To start this off, I’d just like to say that I’m not squeamish. In fact, for some reason I find gore to be little more than cartoonish so I can never quite take it seriously. From the gore-laced works of Lucio Fulci to the equally nasty homages from Eli Roth, none of that stuff bothers me. I don’t wince when eyeballs are burst nor do I cower when kneecaps are drilled through. There is one exception; I do get ever-so-slightly uncomfortable at the sound of teeth cracking on pavement (I’m looking at you, American History X), but for the greater part of my horror film viewing, the blood-and-guts stuff just washes over me.
So, why have I avoided Cannibal Holocaust? Well, there’s a couple of reasons. There’s a substantial gap in my horror movie knowledge where this sub-genre should fit. I grew up with slashers, ghost stories, vampires, werewolves, zombies etc., and never really felt a need to explore dense rainforests and remote indigenous tribes with a predilection for human flesh. To be honest, most of the European stuff kind of passed me by.
Discovering Dario Argento’s Suspiria, however, opened up an entirely new world of black-gloved killers, incompetent policemen, dazzlingly beautiful sirens and magisterial scores, via the Giallo. My discovery of this incredible, rich genre (and yes, I know that Suspiria isn’t a giallo – let’s not open that particular Pandora’s box) turned my interests towards all things Italian. Previously unheard of names,, including Bava, Lado, Lenzi, Martino and the aforementioned Fulci, became as familiar to me as Spielberg and Scorcese.
I also took an, albeit lesser, interest in Poliziottescho films, and it was here I discovered a name that really interested me, Ruggero Deodato (try saying the name out loud, it’s fun). He’d directed Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man, surely the title upon which all film titles should be measured, and so naturally I checked out what else was in Deodato’s filmography.
Now, anyone worth their salt as far as horror movie fandom is concerned, has heard of Cannibal Holocaust. In the UK, the film was banned until 2001 as one of the Director of Public Prosecutions list of 72 ‘video nasties‘. As I mentioned earlier, gore is not an issue for me, so once I discovered the film was banned I definitely wanted to see it. I mean, who wouldn’t?
In lieu of actually getting my hands on a decent copy, I read as much as I could get my hands on about the film. It’s here, sadly, that my interest ended. See, the gore was fine, the sexual violence was tricky (but I’d rationalised righty or wrongly that all were actors who, with sound mind, signed on to play their respective roles), but the animal cruelty was another thing altogether. Granted, I don’t eat meat – I did back then so it’s irrelevant anyway – but there’s a world of difference between a staged scene and an act of what is essentially animal slaughter. Especially when it’s for the sole purpose of entertainment.
I’m not puritanical. From what I’ve read, Cannibal Holocaust has a number of interesting elements, thematically, and it’s still a highly-regarded film. I have absolutely no problem with anyone else watching it. I just don’t think I could. It’s not the only offender. Sadly, the cannibal sub-genre is noted for its scenes of animal slaughter; allegedly often a mandate from the films’ producers in order for the film to fully qualify as a cannibal movie. It seems that these sequences of cruelty became almost genre tropes, which is as bizarre as it is pretty despicable. If you’re a fan and you don’t mind the animal stuff then more power to you, but that’s one particular hump that I have never been able to get over.
So, there you have it. I have never seen Cannibal Holocaust.