Primitive savagery meets the brutality of the modern world in Ruggero Deodato’s timeless slice of visceral horror – Cannibal Holocaust, a film so violent and depraved that the director was charged with killing his own cast!
Anthropologist Harold Munroe is hellbound as he travels into the green inferno of South America’s rainforest in an attempt to find a documentary crew lost months before. Instead of survivors he discovers a world of cannibalistic excess beyond his wildest imaginings but when he returns home and screens the footage left behind by the eviscerated filmmakers, chaos erupts as the screen is filled with some of most disturbing images ever committed to celluloid.
My first experience with Cannibal Holocaust was unforgettable. Going through a phase of Italian splatter and Gaillo films, a friend of mine hooked me up with an uncut VHS copy of it from Holland. It was quite possibly the most extreme films I had ever seen. It took me a while to process what I just experienced and decided to give it a rewatch. After seeing the film a few times now I regard it to be one of the finest horror films ever made. No mask wearing serial killer chopping up teenagers and making wisecracks, no dishy hunk to save the day, no cliches or jumpy moments. This is the definition of horror. Raw, repugnant, disturbing and horrific. Obviously I do not in anyway condone the needless slaughtering of animals (and neither does director Ruggero Deodato now) but these scenes manage to blur that line between fantasy and reality. It makes the brain think that the other acts of violence are real which makes the movie even more powerful and unsettling and caused the director to be arrested and trailed for murder when the film premiered due to audiences waking out of screenings convinced they had seen a snuff film. It’s a true tour de force of film making that was the first of the found footage genre. Considering I’ve seen the full unedited Cannibal Holocaust quite a few times now, I will be focusing this review on directors Ruggero Deodato’s new edit of the film.
The new directors edit of Cannibal Holocaust still has the same impact as the full unedited edition. The brutal savagery and violence still remains and because of this, it’s not pleasant viewing. This isn’t a film I recommend for enjoyment in anyway, but for a study of the horror genre. I admire the structure of the story line and pacing. For a film that is just over 90 minutes long, it’s pretty fast paced and never feels out welcomed all with the exception of the final scene (more on that later). The film is split into two segments. The first half follows Doctor Munroe (Robert Kerman) as he travels into the jungles of South America to investigate what happened to the missing film crew. Once he discovers their fate and retrieves the footage that was shot, he takes it back to New York and reviews the footage with the producers. The second half of the film is reviewing the footage and reveals that the Cannibals are not the villains in this. Brutal, upsetting and barbaric, Rugerro Deodato directs with such precision and handling and doesn’t glorify the violence but reveals what humans are capable of if given the opportunity. It’s gritty and grim and stays with the viewer long afterwards. The only issues I have with the film is that the finale does go on for quite a bit and could of done with being tighten up in the editing suite. Ruggero’s new cut of Cannibal Holocaust mainly deals with the animal cruelty scenes but be warned. The original Grindhouse edition skipped over the scenes entirely. What Ruggero does here is still present them but masks the moment of the kill with damaged film stock and smooths over the more grotesque scenes with alternate or slow downed footage. The editing is pretty good and there was only one shot where you could tell that it had been altered.The impact is still present in this cut but doesn’t shows the needless twitching or butchering. If I’m being totally honest, I actually prefer this new cut of the film.
Cannibal Holocaust debuts on Blu-ray with a MPEG4-AVC codec that preserves the films original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Both cuts of the film are encoded on the disc as separate files and no seamless branching is used. The opening shots of the jungle skyline do appear a bit soft and noisy at first which had me a bit worried. Luckily as soon as the film opens in New York, the HD transfer really does present the film beautifully. Shot with a combination of 35mm and handheld 16mm cameras, the transfer displays the film’s natural colours with great clarity. The different shades greens of the jungle foliage are clearly visible for the first time. Facial close ups reveal some finer detail but do appear to display a bit of digital noise. The 16mm segments in the second half of the film are bit dirtier and appear a bit darker because of the film stock. Contrast and whites do tend to appear a bit blown out and chroma can be slightly off as well but this is part of the original film footage and not the transfer itself. A hint of marcoblocking during the scene where the film crew set fire to the jungle huts was observed it won’t ruin your viewing. Apart from the odd telecine wobble that I spotted at the start, Pretty glad to say that this is is the best video presentation of Cannibal Holocaust I have ever seen. I’d rate the video a 3.75
Shameless Entertainment serves up two audio tracks for Cannibal Holocaust’s Blu-ray debut. An English DTS-MA 2.0 Stereo mix and a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. A key factor of the audio for me was Ritz Ortalani’s wonderful score which sounds stunning with this DTS-MA mix. A combination of orchestra and synthesizers, the score is reproduced with clarity and fidelity throughout and adds to the emotional impact of the film. A limited audio track that was mixed into Stereo a few years back from it’s original mono sound mix, Dialogue is presented perfectly between the front speakers but bear in mind that Italian productions are known for lip sync issues due to limited ADR production facilities from that era. The ambience of the jungle setting keeps the atmosphere active and engaging with the sounds of wildlife discretely in the background.
Introduction to the New Edit (01:49) : Ruggero introduces the viewer to the new edit of Cannibal Holocaust and the reason behind it. Presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 2.0
Theatrical Trailer (02:58) : the films original theatrical trailer is the first feature presented on the disc. Presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio
Film and Be Damned (40:28) : A sit down interview with actor Carl G York and director Ruggero Deodato that gives a superb insight into the production of Cannibal Holocaust. Presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio
The Long Road Back from Hell (40:20) : An in-depth look at the controversies surrounding Cannibal Holocaust during it’s release and it’s impact many years later. Presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio
Shameless Trailer Park : a collection of original theatrical trailers and promos for ALL of Shameless Entertainment’s releases that add up to just over forty minutes worth. The full list is as follows…….. ‘New York Ripper’, ‘Phantom of Death’, ‘Killer Nun’, ‘Torso’, ‘Venus in Furs’, ‘The Black Cat’, ‘Flavia the Heretic’, ‘Manhattan Baby’, ‘Night Train Murders’, ‘The Frightened Woman’, ‘My Dear Killer’, ‘Ratman’, ‘What Have They Done to Your Daughters’, ‘Who Saw Her Die?’, ‘The Designated Victim’, ‘Strip Nude for Your Killer’, ‘Oasis of Fear’, ‘Watch Me When I Kill, ‘Baba Yaga’, ‘Footprints’, ‘Bronx Warriors Trilogy’, ‘Papaya: Love Goddess of the Cannibals’, ‘Satan’s Baby Doll’, ‘The Beast in Space’, ‘Fulci’s Box of Terror’, ‘The New York Ripper’, The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh’, ‘The New York Ripper’ (Blu-Ray edition)
Cannibal Holocaust cannot be recommended for entertainment purposes. This is nothing entertaining or enjoyable about it. It’s a realistic and grim film about human nature and the acts of violence that we can commit against each other. It is however as superbly made film coupled with some great cinematography and a wonderful soundtrack and the underlying themes in the film make it a true cult classic. It’s the film that not only pushed the boundaries of horror cinema but knocked it down with a hammer and no other filmmaker has dared to follow in it’s footsteps. Often imitated but never equalled, anything else that came after it was just trashy exploitive cinema. Shameless have given Cannibal Holocaust it’s Blu-ray debut and it comes with my highest recommendation for fans of the film. Despite a few small issues with the video, the overall quality of the disc superb compared to what we’ve had to put up with over the years. The new and exclusive set of bonus features are interesting to watch and shed more light on the production. Despite the BBFC imposed cuts and clever editing of fifteen seconds (as opposed to six minutes originally), This Blu-ray release is the perfect supplement to anyone owning the uncut Grindhouse DVD edition from the USA.