Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust

Calum Waddell

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781911325116

Publisher: Liverpool University Press


This book 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 book provides an insightful discussion of this groundbreaking film.