Cannibal Holocaust is advertised as “the most controversial film ever made,” and the claim is not without justification. Its director was arrested upon release under suspicion of making a snuff film, and the film features real animal mutilation. It uses the characteristics of the found footage genre better than the majority of its successors; despite the amateurish acting, the unconventional narrative framework lends the film a disconcerting realism.
The film is undeniably a success when evaluated on its ability to leave a queasy feeling in its audience’s stomach. Unfortunately, that queasiness is not just thanks to its (at the time) novel presentation, but rather the uncomfortable synchronicity between the film’s protagonists – a trio of documentary filmmakers who venture into the “Green Inferno” of deep Amazon only to raze, rape and ravage, grinning at their atrocities – and Cannibal Holocaust’s filmmakers themselves. It’s not just the animal slaughter or racist undertones, but the staggering lack of perspective evident. When a character explains that burning down a village and slaughtering the animals is wrong because it’s akin to throwing the contents of someone’s fridge onto the ground, it becomes disturbingly clear that Cannibal Holocaust’s producers are almost as warped as their doomed protagonists.