31 Days of Horror: Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – REVIEW

We’re on the final stretch of 31 Days of Horror and turning our attention to one of the infamous Video Nasties. Cannibal Holocaust is a full-on film, but one with a fair amount of substance to it as well. When I first watched it, I was surprised by how much depth there was, and whilst I do think after rewatching there are things it was a little gratuitous with, I can’t help but feel like it got a bit of a bad rap back at the time of its release.

The film follows a professor on a mission to rescue a team of filmmakers. When he discovers the lost tapes from their journey, the true horrors of what went on are exposed.

Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust isn’t exactly a cosy watch

You probably wouldn’t stick this one on for a date night. It’s rough viewing for a number of different reasons, and I think the more you know about the film, the harder certain parts of it can hit. As I said right at the start, this was my second viewing of the film, and there was a lot of stuff I had forgotten about following my initial watch of it. In particular, how much sexual violence is featured. It’s not something that’s ever easy to stomach, but the amount of it here and the motivations behind it were relentless. 

But, as I also mentioned, Cannibal Holocaust does have some substance to it. There is plenty to be disgusted by, but once beyond the initial shock, there’s plenty going on beneath the surface. And, just like the visuals, it is something that is also quite uncomfortable to sit with.

Cannibal Holocaust

There are times where it feels almost educational rather than entertaining

One thing that I was fond of with Cannibal Holocaust was the style of filmmaking. We’re back in the found-footage ball park, but this film isn’t so obvious as it’s presented as a documentary within another project. I liked the added context rather than just seeing what the crew filmed themselves as the film in its entirety. It helped to add meaning and purpose to a film that would otherwise have lacked any kind of nuance.

I suppose the big takeaway for anyone who has watched Cannibal Holocaust is it’s not really what you’d expect it to be. Perhaps because of the reputation it has, it’s very easy to have a preconceived idea about the film. I remember being very surprised when I first saw it, not only for the reasons already stated, but also because the bad guys weren’t quite who I thought they would be. An open mind certainly helps with this one.

Cannibal Holocaust

Don’t be deterred by what you think you may know

Cannibal Holocaust will always be surrounded by some level of notoriety I think, but that you shouldn’t let that put you off. It’s not exactly what you’d call an easy watch, but it’s not one of those films that just lets rip for the sake of it for the most part. There are a few bits that I feel get a little heavy handed, but aside from that, it’s quite an interesting and somewhat thought-provoking film that will occupy a small space in your mind for some time after viewing.

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