Cannibal Holocaust

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Cannibal Holocaust

Devil's Advocates


December 27th, 2016

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Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most controversial horror films ever made. Despite not achieving huge success when it was first released, the Italian production found an audience on home video in the 1980s and became a 'must-see' for connoisseurs of extreme cinema. Indeed, Cannibal Holocaust's foremost legacy is in the United Kingdom, where it obtained its reputation as one of the most harrowing and offensive 'video nasties' – a term used to refer to a group of films deemed to be 'obscene' by the Department of Public Prosecutions. However, as the years have progressed, Cannibal Holocaust has been re-evaluated, mainly as the forefather of the 'found footage' film, and recent home video re-releases have added some valuable perspective to the onscreen violence with extensive cast and crew interviews. What is missing from this contemporary activity is contextualization of Cannibal Holocaust's style, affirmation and discussion of its locations and any extensive discourse about its representation of third world inhabitants (i.e. as 'primitives'). In addition, and also amiss from previous dialogue on the production, is that Cannibal Holocaust can be seen as one of the key post-Vietnam films. It is the spectre of war – and an explicit warning about Western involvement in civil conflict – which progresses Deodato's story of jungle adventurers in peril. By approaching the film from a more formalist position, this Devil's Advocate provides an insightful discussion of this groundbreaking film.

Author Information

Calum Waddell gained his Ph.D from Aberdeen University in 2014, and now works full time as an academic. He also moonlights as a documentary filmmaker, with credits that include Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film (2015), and acting as the co-producer of the American Blu-ray of Cannibal Holocaust for Oscar winner Bob Murawski.