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Film / Cannibal Holocaust

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Don't judge a book by its cover... It's much worse than the cover suggests.

"Eaten alive! The ultimate terror movie..."
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Cannibal Holocaust (1980) is a controversial exploitation horror film directed by Ruggero Deodato, telling the tale of four documentarians who journey deep into the Amazon rainforest to film the indigenous tribes. When they fail to return, anthropologist Harold Monroe leads a second expedition to rescue the first group. He ultimately finds their lost cans of film, through which he learns of both what the filmmakers got up to during filming, and their grisly fate.

Controversy followed this infamous "video nasty''; after its premiere in Italy, the film was seized and Deodato arrested on obscenity charges. He was later accused of making a snuff film due to rumors that actors were killed on camera. While he was cleared on all charges, the film was banned in Italy, the UK, Australia (where it was eventually passed uncut), and several other countries due to its graphic depiction of gore, sexual violence, and the inclusion of six genuine animal deaths.

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In 1981 a rip-off was made by Umberto Lenzi called Cannibal Ferox.


This film contains examples of:

  • An Aesop: "I wonder who the real cannibals are?"
  • All There in the Manual: The film's website contains tons of background information on the characters, most of which is not mentioned in the movie (or only mentioned briefly).
  • Anti-Villain: The cannibals in general do qualify, sure, they are people who eat other people, but they are just defending their home and their family from the despicable Yates and his crew.
  • The Amazon: The movie takes place in the Amazon rainforest.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The first half of the film centers around finding the final footage of the film crew, the other half is the footage itself.
  • Are We Getting This?: And many of the catastrophes are caused by the filmmakers.
  • Asshole Victim: The whole film crew had it coming.
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  • Ax-Crazy: Alan Yates and, practically all the crew is this.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: The film crew kill plenty of animals during their trip (horrifyingly, the animal deaths were real).
  • Bait the Dog: Alan Yates and his film crew are introduced as nice and fun people, they do not take long to show their true colors.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: The young documentarians' work is an in-universe example.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The Yamamano Tribe are friendly towards those who are respectful, even sharing food with and befriending travelers and it would be a VERY dumb idea to get on their bad side.
  • Big Bad: Alan Yates and the film crew.
  • Big Good: The Yamamano Tribe are the closest thing to this, just don’t make them angry.
  • Black Comedy: Munroe's expression after his effort to exchange the documentary footage for his own recorder gets him invited for dinner by the cannibals instead.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Felipe, the South American guide, is the first member of Yates' team to die.
  • Bullying a Dragon: When filming a warrior tribe that eats their conquered foes, what you don't want to do is go out of your way to piss them off. And yet, our intrepid main characters proceed to spend the duration of their film doing exactly that. Repeatedly.
  • Butt-Monkey: Faye suffers an disproportionate amount of humiliation and violence throughout the film, despite being the least guilty of the four. Unlike the others, she is repeatedly filmed in compromising situations (naked, urinating, and having sex) by her friends, is gang raped (despite being the only one of the four to not rape the native girl, even trying halfheartedly to stop the attack), and is brutally beaten and stabbed to death.
  • Cannibal Film: Definitely the most famous example, and considered by many to be the best.
  • Captured by Cannibals: The entire second half of the film.
  • Chased by Angry Natives: And the natives have a DAMN good reason to chase the film crew down!
  • Contemptible Cover: While the DVD cover atop this page is tame, most posters instead focus on the infamous impalement scene.
  • Covered in Gunge: Several people, especially the raped adulteress, get covered in mud over the course of the film.
  • Crapsack World: There is a war between two tribes of cannibals and the film crew that arrives are even worse.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Had the film crew not committed such horrible actions against the tribes, they’d probably still be alive. Probably.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Some of the animals, the Yanomomo tribe girl, and also the crew members.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Yanomamo cannibal tribe is actually a thriving community despite all the creepy visages. Despite being cannibals, they only go after those purposefully harm their community and God forbid should anyone be stupid enough to get on their bad side...
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Faye suffers the worst torture and death at the hands of the natives despite being by far the least guilty member of the group.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Faye, one of the crew members, objects to a young native woman being gang-raped, but the reason she gives the others is that they're wasting film footage for it. Given how hard she tries to stop them when this tactic fails, her sobbing "goddamn you" and her traumatized expression in the scene of the girl impaled, it's possible she was just trying to give the others a pragmatic reason since she didn't think an appeal to their consciences would work.
    • Played straight, to a degree, with the Yanomamo. They're a tribe of cannibals and warriors, but it's implied that they killed Alan's crew to avenge the young girl they gang-raped and killed; and they sequester the film crew's film cans in a distant part of their village because they think it bears evil magic.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Horribly subverted when a monkey gets its face chopped off with a machete. Which is made even worse when you realize they killed a real monkey. Twice. They got a take wrong!!!
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Holocaust" means "destruction by fire;" there's a scene of Yacumo herded into a hut at gunpoint which is then burned down...
  • Mighty Whitey: Horrifically deconstructed. Yates' team are arrogant enough to believe the natives fear their 'powers'. This doesn't stop them from being killed and eaten by the Yanomamo tribe.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Faye, she has three scenes of being naked, the third one however... was when she gets gang raped and beheaded.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The title of this movie. It can be seen in the Dare video. "Cannibal Massakren" doesn't sound much better.
  • National Geographic Nudity: All of the cannibal citizens wear no clothing save for thongs and loincloths, including the women.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Averted; six genuine animal deaths are shown on-camera:
    • Two of them come from the scene where they cut off a monkey's face with a machete, because it was actually shot twice. You read that right.
    • A coatimundi (mistaken as a muskrat in the film) has its jugular veins cut open by Miguel.
    • A large turtle (about three feet long) is captured in the water and dragged to shore, where it is then decapitated and its limbs, shell, and entrails are removed. The turtle is then cooked and eaten.
    • A large spider and a snake are killed with machete.
    • A pig is kicked twice and then shot.
      • Luckily, DVDs and Blu-Rays of the film distributed by Grindhouse Releasing give the viewer an option to watch an "Animal Cruelty-Free" version of the movie, in which all of these scenes are removed.
  • Noble Savage: Downplayed. The tribes are cannibals engaged in brutal warfare and are very distrustful of the expedition. But they are welcoming to those who are respectful and they justifiably murdered Yates and his crew after the jerks committed unspeakable atrocities on them.
  • Only Sane Man: Harold Monroe, who is the only person to treat the natives with any respect.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The film crew don't think highly of the natives.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Faye is upset at the rape of a native woman... because recording it is a waste of film footage. It's possible that the rape of the native actually disturbed Faye and she was just trying to use a pragmatic reason to get the others to stop, considering her reaction when they don't listen to her.
  • Prima Donna Director: Alan Yates is not above killing people to fulfill his artistic vision (and subsequently earn him fame and fortune).
  • Rape and Revenge: While the film crew had done plenty of ugly things to the natives, the Yanomamo tribe finally set out to kill the filmmakers when one of them is gang-raped by the crew, leading to one of the most horrific revenge scenes ever filmed.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The film crew burning down the Yacumo village to stage a scene for their documentary. In fact, all of the film crew's actions; in a literal way, they managed to score each of the three.
  • Revenge: The natives kill the film crew in retaliation for all the atrocities that the crew perpetrated.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: In the end, the Yanomamo tribe views all the film equipment as causing evil and get rid of it. Well they're not wrong.... It's just humanity at its worst not evil magic.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Yanomamo tribe in the end.
  • The Savage South: Cannibals, dangerous animals, and diseases, oh my!
  • Send in the Search Team: They find little to no remains of the film crew, but they find the footage.
  • Snuff Film: The filmmakers were put on trial for murder until they could prove that, yes, the actors in question were still alive and well. In fact, the producers had had it written in the main actors' contracts that they stay in hiding for an entire year to keep the illusion that they had indeed died as a publicity stunt. It was this for six animals, however (such a thing is known as a crush film).
  • The Sociopath: Alan Yates, a documentary filmmaker who is willing to stage brutal murders for the sake of a good shoot.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The lead motif is disturbingly serene and cheerful. And it is played during the burning of the Yacumo village. Here's the lovely theme itself...and this is from a gory flick involving cannibals!
  • This Is My Boom Stick: A spatial, rather than temporal, example. Miguel wins the cannibals' trust by giving them one of them a switchblade and teaching him how to use it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Alan decides to film the deaths of Jack and Faye rather than shut the camera off and get the fuck out of there.
    • Their guide Felipe. Yeah you put your boot back on in the middle of a Jungle without checking first. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Torture Porn: One of the early entries in the genre; the graphic violence and brutality seen in the film was realistic enough for the director to get arrested, as the authorities believed what was happening in the film was happening for real.
  • Tribal Carry: Jack and Faye in the end.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Compared to the many, many horror films it inspired. The victims, for one thing, brought the horror upon themselves with their own savage behavior.
  • Video Nasties: One of the better-known examples.
  • Villain Protagonist: The film crew are truly despicable people, raping and murdering the natives at every opportunity.
  • Villainous Breakdown: In his final moments, Alan switches from trying to escape the understandably angry tribe to filming more scenes for his film while in a state of panic. Considering how calm he had been during the whole film, it ends up being a remarkable breakdown when he is finally cornered.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Just like the death and rape scenes, all discretion is averted.
  • You Bastard!: The film harshly criticizes the audience's desire for sensationalism by showing Alan Yates and the rest of the film crew brutally killing the native people to get good footage in their documentary.

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