After much debate, there are not one but TWO winners!!! Congratulations to both Jon Wamsely and Paul Counelis!!! Runner-up is Steve Johnston and Honorable Mention goes to Erin Showalter Earmontrout. Thanks to all of those who participated in this great event!
Jon Wamsely's essay
Not too long ago, an essay topic was posted in a Facebook group I belong to, The Madness Halloween Horror Movie Marathon: Portrait of a Video Nasty, "Ruggero Deodato's film 'Cannibal Holocaust' should be revered or reviled because..."
My feeling on this is that it should be revered for being so reviled. This is the definition of a Video Nasty and had every reason to be banned, but also respected. I don't love this film, but I respect the hell out of Ruggero Deodato for having the chutzpah to make it and defend it in court.
I wanted to see this film based on its reputation alone. The original "snuff" film. I knew nothing about this film as a child, and I am glad for it, but once I got older and more into harder and obscure horror, I read a few articles in various magazines, like Rue Morgue and Fangoria, about this notorious film. By that time, none of the video stores around my area had it and I'm not sure if they ever did. This film was like a dirty secret to which I just had to be privy.
Once I got into filmmaking with Michael Todd Schneider, I asked him if he had ever seen 'Cannibal Holocaust', and he told me he actually had a bootleg copy of it on VHS and almost immediately, we started watching. First we watched Nacho Cerda's 'Aftermath,' which is one of the best shorts I have ever seen and highly recommend. Then we got to 'Cannibal Holocaust.'
I sat through and viewed every frame. I felt I had to soak it all in, even the animal death scenes, to get the full experience. I felt it was a very twisted move playing that nice music over the horrific scenes. But from the point of view of the people in the film, if there was nice music playing people would watch it and not be as horrified. It reminded me of "A Clockwork Orange" when Alex was going through the Lodovico Treatment and the lovely, lovely, Ludwig Van was playing over the scenes of violence. When the film was over, I was silent for a few minutes, trying to grasp what I had just watched, It wasn't as bad as I expected. When you hear about the film without having seen it, you start imagining how what you think you'd see.
The Filmmaker characters were absolute scumbags. They went into the jungle, where the inhabitants lived freely and separated from modern society, and start wrecking things because they have the guns and think that because they come from a bigger, more modern jungle built with steel rather than trees that they are superior. Let's bring it down to the base level, the Filmmakers were just savages from a different jungle. That's what the whole film was about. The Filmmakers hid behind their society and upbringing in the "civilized" world, but they invaded, raped, murdered, and destroyed in the name of "art." None of the Filmmaker characters had any redeeming qualities, and when they finally get their comeuppance, I was cheering. I absolutely hated them. And that's why I liked the film. It made me feel something.
The people in the screening room and behind wanting to air the documentary on television were really no better at the base level. They were the Proprietors and the Filmmakers were their henchmen, if you will, given free license to turn in a product. The Woman in the room even said, "The footage is exceptional!" She goes on to say, "Who knows about the Yakumo civilization! Today people want sensationalism. The more you rape their senses, the happier they are!" Spoon feed this mindless violence to the mindless masses and they will want more, basically. Sadly, it's true, even today with some of the dreck that's put on television like, 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians.' While not senseless violence, it's just senseless. Some call it a "guilty pleasure." It sensationalizes the overprivileged and overindulged family that is famous FOR NO REASON, well other than that sex tape, and through their insane fame, they always find something to whine about! But people eat it up like candy. I've watched it, I'm not innocent. "Let's watch how rich people live and wish we had all that money and blah, blah, blah..." (Average Viewer, 2013) I love fake violence as much as the next horror fan, but in the context of the film, the Woman was perfectly happy showing the documentary, once edited, fully aware of what was done...that is, until she saw the rest of the footage.
After the film was released, it was so realistic that people thought they were watching actual deaths on screen. After the film premiered in Milan in 1981, Ruggero Deodato was arrested and his film confiscated. Originally, Deodato was just charged with obscenity, but then murder was added as the court thought the main characters were murdered on screen and that the impaled woman was real. However, Deodato had his actors sign a contract stating that they wouldn't appear in any form of media for 1 year just to go further the "authenticity" of their deaths on film. He then had to void the contracts and brought them onto a television show to prove they were indeed still alive. After the courts were satisfied of that, they still charged him, rightfully, with animal cruelty and he got a fine and a suspended sentence. The film was banned until 1984, but even then it was censored heavily.
This is one of those films whose reputation precedes it. If you call yourself a horror fan, you should watch this film at least once just to say you've seen it. Like I said before, I don't love this film. I don't watch it that often, in fact I haven't watched it in at least a year. This is a special mood film, or when you need to gather information for an essay.
Revere it. Revile it. JUST WATCH IT!
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST: Indefensible snuff…or just indefensible snuff?
By Paul Counelis
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.