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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..."

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.

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

In 2020, to celebrate the film's 40th Anniversary, a video game sequel, titled Borneo: A Jungle Nightmare (titled as Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal early in development), was announced. The game is developed by Fantastico Studio under the direction of Deodato himself. It will be released for Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Steam, and mobile.

This film contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: At the very worst, the Yanomamo are this. They care about each other and want to be left alone by outsiders, but are generally respectful so long as they're given the same respect in turn.
  • An Aesop: "I wonder who the real cannibals are?"
  • All for Nothing: Yates' attempt to regain his reputation. The whole reason the original expedition happened was because he was in a snit about accusations that he was faking the scenarios in his footage and he was going to "prove" his critics wrong. Not only do he and the rest of his crew die horribly, the surviving reels show he was every bit the fraud his critics claimed.
  • 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.
  • An Arm and a Leg: When Felipe puts his boot on without checking it, he's bitten by a snake. To stop the venom from spreading, Yates cuts Felipe's leg off. In hindsight, that this was his first response to the situation says quite a bit about Yates.
  • 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.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Alan Yates and practically all the crew is this.
    • Subverted with the Yamamamo, who might appear to be this from an outsider's perspective, but they're actually quite reasonable and friendly to outsiders. They only cross into this territory if the outsiders piss them off enough.
  • 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, but 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 Yamamamo 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 Damn Heroes: Munroe and his company arrive in Yamamamo territory just as a foraging party is being attacked by Shamatari raiders. They open fire on the raiders, driving them off, and thus earn themselves safe passage.
  • Big Good: The Yamamamo 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.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Seems to be the case with the tribes and with the Yanomamo in particular. While superstitious and not above murder, cannibalism, and rape themselves, they have laws and a moral code, supposedly even laws against premarital sex. However, if you're an outsider and you hurt one of their own, they'll see to it that you die a slow and painful death.
  • Brain Bleach: Essentially Professor Monroe's reaction after finishing the reels, when he orders them burned.
  • Bullying a Dragon / Villain Ball: 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 a 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!
  • Covered in Gunge: Several people, especially the raped adulteress, get covered in mud over the course of the film.
  • Covers Always Lie / Never Trust a Trailer: The title of the film, posters and trailer lead us to believe that the Yanomamo tribe are the film's evil organization. While they do some rather awful things themselves and legitimately are the antagonists, they are not actually the film's main villains—if anything, they're actually the closest to the film's heroes. In reality, it is Alan Yates and his film crew that are the film's main villains.
  • 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.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Ruggero Deodato appears sitting on a blanket in front of NYU.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Some of the animals, the Yanomamo 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, primarily keeping to themselves and are mostly occupied with farming and keeping their villages defended. God forbid should anyone be stupid enough to get on their bad side...
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dr. Harold Monroe.
    Chaco Losojos: [while examining a corpse] Hey, professor! I recognize these teeth. This is Felipe Ocanya. He knew the jungle as well as I do.
    Professor Harold Monroe: That makes me feel terrific.
  • Decapitation Presentation: The natives held up Faye's severed head. This was shown in one of the covers.
  • Dirty Coward: Alan and Mark sacrificed Jack and Faye to the Yanomami surrounding them in the woods, both to film them getting butchered (so as to make their documentary more exciting) and in an attempt to save their own skins. Fortunately, both were rightfully killed afterwards.
  • 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.
  • Epic Fail: Meta example. Deodato had the cast sign a contract to disappear for a whole year after the movie was released, in order to give the film publicity by making it appear to be a genuine Snuff Film, due to the realistic violence and the animal killings. Facing life in prison, he was forced to void the contract so that he could walk away free.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Played with regarding Faye, one of the crew members, who 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. Faye, however, has no issues with burning the village down and potentially killing all of the inhabitants.
    • 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.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Holocaust" means "destruction by fire;" there's a scene of Yacumo tribesmen being herded into a hut at gunpoint, which is then burned down...
  • Exploitation Film: One of the most famous and notorious, to the point the director was charged with murder because viewers thought the actors in the film were actually killed.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: The film crew got massacred this way.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Alan Yates. With a face like that, you wouldn't think he was a psychopathic bastard.
  • Fan Disservice: To hell and back!
    • Faye is seen topless, both when Alan is filming her without her consent, and later when she is raped and murdered by the tribe.
    • Jack too is stripped right before he is castrated by the tribe.
    • There's a lot of nudity from a native girl, who is being gang raped by the crew.
  • For the Evulz: While also doing this for fame, Alan is also just doing these crimes for pleasure.
  • Foreshadowing: Even before it is revealed Alan Yates and his crew were horrible people who did evil things to the Yanomamo tribe, the film leaves one subtle hint predicting it. When Dr. Munroe is interviewing all the people who knew Alan Yates and his friends, they all have nothing but negative things to say about them. In addition, when Munroe's crew finds Yates's footage, the Yanomamo have placed it far from their village for fear it contains dark magic.
  • Forever War: The Yanomamo and the Shamatari, the Tree People and the Swamp People respectively. These tribes have been going since the dawn of time and are still locked in a fierce war of rape, murder, and cannibalism.
  • Found Footage Films: It was possibly the first found footage horror film, and it shredded the idea apart, with the horrors exacted on the natives because the filmmakers wanted to put something cool on camera.
  • Four Is Death: The film crew consists of four members (not counting their jungle guide) who all die.
  • Genocide Backfire: Probably wasn't such a good idea to massacre the natives and gang rape one of their children without thinking that they might want to get some payback for it.
  • Glory Hound: Alan's primary motivation for the documentary is to earn him more fame than his last film.
  • Gorn: Many scenes were believable enough (at the time) to result in the arrest of the director on suspicions that he'd made a snuff film.
  • Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death: One of the first few films out there to use this trope, and undoubtedly helped fuel the craze many other studios of the time had for titling their films in similar ways.
  • Groin Attack: Jack's penis is sliced off when he was being mutilated by the cannibals.
  • Hated by All: When Professor Munroe interviews everyone who personally knows Alan Yates following his death, just about all of them have nothing good to say about him.
  • Hate Sink: Alan Yates and his crew are very clearly intended to be this, given all the horrific deeds they do, as well as the fact they are completely devoid of any sympathetic moments, with the exception of Faye seeming to be genuinely horrified by the rape of the Yanomamo woman.
  • Heal It With Fire: Averted. A wound cauterized with a hot machete doesn't work.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The main message of the film, conveyed with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, either that or "Humans who commit Mighty Whitey posturing, colonialist bigotry, exploitation of aboriginal people and genocide are bastards".
  • I Have No Son!: Mark's father refuses to talk about his son on-camera, and when pressed will only say that he was a son-of-a-bitch. Turns out he was right...
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Guess.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: One of the more famous images from the film shows a native girl impaled lengthwise so the point of the stake comes out her mouth. No points for guessing where it went in. The film leaves it ambiguous as to whether her own tribe killed her, or the film crew did.
  • In-Universe Camera: The second half of the film.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Alan practically pounces on Faye after the crew burns down a hut with many Yacumo inside. For bonus points, they get it on in full view of the survivors.
  • Jitter Cam: Occasionally. But towards the end, this happens much more, especially when the crew members tried to flee from the cannibals.
  • Karmic Death: To quote the 1000 Misspent Hours review, "As the footage reveals with ever-increasing ghastliness, Yates and company more than earned their fate."
  • Kick the Dog: When the film crew arrives in the Yacumo tribe’s village, Mark shoots a piglet for no reason.
  • Killed Offscreen: Mark's death was never seen, and the documentary ends with the Jitter Cam effect followed by Alan's bloody face, so his death was only briefly seen.
  • Kubrick Stare: Mark gives one right to the camera immediately after the crew amputates Felipe's leg.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: The Yamamamo are a tribe with very disturbing tendencies towards cannibalism and rape, to be sure, but they're ultimately a society like any other with an understandable moral code and won't harm people unless attacked themselves. In contrast, the film crew are revealed to actually be depraved psychopaths that deliberately commit atrocities against the group in order to gain footage for their documentary.
  • Mad Artist: Yates shows strong signs of this. He has no problem with raping and murdering innocents for the sake of a good documentary.
  • Made of Plasticine: One would think it would take a bit more effort to, say, cut a man's leg off with a bolo knife.
  • Male Frontal Nudity:
    • In order to get access to the initial crew's tapes (and skeletons), Professor Monroe must strip naked and bathe in the river, surrounded by several native girls. Robert Kerman was previously an actor in adult films and thus had no qualms about appearing full frontal.
    • In a significantly more disturbing example, Jack is stripped naked right before having his penis cut off.
  • 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.
  • Mirroring Factions: The main point of the film. In fact, if anything, it's to show that the crew are actually worse than the tribes, being so quick to abandon any remaining sense of morality they have once they're out in a place where it no longer applies.
  • Mockumentary: Alan's in-universe films, which have ranged in subject matter. The whole film comes about because his attempt to make another ended in the death of him and his team.
  • 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 a machete.
    • A pet pig owned by one of the Yacumo children 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.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Yates and his crew learn that going around shooting the Yanomamo, burning down their village with natives trapped inside, raping one of their women and vertically impaling her all for the sake of dramatic footage results in getting themselves turned into dinner.
  • Pet the Dog: The Yanomamo tribe may be cannibals, but they're not unreasonable. They treat Monroe with hospitality after he establishes trust between them and allow him access to the reels.
  • 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.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The visual of a girl Impaled with Extreme Prejudice looked a little too authentic for some in Real Life, who accused the filmmakers of killing her because they couldn't believe it was simulated with Practical Effects. They ended up having to demonstrate that no, it really was just special effects, in court.
  • Revenge: The natives kill the film crew in retaliation for all the atrocities that the crew perpetrated.
  • Rewatch Bonus: If you look over Faye's shoulder when she's yelling at Jack for filming Mark and Alan raping a native girl, you can see another native watching from the grass. It's likely this native is the one who informed the others of what the film crew had done.
  • 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 have about enough of the film crew's shit and give them all their brutal but much-deserved comeuppance.
  • Satire: The film was intended as a satire on sensationalism in the media with little regard for journalistic integrity.
  • Sadist: The crew are a textbook example of this, especially Alan and Mark.
  • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Far on the cynical end, particularly towards civilization and sensationalism. That the cannibalistic tribe are portrayed as the lesser evil should tell you what kind of Crapsack World this movie is set in.
  • 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:
    • Yates is eager to do whatever it takes for his documentaries to make a good documentary, even if it means raping and killing animals and humans. The only time he shows any empathy is when he sees Faye being raped and murdered by the Yanomamo, but even that's just a fleeting moment, because it takes no effort to talk him out of saving her.
    • Also his cameraman, Mark, who enjoys the atrocities the most out of Alan's three accomplices and is the one who talks Alan out of saving Faye.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Mark is the most openly sadistic of the group and may be a veteran of the Vietnam War. He is the most involved in the burning of the village, upon which he remarks that it's just like Cambodia - implying he committed war crimes there. He also pointlessly shoots a pig and is ecstatic when they have to sever Felippe's leg. Telling that when Dr. Monroe interviews the Documentary Crews family, most are concerned for their fates. Mark's father remarks that he's no good and a son of a bitch.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: One of composer Riz Ortolani's specialties. 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!
  • Stupid Evil: Alan Yates and his crew mistreat and provoke the Yamamamo tribe far too much, resulting in their own deaths.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: The film crew start off by terrorizing and killing the local tribes, but end up fatally underestimating one of them.
  • 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.
  • Token Good Teammate: Downplayed In regards to Faye Daniels of Yates' Crew, while she went along with Alan, Mark and Jack's atrocities and is shown to be evil in her own ways like helping with burning women and children alive in huts. Unlike the other three who are all sadistic Hate Sinks she is the only one to show at least some level of morality seeming horrified at the others gang-raping a native woman.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Alan and the film crew decide to push their luck and go deeper into the jungle after their guide dies.
    • Alan and Mark decide 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?
    • The deaths of the entire film crew could have been avoided had they simply taken extra firepower (such as AK-47s), or had simply brought more bullets for their existing guns.
  • 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 found footage 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.
  • Western Terrorists: The film crew are this in essence. They come from New York to a foreign land where they violently antagonize the natives, all to show themselves as their superiors.
  • Worlds Expert On Getting Killed: Felipe is supposed to be the film crew's guide through the jungle and the one most attuned to the threats they'd face. Not only is he the first of the expedition to die, he dies in an idiotic manner; he doesn't check his boot before putting it back on and gets bitten by a snake.
  • 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.

"I wonder who the real cannibals are."


Video Example(s):


Cannibal Holocaust

Upon the film's release, the director and producer Ruggero Deodato was arrested on the charge that they had had several of the actors murdered for the camera. Their names were cleared when they arranged for the "dead" actors to appear together on television. It has been suggested that The Blair Witch Project and The Last Broadcast appropriated their mockumentary style from Cannibal Holocaust.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / CannibalFilm

Media sources: