Italian movie music from the genre that gives the movie an incredibly chilling tone. It is a huge highlight of the film for me along with the explicit gore which is a guilty pleasure. People can mistake Cannibal Holocaust as a cheap grindhouse film as others from the genre, but they couldn’t be more wrong: it was so revolutionary for its time and not a simple exploitation film, it’s the Citizen Kane of exploitation films. The film also implemented the found footage style, effectively giving it a superb raw documentary style predating The Blair Witch Project by 19 years.



After the premiere in Italy, the movie was ordered to be removed from all cinemas for its extreme, explicit violence. Back then, the movie seemed so shockingly real that Deodato got charged for making a snuff film. He wanted the movie to seem real and made the cast sign contracts so that they could not appear in any movies or interviews for a whole year after the movie had been released. However, being charged with murder, Deodato managed to assemble the whole cast and that was enough for the courts to believe there were no murders, it was indeed just a movie. However, the movie did end up being banned in 53 countries due to the animal cruelty, sexual violence, and extreme gore. Some nations have since revoked the ban, but it’s still banned in several other countries.

When you watch a film, the first viewing is the most crucial as you have no idea what’s going to happen with the exceptions of being spoiled by the internet, your best friend or the trailer itself! But, with a film having a reputation such as Cannibal Holocaust – known as a notoriously banned film, extremely controversial – you’re expecting the worst and that couldn’t be more true with this film. After finishing Cannibal Holocaust, I went and tracked down every Italian “Cannibal Boom” horror movie and binge watched the lot – it had a huge impact on me! The whole 96 minutes was like being on a amusement park ride upside down…and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s difficult to say you “love” a film that contains rape, live turtle consumption, impalement and other grotesque subjects, but you have to respect what it accomplished back then and the 36 year old film still holds up.