Cannibal Holocaust: The First Found Footage Film and Why It’s Trending

A lot of people were left shocked by last week’s episode of Euphoria. Some horror fans were left a bit more shocked as a familiar score. It soundtracked Cassie looking through that window with a Sissy Spacek style stare. The oddly calming, grotesquely titled “Cannibal Holocaust” popped up on the captions to confirm, and I nearly lost my mind.

Cannibal Holocaust looms over the horror genre as one of its most controversial films for so many reasons. Considering its ban in over 40 countries, the criminal charges that occurred after its festival release and the cruelty that occurred on set to both actors and animals, the use of its score in Euphoria was a very specific choice. And an odd one. It has caused curious minds to go looking for the answers, myself included.

I will admit, it is a film that I have avoided due to its depravity. However, I cannot be genuine if I haven’t experienced it. That being said, I do not agree with anything that has been done for “creative choices” in this film. I also do not encourage one to go looking for this film, as its content is highly traumatizing to both the viewers and the indigenous people that were exploited for this film. However, it is a critical point in the horror genre and should be examined as so, so let me do it for you.

Let’s Talk about the Cannibal boom

From 1972 to around 1988, there was a phenomenon in Italian horror known as the Cannibal Boom. Most of these films are referred to as video nasties, a term coined by English film media to describe low budget horror-exploitation films. It started with the film Man From Deep River and continued on from then.

Man from the Deep River - Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia
Man From Deep River (1972)

Man From Deep River is what kicked off the boom and is considered to be the first Italian cannibal film. Directed by Umberto Lenzi, the film follows a British photographer, John Bradley, as he gets kidnapped by a native tribe in the rainforests of Thailand. He is then tortured by the tribe and enslaved to the chief’s daughter, Marayå. He tries to escape multiple times and with the final attempt, he kills Marayå’s suitor. This leads to him being accepted into the tribe in which he marries Marayå. He joins the tribe’s war against a rival, cannibalistic tribe and his wife gets killed in the process of childbirth.

It tries to tie it in a metaphorical bow by having him not seize the opportunity to escape and joining the tribe for good. Overall, this film is very white-saviorist and features loads of animal killing, violence, gore and torture. However, this is the outline of what’s to come.

Next: Cannibal Holocaust–the most famous and controversial

Cannibal Holocaust released in 1980 and shook the world a bit with its controversy. It also held a spotlight on the cannibal boom and the possible malpractices that occurred when making those films. First, let’s have a brief overview of the plot. Then, we’ll discuss what came about after the film’s release.

The Plot of Cannibal Holocaust
Cannibal Holocaust (1980) - IMDb

With a film crew going missing in the Amazon rainforest, an anthropologist goes looking for them only to find them dead and arranged in a gruesome manner. What remains intact is their footage, which is taken back to New York to be made into a documentary film. The first half of footage involves seemingly interesting footage and shows the filmmakers trekking through the rainforest. Things seem rough for these filmmakers, and the anthropologist along with many sponsors continue to push for this documentary to go through.

All of this motivation vanishes for the main anthropologist, Harold Monroe, when he watches the rest of the footage. The investors try to protest him pulling out and condemning the project until he decides to show them the footage themselves. What is shown is the format for the found footage style that would take the horror genre by storm in the late 1990s. The footage shows that the filmmakers aren’t the martyrs they seem to be and caused most of the horrific events that led to their demise. Yes, they’re the ones responsible for the famous impalement victim. And its cause makes it so much worse. Then the final reel of footage shows their demise, and the documentary is finally pulled after all of the carnage plays out on the screen.

What makes this film worse than any other horror film?

Yes, that is a fair question. There are three topics that make this film as well as many of the other Italian cannibal films: the brutal sexual violence, the animal cruelty and the mistreatment and misinformation of indigenous people. This film features not one but two brutal gangrape scenes that result in even more violent consequences, such as that infamous impalement scene and the beheading that occurs at the end. This was very typical of the genre, but Cannibal Holocaust took it to an extreme, especially for the first of its audience that was not used to the found footage style and worried that the acts may be real.

There was something that was quite real however, and that was the animal cruelty and deaths that occurred on screen. The most infamous of these is with a sea turtle but features at least five other animal deaths, dismemberments and torture. Most versions of this film that you can rent have these scenes cut out of it, but the footage is still around and still easily accessible. It is usually some of the first things that come up, so tread lightly when looking up this film if you are a bit more sensitive to the content that I am.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) | MUBI

Taking it to the final point, these films did nothing but contribute and stigmatize indigenous cultures further, and that doesn’t benefit anybody. There are multiple accounts of the indigenous extras being mistreated, specifically in the scene in which a hut is set on fire. There was no real training or professionals to perform the stunt, but by serious convincing by the director, Ruggero Deodato, the extras stood under the hut and a lot received minor injuries due to malpractice in pyrotechnics to save a buck.

Those are some brief overviews into what went so wrong with this film and gained it its notoriety, but it is what happened in regard to the format and controversial scenes that catapulted this film into absurd infamy.

How Cannibal Holocaust possibly ties into Euphoria

Ten days after Cannibal Holocaust premiered in Milan, the magistrate confiscated the film and arrested Deodato, who was charged with obscenity. All the distributions were pulled, and it was rumored that Cannibal Holocaust was actually a snuff film due to the silence and absence of the supposed actors in the film. This led to the charges being upped to possible murder charges.

Ruggero Deodato and His Mad Genius
Ruggero-Deodato-in-Cannibal-Holocaust-1980 - PopHorror

The actors however were very much alive–in fact they had signed contracts with Deodato to not appear in press coverage and keep their lives on the down low to create this speculation. Not realizing that would lead to severe criminal consequences, Deodato had to get in contact and gather all the actors involved in the found footage segment, in which they appeared both in court and on an Italian talk show to showcase that everyone was very much alive. They also had to show how they did the impalement effect, as that was one of the biggest topics for the real versus fake argument.

This didn’t save the film nor the director’s reputation, as the film was banned anyways for the violence and cruelty against animals, something that Deodato spend years defending but slowly turned into regret, with him admitting that he never should’ve brought animals into it in the first place. Cannibal Holocaust was banned in several countries and was only recently released on a wide release in 2005, one of which is heavily cut. Deodato was onto something, however, with the actors, as the same type of thing was done with The Blair Witch Project, and the disappearance of the actors just added that much more to the horror.

Alright, but what about euphoria?
Euphoria S2 E7 Recap: Lexi Howard, Director of the Year

As the season two finale drops tonight, I think the reference to Cannibal Holocaust through its haunting score is to focus on the consequences of the play, specifically Lexi as the director. Despite her good intentions and wanting to push boundaries for both shock and artistic methods, it’s going to backfire on her. Specifically, that backfire will be coming from Cassie, who now has this theme to this grotesque film tied to her character forever. I have a feeling we’re finally going to see what she means by claiming that she is crazier.

On top of that, Lexi’s play is going to be heavily tainted by the backlash and interruption that the episode is implying, and sadly Lexi will face the brunt of that. Our Life will be remembered as the one play with an epic musical number to “Holding Out for a Hero” and the time that the director’s sister couldn’t take the heat and stormed on stage. Therefore, much like Deodato, she will be remembered more for the absurdity rather than the actual art and message that pertains to the work.

FInal Thoughts on Cannibal Holocaust

I will be tuning into Euphoria in a heartbeat; however, I cannot say the same for Cannibal Holocaust. I do truly think that there is a good moral deep in there. The twist of the slaughtered filmmakers actually being the monsters really provides some decent commentary on how we exploit other cultures for our own wonderment and benefit. However, the things that occur both inside and outside of the film are inexcusable.

I do find it extremely amusing that this was used so casually in the show. I also feel terrible for the curious minds that think they are looking up just your run of the mill horror film. This film is very different, and can be described as a cult horror. Not in the sense of a small, dedicated fan base, but rather those of us who have seen it, understand it and then never really want to watch it again. I guess we’ll see if its use was purposeful in a few hours. But if not, that was a wild rabbit hole I just went down. I am honored to share it with you.

If you’re new to The Void of Celluloid, welcome. If you want to know more about horror and the things that go on within the community, please go follow on Twitter @OfCelluloid and Instagram @TheVoidofCelluloid. Happy to have you here, now please don’t watch Cannibal Holocaust. Or do. The world is your oyster.

Anthology Horror: Short Stories Unfolded

Anthology horror has risen to one of the more popular subgenres of horror, and it is easy to see why. With television shows such as American Horror Story and Black Mirror in high demand during the 21st century, the idea of shortened, contained scares are appealing to both the binge watcher and the casual TV viewer. The subgenre has such beautiful roots too, since anthology horror found its home in the imagination of Rod Serling in 1959 with his groundbreaking series, The Twilight Zone. With the new release of the Fear Street anthology, I decided to take a dive into the void and well, I was feeling quite opinionated. It is truly a range of films, with attempts of sprinkling in some cult classics amongst household names.



Anthology Horror: Not Great to best

All of the films and television I am putting up here are definitely watchable, and are based on my personal feelings, as well as what I perceive as quality entertainment. They are not everyone’s cup of tea, however. I will also describe an age range for these films if you are looking for something more intense for yourself, or something tame to show some curious kiddos. Let’s get on with the ranks, starting of with films that I think you should avoid.

Utter Garbage: Holidays, THe ABCs Of death Series

Photo example of anthology horror Holidays
Seth Green in Holidays (2016), XYZ Films

I do understand that I stated these are watchable, and while these pain me deeply, they’re not unwatchable. Some may debate with me, and while there are good individual stories in these films, they’re not really worth your time. It was especially disappointing, because Kevin Smith did the Halloween short for Holidays. Now, one of my favorite directors meets my favorite holiday should have been an easy knockout for me, and I was ready to grant it a little grace, but oh boy, it was bad. As for The ABCs of Death, I admire the concept of a collection of international short horror films, but some of the films were either A) too disturbing, or B) way too ridiculous (for example, F is for Fart). Don’t waste your time, and kindly avoid these films.

AMerican Horror Story seasons 3-9

Photo example of anthology horror series American Horror Story
American Horror Story: Coven (2013), FX Television

Now, these are enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, but oh boy, is it Ryan Murphy television to a tee. Ryan Murphy has a certain style, and while I can appreciate the humor and the excessive musical numbers in Season 4 (not necessarily dissing these, I enjoy them, but a major turn off for a lot of fans), these seasons are not as strong as the first two, and even die hard fans can agree with this. They are fun and full of bitchy dialogue, darker humor, and heart wrenching tragedy, but overall, they are way more soapy and not everybody’s cup of tea. Also, he needs to stop killing of my favorite characters, and maybe I can forgive these seasons more.

Twilight Zone: The Movie

Photo example of Twilight Zone: The Movie
Dan Aykroyd in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Warner Bros.Studios

Yeah, this film. This film suffered in production hell and was shadowed by the tragic, notorious helicopter accident that occurred on its set, but that doesn’t stop it from being a decent film. With a story from Steven Spielberg as well as memorable moments from Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow, it is sad to have this movie go under the radar so often, but also completely understandable given the nature of the accident. The stories are good retellings of classic Twilight Zone tales, and John Landis has a good prologue as well as a predictable first segment, but it is an uncomfortable viewing, especially after having looked at the details of the accident. If you want to continue not having a knot in your stomach when you hear John Landis’ name, I suggest not deep diving into the details of what happened.

Creepshow 2

Photo example of Creepshow 2
Creepshow 2 (1987), Laurel Entertainment

Creepshow is admired for its cheesiness, but this sequel doesn’t hold a candle to the first one. While its budget quadrupled from the first and the special effects seemingly improved, it is extremely campy and leans more on the comical side. It is not bad, but rather quite enjoyable, given that Stephen King and George A. Romero were still behind the wheel (quite literally in King’s case). Approach this one with a not-so-serious mindset, and enjoy another journey with The Creep.

Cat’s Eye

Anthology Horror
Drew Barrymore in Cat’s Eye (1985), MGM

Awe, isn’t lil’ Drew Barrymore adorable? Cat’s Eye is a more accessible anthology film by Stephen King, in which the viewer follows a cat around through three chilling tales, which seems to be the magic number for King. I remember watching this when I was younger, around age 10, and remember it being rather tame. It’s quality short stories from King, and was the groundbreaker for a flowing anthology film rather than broken up, separate stories–a format featured in a few films on this list. However, it was not as memorable as other starter-horror, at least from my childhood, so it goes here.

Fear Street Series

Anthology Horror
Fear Street Trilogy (2021), Netflix

It was exciting to see R.L. Stine’s name attached to a modern production, especially one that was promising some gory, grown-up scares. These movies are fun and have a few creative tricks of its sleeve (yes, THAT misfortune in the bakery) but overall, it is an homage to the ones that came before. It’s campy and predictable, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fun romp for sure. It’s a surprisingly brutal installment to the seasoned anthology horror genre. I am curious to see what else the creators plan on dishing out in the rumored future installments. Also, it is the only film on this list to have LGBTQ representation–something the horror genre struggles with–so major props to them.

The Mortuary COllection

Anthology Horror
Jacob Elordi in The Mortuary Collection (2019), Trapdoor Pictures

The newest addition to this list as well as the only one tied to an exclusive subscription, this is a fun and creative–though predictable–horror film through the subscription Shudder. Shudder just recently did a revamp on Creepshow, and while it is not on this list, it is a worthy revival that I cannot recommend more. Anyways, I just watched this recently and really enjoyed it! It has a lot of good twists and turns, and is one of the more gorier ones on the list, so if you’re into more intense horror, especially body horror, this one should be on your watchlist.

American Horror Story Seasons 1 & 2

Anthology Horror
American Horror Story: Murder House (2011), FX Television

Finally, here is the beginning of the series. I absolutely adore these first two seasons and their rewatchability factor is extremely high. I’ve seen the first season multiple times, so much so that it has become a comfort show of mine, and as far as critical acclaim goes, the second season is the best of the whole series, even with its wacky tangents. There is also a complexity in characters between the first two seasons, brilliantly acted by Zachary Quinto, Jessica Lange, Lily Rabe and Evan Peters. It has its touch of cheesiness, but that can be expected from a horror series made the same creator that made Glee. Nevertheless, this was and still remains to be highly influential horror television.

V/H/S

Anthology Horror
V/H/S (2012), Bloody Disgusting

This film started the reign of Brad Miska in regards to horror anthology of the 2010s. Miska served as producer of this iconic found-footage anthology film and with the involvement of Bloody Disgusting, this film was met with wide acclaim from horror audiences. With the most notable segment “Amateur’s Night” being the launchpad of director David Bruckner, it is one of the more disturbing films on this list and definitely doesn’t fall into a “starter-horror” situation. Instead, this is catered to the commonly-desensitized horror fan that is looking for a good scare.

Southbound

Anthology Horror
Southbound (2015), Willowbrook Regent Films

As I mentioned in the previous segment, the films from this team are not for the faint of heart. Southbound is more of a flowing cinematic anthology rather than the found-footage format that Miska started out with. It brings back most of the directors from V/H/S as they tell ghastly stories centered around a wild batch of characters. In describing the impact of this film, I have only watched once, which was about five years ago. The visuals and stories were so impactful, that it skyrocketed to the top of my mental list when brainstorming for the topic. This was definitely a sleeper hit in 2015, and I encourage the strong stomached to check it out.

Goosebumps/Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Anthology Horror
Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1990-1996), Nickelodeon Productions

This is as “starter-horror” as it gets. Both Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? established whether or not millennials liked to be scared or not. Both mild yet creepy, it is no coincidence that both have experienced reboots in one form or another to enlighten today’s younger audience. They offer nostalgia to many audiences and most people under the age of 35 can say that one of these series got them into horror.

Tales from the Crypt

Anthology Horror
Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996), Home Box Office

A classic serving us an icon that was The Cryptkeeper. Horror fans and 90s kids alike remember Tales from the Crypt fondly. It was an anthology series based of the same comics that inspired other works such as Creepshow. It also brought in a multitude of talent to tell different stories each week, hosted by the iconic puppet host The Cryptkeeper. With tales laced with cheesiness, every episode I watched held up brilliantly. Therefore I consider it still a delight to watch as a horror fan.

V/H/S 2

Anthology Horror
V/H/S 2 (2013), Bloody Disgusting

This is one of those sequels that improves upon the original. In this film’s case, it gets scarier and to put it in to crude terms: it goes batshit crazy. Even more creative short films with all the knobs that made the previous film function turned up to 11. V/H/S 2 will stand as a staple for the cross between found footage and anthology, and while there are some that have come after that have tried to out do it (i.e. The Poughkeepsie Tapes, which is just tasteless gore and disgusting just to be disgusting), none will make your heart thump like this one.

The Haunting Series

Anthology Horror
The Haunting of Hill House (2016), Netflix

The only horror series that I will ever advise to have tissues with you at all times is the Haunting stories. Mike Flanagan–our modern horror saint–takes the chilling classic tales of The Haunting of Hill House and The Turn of the Screw and with his careful personal touches, crafts terrifying, melancholic masterpieces. The Haunting series have loveable characters, terrifying ghosts and is also one of the most diverse casts in the horror scene as of late, including a beautiful Sapphic love story in The Haunting of Bly Manor. Again, bring tissues with you, especially for Bly Manor.

Tales from the Hood

Anthology Horror
Tales from the Hood (1995), 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks

This film has been and is currently seeping with social relevance, that it deserves a high spot on this list. The first story is particularly disturbing following the recent events that occurred in 2020 and sadly has become a classic that has been swept under the rug. The director and writer Rusty Cundieff would go on to direct Chapelle’s Show ten years later, which was a brilliant choice given his stylistic directing showcased in this film. Much like the other films that came out in the 90s focusing on the Black community, it is a direct reflection on today’s times and how things have not changed that much. Please go watch this film if you haven’t.

Creepshow

Anthology Horror
Creepshow (1982), Laurel Show Inc.

A-ha, the blueprint of anthology horror as a singular film makes its appearance in the top three, of course. This lovely brainchild of Stephen King and George A. Romero is a cheesy delight, and remains the posterchild of anthology horror. The use of original storytelling in the height of Stephen King adaptations paid off well for the movie’s success and budget. While you’ll giggle at times, it remains one of those cult classics that will stand the test of time, which its sequel and its very recent reboot through Shudder proved. You can’t wear your horror badge too proudly if you haven’t sat through this one.

Trick ‘r’ Treat

Anthology Horror
Trick ‘r’ Treat (2007), Legendary Pictures

This film has a very special place in my heart and the fact I’ve seen a rapid increase of merchandise come Halloween time proves it has found its footing in more mainstream horror. This is one of those films that survives the phenomenon of straight-to-DVD due to its creative storytelling, format and aesthetic. Michael Dougherty is responsible for this film, with it being a precursor to his more well known holiday horror Krampus. Upon my discovery of this movie in 2009, there is not a Halloween that goes by that I do not watch this movie at least once. Please watch it if you haven’t, and for those that have made it tradition like me, rock on. Now let’s hope that sequel comes out soon.

The twilight Zone

Anthology Horror
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), CBS Productions

It was mentioned in the introduction, therefore it needs to top this list. This is the only suitable place for this revolutionary TV show to go, as we would not have the formatting for anthology horror without it. Rod Serling was a master storyteller, providing nearly every story for the show in its 150-plus episode run. His craft proved brilliant by the generations that The Twilight Zone crosses, whether it be copious amounts of reboots trying to revive that originaal charm or a kid recognizing the theme song from Disneyland, The Twilight Zone will forever remain a classic as well as the golden standard on how to put short story to screen.


Thus the epic (but limited to my personal knowledge) list comes to a close, with the reminder that there is so much more to come from this genre and what we can hope for in regards to innovation in the subgenre of anthology horror. That’s it for this journey, but definitely not the last you’ve heard of these films from me. As we depart the void, let me know in the comments what films I missed and I’ll make sure to check them out and update the list as time goes on. Until next time…