Cannibal Holocaust: Should it be revered or reviled?

Recently one of my favorite facebook groups asked for participants in an essay contest regarding Cannibal Holocaust.  The two topics?  "Cannibal Holocaust should be revered because," and "Cannibal Holocaust should be reviled because."  While scraping my brain in a response I was reminded of my first experience with Ruggero Deodato's cult epic, which also happened to be through piracy.  I realize that may take away some of my 'horror cred,' but it is what it is.  In my defense this was way before Grindhouse Releasing would go on to give fans multiple editions of the notorious film.  This was back in the days of 56k and Kazaa.  It literally took me 2 weeks to download the film but honestly, it was worth every second.

Prior to this illegal act of desperation I tried to fill my Deodato-less void with as many cannibal films as I could rent.  Movies ETC was the choice establishment.  It was there that I first laid eyes on Make Them Die Slowly and The Emerald Jungle.  While I was anxious to see such films I remember wishing that somehow one of those tapes contained Cannibal Holocaust, maybe through some labeling mishap.  Why was I so obsessed with this film?  To this day I really do not know, maybe it was in the name?  The reputation?  Likely a mix of both.  But one thing's for sure, watching Make Them Die Slowly only increased my appetite.  The idea that this film, which was full of grit, gore, and sleaze, was touted as being inferior to Holocaust floored me.  "You mean to tell me that Holocaust is more violent and brutal than that!?"

That notion forced me to do something I'd never done prior, download a movie.  It was certainly a daunting task. An idea that might be hard to grasp for those who've never had the luxury of dial up.  That random jingle of dials and beeps still haunts me.  Over the period of two weeks I set out to obtain the film...I was successful in the act and using a number of CDR's I was able to burn the film so I could experience it on my Grandmother's 32 inch television.  I still clearly remember every moment, every second of that first viewing.  The brutality...The music...The realism.  I've experienced the feeling of "watching something I shouldn't" before, but it was always in the form of late-night movies on HBO.  This feeling was something entirely different.  "Could I be arrested for this?"  "This seems too...Authentic."  The gore on it's own could make the average man weak at the knees, but seeing that huge turtle decimated.  That actually made me sick to my stomach.  Me, a glorified gorehound, someone generally unaffected by movie bloodshed is now feeling queasy?  That addition of animal cruelty took the film to a different level.  An uneasy level.  A director willing to slaughter hapless animals might have zero qualms when it came to offing a human, right?

When it was all said and done I felt disoriented.  But through that cloudy feeling there was a sense of fulfillment.  I'd finally seen this notorious film and it managed to do what a lot of similar films cannot.  It lived up to it's reputation and still managed to shock me.  For that, I feel this film should be revered.  Yes it is "the one that goes all the way," and while some of the senseless animal cruelty could have been left out, I still feel the film itself should not be lambasted for it.  While the killing of the animals adds a disturbingly realistic element to the rest of the violence, without it the film manages to be just as effective, just as frightening, just as real.

Nothing can really compare to my first experience with the film.  While I still find it just as shocking to this day, there's something about the first time you see a film like Cannibal Holocaust, it's an experience that cannot be recreated.  I'm sure some people will feel differently about the film as it's certainly one of those movies that really earns it's praise and it's criticisms.  One thing's for sure however, whether negative or positive the movie elicits a strong guttural reaction from all those who have seen it.  It's one you will not soon forget.