Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gourmet Movie Reviews: Cannibal Holocaust

Launching a new feature I've wanted to try out for a while now: Gourmet Movie Reviews!  There's a lot of movies (and TV shows for that matter) out there that center around food, so I thought posting a reviews could be a fun feature.  Naturally I had to lead off with a review of one of the most controversial (and worst) movies of all time: Cannibal Holocaust (1980).  Hey - it's food, right?

We respect the gourmet of all cultures

Sorry, Holocaust?  More like Lolocaust.  This movie is so atrocious, so horrible, so pointlessly futile that it's a wonder how this movie has generated so much controversy other than being really, really bad.

So what's this nuclear turd drop about?  Alright, a professor travels to the Amazon in search of some "filmmakers" who went missing.  When he gets there with his team of whoever-the-hell-they-were they encounter the native tribe who, as you can guess, practices cannibalism.  They live in what looks like a pretty vegetative environment, so the cannibalism must be part of their spiritual rituals or something.  Or they think human flesh tastes good.  Or whatever.  I don't care.

So the professor bathes with some of the native chicks, they meet with some of the locals, they find some skeletons with really big bugs crawling out of the eye sockets, and then they find what they were looking for: the footage that the "filmmakers" took.

They go back to New York or wherever the hell they were and watch it.  The second half of the film is what they watch from the missing "filmmakers".  Basically these goofs went into the jungle and, really, just terrorized everyone.  Okay, so, there are 3 of these idiots; a pair of lovers and a third male friend. So let's go down the list of horrible things these "filmmakers" do.  1) the two guys rape a native woman while the girlfriend watches.  Seriously, wtf?  2) They burn down the village of these natives for no reason.  Seriously, wtf?  3) They shoot a pig and then kick it when it doesn't die, seemingly just for their enjoyment.  Seriously, wtf?  4) The couple has sex while the creepy peeping tom third guy films them.  Then they get mad.  Filming themselves burning down villages, gang raping, and killing animals is okay, but filming consensual sex is where they draw their line of ethics.  Right.

Anyway, the natives are actually peaceful people.  They don't fight back for the whole movie until the end where they're finally like F these bitches and rip them to pieces.  And then the professor destroys the footage so no one sees it again.  But really, this was so stupid.  It was exploitation for the sake of exploitation with no coherence to story.  There's a scene where a native guy repeatedly jams a stone in the hoo hoo of his wife because he thinks she cheated on him.  We see it from a distance and that's it.  It has no significance to the actual story. Why am I watching this brutality if it has nothing to do with what's going on?  It can't be showing that the natives are brutal people because they put up with all the nonsense of these "filmmakers".  So seriously, wtf?

I get what the movie was going for - you think of primitive cannibalistic tribes and you think they must be savages, but the reality is that the people who came from a life of luxury wound up being the savages.  But the problem is - why?  Why were these people so horrible?  This is one of the problems I have with movies as well stories I read and a challenge I used to have as a writer - why are the bad guys the way they are?  I understand that they're doing bad things, but why are they doing them?  What suppressed childhood memory is resurfacing in their subconscious that's causing them to act like a couple out of control teens that really should be appearing on the Maury Povich show rather than playing around with a video camera.

And then there's the killing of live animals.  A pig is shot and kicked.  A snake is sliced in half.  A monkey's face is cut off.  A sea turtle is ripped open and cut apart while still alive.  I am not joking.  With the exception of the pig, which was killed because the "filmmakers" had some vendetta against living pork, all of the animals were killed in either self defense, for native ritual, or for food in the jungle.  The issue, that this is a movie.  This is make believe.  These aren't really lost "filmmakers", they're actors.  And when you watch these animals being killed on film, they're actually being killed in real life.  When you start mixing reality with fiction, you're crossing the line of what's acceptable filmmaking and what isn't.  Killing live animals on the screen is crossing that line.

The movie is available in a bunch of different versions with varying levels of censorship.  I just stumbled across a version uploaded to YouTube that has the animal slayings while cutting (see what I did there?) some violence.  It's also in Spanish.  Not that I'm recommending it or anything.  It's just in case if someone asks you what the worst movie you've ever seen is, you'll have a really good response and ammunition for an interesting conversation.  And just FYI, the version I saw was the unrated director's cut, so everything was included.  There's also tons of clips on YouTube and images if you do a search, but if you're sensitive about violence/gore in movies, I don't recommend it.  I personally had no problem, but most others will.  People get sliced and diced, blood splashes everywhere, and you see humanity at its worst.  The eerily calming music and makeup provides even more to the brutality.  In fact, the violence/gore is so brutal and realistic (heck some of it IS real), that this was initially believed to be a snuff film and director Ruggero Deodato had to prove that the actors were still alive.

You may be asking - hey Greg, is this really the worst movie you've ever seen?  The answer is no.  That dubious distinction goes to Hostel.  Hostel is about a couple bros who go to Europe, pick up some sluts, somehow find themselves in a series of organized underground torture chambers (?), and then the one bro escapes because some jerk left the keys in the ignition.  The difference between Hostel and Cannibal Lolocaust is that Hostel looks like something I could have written and directed when I was 14.  Cannibal Lolocaust would have come a year later at 15.  Though I will say that Eli Roth redeemed himself a bit with his performance in Inglourious Basterds as the Bear Jew.  He really did kick some Nazi ass there.

I hope you enjoyed this first installment.  Thanks for reading!