There have been a few entries on the Nasty list, where i genuinely have no idea why they were included. Often it’s something that came along at the wrong time and pissed off the wrong stuffy Englishman, and thus found itself banned. Not the case with these two entries. They are the epitome of the word NASTY!
Cannibal Ferox (aka, Make Them Die Slowly), was released uncut on video in the UK via a group called Replay. Almost immediately the film came under fire for it’s scenes of extreme violence and sadism, as well as scenes of real animal torture and slaughter. It’s one thing to harshly depict rape and murder against humans, but don’t you DARE harm any of those cute lil fuzzy-wuzzies! Straight to the Nasties list with you!
Similarly, Cannibal Holocaust was released to instant infamy in 1981. With its reputation of Animal mutilation, rape, and torture coupled with a narrative style that has the audience almost believing the on screen carnage is real, it comes as no surprise that CA was successfully banned and prosecuted. In addition to obscenity charges, Director Ruggero Deodato was charged with Murder due to audiences being so convinced the on-screen deaths were real. After calling the supposedly dead actors as witnesses, the charges were understandably dropped, yet Deodato was still prosecuted for Animal Cruelty.
After watching both of these films back to back, (BTW, don’t fucking do that. For serious.) it becomes pretty obvious that the two films are nearly identical in many respects. The plot of both films is virtually the same, that being a small group of Americans travel deep into the Amazon to study/document the supposed savages that reside there. The Americans torture/rape/push the Natives too far, prompting an intensely violent response, revealing that The Americans were in fact the true savages. Yet despite these nearly identical themes, both films take vastly different approaches to getting there. With it’s proto-found-footage format, and hyper-realism, CA also juggles a narrative dealing with the Medias obsession with violence and sensationalism, and the moral debate of just how far to go. All of the “recovered footage” in the film is filmed in a shaky style that really gives the impression of a handheld camera balanced on a shoulder, and really does look like unedited documentary style footage. Taking it’s cues from the popular Mondo films of the era(Look up what Mondo films are…I may end up doing a feature on them someday), CA paints a grim picture for the audience, that of a culture so motivated by their own entertainment…their own pursuit of thrills that it has left behind all of it’s civility. More than that, it holds up a mirror and lets us see a reflection of the damage that we, in our arrogance, visit upon those “less civilized than ourselves”. Social Commentary masquerading as an Exploitation film.
Cannibal Ferox, on the other hand is an unabashed Exploitation Film hiding behind the shadow of Cannibal Holocaust. Gone is the Social Commentary, save for the general notion that “Civilized Man” is really just a giant asshole. In it’s place is a film that strives to hit all the same marks as Cannibal Holocaust, and up the sleaze while doing it. What i noticed right away is an incredibly Misogynistic streak through the film. Every female character in the film finds herself the victim of violence, is frequently called a Twat, or suffers some for of sexual exploitation or torture. Hell, in the opening credit scene, there is even a clear shot of a man on the streets of New York holding up a sign that reads : “Husbands of the world UNITE”, a clear reference to the backlash against the rise of feminism. With all the controversy stirred up by Cannibal Holocaust, Ferox seemed content with merely existing alongside it and being just as disturbing. The biggest difference is that while both films will likely upset you, the experience of watching Ferox will be over once the credits roll. Cannibal Holocaust will find a deep dark place within you to make a home.
A lot of Exploitation films dont hold up well with the passage of time. Away from the grimy lights of the grindhouse cinemas, its pretty common for the once celebrated gems to be revealed as hokey, cheap, shallow and just plain shitty. These are two films that prove sometimes the filth of those fabled 42nd street cinemas will never be wiped clean. They remain today, just as troubling, shoking, unsettling…and yet entertaining, as they did yesterday. The next few installments of this series will see several other films from the Cannibal movie Boom, and when it is released, I’ll be doing a special Nasty report on the spiritual sequel to Cannibal Holocaust, Eli Roth’s Green Inferno.