Cannibal Holocaust. Should it be revered or reviled? The answer, to me, is obvious. Because I kind of absolutely HATE that movie.
OK, let me get it right out of the way: YES, real animals are tortured and killed on camera. This does bother me. Greatly, in fact. In order to present his misguided and inconsistent take against exploitative media, living creatures apparently had to be inhumanely sacrificed in such a revolting fashion as to turn the filmmaker Ruggero Deodato into the thing he was trying so hard to lampoon: an exploitative documentarian.
It’s been said that the toughest role for actors is one that includes acting opposite animals and kids. It’s also been said that in one scene from Cannibal Holocaust in which a monkey is killed by an actor, Deodato needed two takes. Yes, that means two monkeys had to die so he could get the shot he needed. I don’t know what happened in the first take; maybe the monkey didn’t scream convincingly enough, or the shot simply wasn’t framed correctly. I can’t say for sure. I’ve never seen that particular piece of snuff—er, “deleted scene”.
In the same spirit of set hijinks and funny horseplay (unfortunate choice of words, perhaps), Carl Gabriel Yorke reportedly screwed up a line due to the fact that a pig was squealing in the throes of death. That take, fortunately, couldn’t be redone, because all the other pigs on location had already been killed. Haha, think of the hilarious blooper reel!
But hey, it was a tough set. Hopefully, at least the naked children fared better than the animals and their nudity was obtained in one take.
Now, I won’t go on and on about that part of the “movie”, because it’s been detailed quite often before. However, it shouldn’t be glossed over, especially in a critique of why it should be reviled; I admit to being amazed by reviewers who come to accept the atrocities committed, or even worse, act like it’s no big deal and that people who point it out are just being prudish. Of course, one of the biggest things that separate us from the animals in the first place is our capacity for compassion. Presumably.
But even from an artistic standpoint, the ability to create magic in a cinematic sense is a celebrated and almost necessary achievement. To think that the only way you can build a sense of true danger for the human actors in the film is to show the actual, extremely cruel dismembering of a helpless fucking turtle is not just proof of perceived inhumanity, but also filmmaking ineptitude. It’s a shameful artistic decision, and artistically speaking, probably the single biggest cop-out in the special effects of a film that I can think of.
Even worse than that fake-assed CGI Jabba the Hut in the ill-advised “restoration” of Star Wars. Even worse than the wobbly model spaceships in Plan 9 From Outer Space. Even, stunningly, worse than the black curtains visibly blowing on the moon backdrop of Superman IV.
One can only imagine Rick Baker trying to pump up the intensity of the transformation scene in American Werewolf in London by chopping off a dog’s tail with a meat cleaver while the cameras rolled. Yes, it’s unthinkable…and stupid.
Too bad, because the movie would otherwise be a masterpiece of acting and a brilliant moral examination on cultural violence and the destructive effects of imperialism.
Just kidding. It would still be a piece of shit.
And apologists would likely still pretend that it achieved its pretend goal. But at least it might not be the inexcusable, indefensible pile of overrated crap that it is, unworthy of all the attention it still receives all these years after the first appearance of its disingenuous first credit roll. Because, for some reason, people nowadays seem to mistake the ability to show you something you’ve never seen as a singularly good enough reason to show it.
What a world, what a world.