Part 7 of 13, excerpted from an essay entitled “Disturbo 13: The Most Disturbing Horror Films Ever Made” by Stanley Wiater.
Considered the most brutal of the already incredibly savage series of cannibal films produced by Italian filmmakers in the 1970’s. The reasons why there were first was a series of cannibal films (with such Americanized titles as Trap Them and Kill Them, Make Them Die Slowly, Slave of the Cannibal God) can’t be adequately explored here. Indeed, cineteratologist—that is, one who studies horror films—Stephen R. Bissette has written an entire book on the subject). But rest assured that the basic plot of nearly all of them involve white explorers going deep into the jungles of the Amazon, encountering cannibals, and suffering a most hideous fate.
Of course, being eaten alive isn’t always the worst of it, as the female explorers are usually gang-raped, while the men’s genitals are cut off or the tops of their skulls are sliced open like coconuts so that the brains can then be munched on for dessert. Believe it or not, this is standard behavior in nearly every one of these movies: anyone can be someone else’s next meal.
In Cannibal Holocaust, much of the unrelenting gruesomeness lies in the explicit scenes of live animal slaughter. Unlike nearly all of the other cannibal films, these acts are not committed by the natives, with the viewer assuming the animals were later eaten by savages in a typically savage manner. Here the slaughter is committed by the explorers as part of the plot. Either way, the very idea of animals being literally butchered is morally indefensible, to say the least. The artistic intent of the filmmakers is, of course, to make us suspend our disbelief that human beings are literally being slain as well. The unending scenes of cruelty are almost indescribable; the only moral lesson supposedly learned is that the “civilized” Western explorers are as bloodthirsty as the savages. At one point, two of the explorers gang-rape a native girl. Later, she is punished by her tribe by being impaled on a massive pole—which is driven up through had vagina right out of her mouth.
In what it says about the human condition, Cannibal Holocaust just gets darker and bleaker and bloodier. it should come as no great shock the the only way for the movie to conclude is for no one to get out alive.