The Film (5/5)
I will be deathly honest when I say Cannibal Holocaust is easily one of my favorite horror films of all time. It is a film I find myself revisiting at least once a year, and that has been the case for as many years as I have been able to secure a copy of it (that used to be difficult). There are a lot of horror films out there that have extreme reputations, and rarely will you find that the actual films live up to them. Not only does Cannibal Holocaust live up to it's reputation as an extreme shocker, but once you have gotten passed the fact that the film is violently over the top, you may find that the film is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece.
Ruggero Deodato may or may not have created the first found footage film, but he has created a near perfect example of the genre. The film opens with some gloriously beautiful footage of the Amazon, before we are lead into a voiceover announcing a journey by New York University professor Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman). He has been tasked with finding a group of 4 documentarians lead by Alan Yates, who went into a section of the Amazon Jungle dubbed the Green Inferno in the hopes of documenting the cannibalistic slice of life reportedly held within.
The film then picks up with Monroe touching down on the Amazon, just as the military have taken a young cannibal boy hostage. They give this boy to Monroe's guides as a bargaining chip to get them into the Green Inferno. It works, and they are brought back to a village. One day while wandering they assist in a battle between 2 other Cannibal tribes, and get brought back to the village of that tribe. They are treated as outsiders, but not for long as Monroe begins to act as one with the tribe. One day he swims naked, and the tribes women join him, after the swim they take him to a skeletal monument composed of the 4 filmmakers remains. It is at this point that he realizes that his mission is not a rescue mission, and he begins to become frustrated by the whole ordeal. He then finds a way to trade his tape recorder with tribal recordings for the filmmakers cans of film, and manages to get those back to New York. The company that funded both journeys wants to turn the footage into a special, but Monroe wants to view the footage first.
The films blends of found footage and traditional cinematic technique works amazingly well here. In most modern attempts at found footage shaking the camera is used as an attempt at realism, and while the camera is not exactly steady in Cannibal Holocaust found footage sequences, the method in which it is shot feels more distinctly real than any modern attempt (at least set to the standards of the day since this was shot utilizing film cameras).
When one typically watches a "gore" movie, the splatter is normally something to get excited about. With Holocaust there are certainly over the top scenes of violence, but rather than reward the viewer with excellent kills, like some horror movies, the film makes it almost a punishment to view these scenes. The first such scene in the movie where a adulteress is killed with a stone dildo, it is so difficult to watch that I would imagine that all, but the most extreme splatter fans are cheering it on, and yet it is effective. When watching a normal splatter film it is easy to turn it off and leave it behind, but with Cannibal Holocaust those images can linger in one's mind for days.
Of course, if it was a simple case of brutality it would not be the case. To underscore the brutality in the film we have the score by Riz Ortolani who creates a beautiful score that counters the images on screen, and has a tendency to lull the viewer in with its sounds before Deodato destroys them with his images. It's a combination that is so strangely effecting, that while the filmmakers are being killed at the end I felt a tinge of sadness, as evil as they were, most likely do the Ortolani score playing underneath.
I have now seen this film close to a dozen times, and twice on various Blu-rays, and no matter the cut, this film never fails to make an impact. Sometimes familiarity with a piece of art will lead you to appreciate it less. With Holocaust I find it no less disturbing than the moment I got my hands on a bootleg VHS tape 14 years ago.
Grindhouse Releasing continues proving why they are the Criterion of the underground with their A/V restoration of Cannibal Holocaust. The Blu-ray comes with a brilliant 1:85:1 1080p MPEG 4 AVC encoded transfer. This transfer has excellent fine detail, the colors are natural, yet are bright and vibrant where they need to be, and the film as a warmness that I have never detected in its frames before in any other viewing. This includes a viewing of the Shameless Screen Entertainment Blu-ray, which was DNR smeared, and all the footage looked identical (in a film where the sources comes from 2 places, this should not be the case). There is a healthy organic layer of film grain present over the transfer, and overall this is just a gorgeous transfer, and the best Cannibal Holocaust has ever looked, and probably will looked until Grindhouse Releases their 4K edition 2024.
There are 2 audio mixes a stereo and mono track in HD. I tend to be an audio purist, and so I stock with the mono. The track sounded fantastic with dialogue coming through nice and clearly, and the score practically bursting through the speakers, and the effects and all else is mixed quite nicely.
Grindhouse Releasing have stuffed their Cannibal Holocaust Blu-ray so full of extra content within the Blu-ray itself, and in the packaging that it puts Criterion to shame. In the packaging comes two discs one for extras, and one for the film both Blu-ray. There is a 22 page booklet of liner notes (and some adverts), and in a cardboard sleeve a copy of Riz Ortolani’s iconic score for the film digitally remastered. The first disc comes with 2 commentary tracks featuring various members of the cast and crew. Also, on this disc is the Animal Cruelty Free Version for wimps like me, who don’t need to see that after the 4th or 5th viewing of the film.
Disc Two contains the extra features including New and Archival Interviews totally over 3 hours of content. Aside from the one on one interviews with the director, crew, and cast there is a Q&A rom Cinema Wasteland, a Q&A with Francesca Ciardi from a convention in Glasgow, Scotland, and a series of convention based reunions. There are still galleries, trailers for other Grindhouse releases, and loads of Easter Eggs hidden throughout the disc.
Cannibal Holocaust is a brutal masterpiece of horror cinema, and also a cinematic masterpiece in its own right. The A/V restoration from Grindhouse Releasing is spectacular, and the extras really push this one over the top. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.