Masterpiece or Menace: Is Cannibal Holocaust a Snuff Film?

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There is no film more controversial, more polarizing in horror history than Cannibal holocaust. When it came out, it was protested by Women’s Rights groups and subsequently banned from theaters that caved to the rabid femi-Nazi’s demands. They claimed that the film showed real rape, violence against women and consumption of people on-screen, that Cannibal holocaust was nothing more than a snuff film, and that death for the sake of entertainment was disgusting and wrong. And they were right. But, not in the way that you might think.

At the risk of sounding like a foaming at the mouth madwoman from PETA, there was actual murder filmed in “Cannibal Holocaust,” but it wasn’t people who were killed. It was animals. Live animal dismemberment, mutilation, torture and death. Think about that for a second. How many movies have you watched that had genuine living animals killed on camera?

Unless you’re a real sicko, or someone interested in how livestock is slaughtered, I’m going to say that most of you haven’t seen any, and if you have, you can count the number of films you’ve watched with actual animal death in it on one hand. (If not… shame you! I’m going to go tell Mom!)

So, how bad does the animal cruelty get in “Cannibal Holocaust?”

A poor turtle is literally dragged, struggling, out of a river in the Amazon and then has its shell hacked off brutally with a machete. You can still see the internal organs quivering and pulsing as they rip them out with their bare hands and gleefully show them to the camera.



I will never, ever be able to remove from my memory the sight of the turtle’s guts still quivering after they mercilessly hack off its shell.


Cute little baby monkeys have their skulls whacked off with swift firm cuts of a machete. They LOVED their machetes in this movie!


Cannibal Holocaust (11)

A muskrat is killed off camera, and its SCREAMS echo through the river basin as it is cut open and its guts are removed before they (supposedly) eat its still warm flesh.


It is the most appalling, horrific thing I have ever seen in a movie. How could they? How DARE they do such a horrible thing to a poor animal?


Some have argued that they ate the animals that they killed on camera. But they didn’t. The way that the turtle was massacred, you can’t eat that meat. It is contaminated with digestive juices, bile and bacteria.

The same thing goes for the monkeys.

The monkey brains are the best part of the monkey to eat, according to those filthy monkey eaters. But they ruined their delicious(?) little baby monkey brains when they cut half of their heads clean off. Those monkeys were so tiny, there was barely any meat on them, there was no way that they were killed for human consumption.



Wait. What? You want me to EAT that?

Guess what? None of that animal cruelty was crucial or important to the story. All of that was done for pure shock value. And all of it was REAL.


The director’s excuse was that it showed just how vile, evil and sadistic the main characters were. I mean, come on, they killed real animals on camera! That’s EVIL! Right?


The director, Ruggero Deodato,  has since gone to say that he regrets killing the animals in his film, and that they never should have done that. Too little, too late I say. Why even freaking do that in the first place? Have you no empathy for our fellow creatures? What is WRONG with you people?


Like all cannibal movies, everything in “Cannibal Holocaust” was done to shock the audience. To outrage them, to make them hate humanity as a species. And, in that aspect, it worked. It is very successful at what it attempted to do. I can honestly say that it did because I hate this movie.


Yep. That’s right. I went there. I hate this movie.


It is the most vile, disgusting, horrid thing I have ever sat down and watched. (Can’t thank my friend Dead Derrick enough for watching it with me, I wouldn’t have gotten through it without him.)

But it’s not so much how the women are brutalized and savaged and eaten as it is for the awful, nasty, horrible things they did to the poor animals on camera that really set off my Outrage-O-Meter © (Patent Pending).


FYI: “Cannibal Holocaust” was filmed before there were laws in place that prevented animal cruelty from happening on film sets. It is one of the more important films that lead to the movie industry adopting cruelty free guidelines for animals in filmed media.

The American Humane Association gave this movie an “Unacceptable” rating.

AHA Unacceptable Guidelines


As much as I am loath to admit, “Cannibal Holocaust” is important to movie history, as the last quarter of the film is a fake documentary, or mockumentary of found footage the film crew recorded. This was 19 years before the term “found footage” was coined by “The Blair Witch Project.”

In fact, the special effects in the mockumentary part of the film were so well done that the director and some of the crew were taken to court and accused of murdering people and using their corpses for film props. However, that was simply not true. The supposed dead actress who is seen impaled in one scene actually showed up in court and showed the judge how they did the practical special effect to make it look like she was dead and skewered by a sharp pole.



Yeah, this is NOT real. That’s a woman sitting on a bike seat on the top of the bottom half of the pole and holding the other end of it in her mouth while slumped back.


Aside from the animal murder, it also contains extreme racism, portraying the indigenous Yacumo tribe as a bunch of grunting, monosyllabic, gesturing, cannibal brown-skinned natives living in the middle of a jungle. And then there’s the infamous “Mud Baby” sequence where a beautiful white woman (Seriously? A native in the middle of a South American jungle nabs a white wife? Come on now!) is tortured and killed for her adultery in the most horrifying way;  the native makes as ball of mud with sharp sticks protruding out of it and shoves it up her hoo-haw.


Yes, I am using that juvenile term. I have to, otherwise it’s just too upsetting to write about.


Mud Baby

Please Lord, send me more white women! Don’t punish me for sacrificing this one for being an adulteress!


So, is Cannibal Holocaust a Masterpiece or a Menace?

Honestly? It set out what it attempted to do, and if it weren’t for the real animal killings done strictly for entertainment, I might be inclined to say that it is a masterpiece. But, because they murdered live animals for the sake of shocking the audience, I have to say that “Cannibal Holocaust” is a menace.

I’m not going to lie, this movie was extremely hard to sit through. After watching it, I felt… dirty. Like a small piece of my soul died and I would never, ever get it back. It’s that bad. And because of that, I don’t recommend it to anyone. At all. Don’t watch “Cannibal Holocaust.” Just, don’t. It has earned its bad reputation as a video nasty for a very specific reason. The characters are horrible, there is nothing redeeming about them, and while the way they are mutilated and killed by the tribesmen is satisfying (because they really had it coming), it is not enough pay off to make up for the disgusting, nasty things that happened prior to the climax of the movie.

This movie is so bad, I would’ve turn it off if I had been watching it myself the minute the “Mud Baby” scene ended. Because, holy freaking shit, that is gruesome torture! But, I made myself watch it. I sacrificed a bit of memory and sanity to endure it so that I could write about it here. But, I don’t think that it was worth it. I definitely loss 1d4 SAN points on this one.

So yeah. “Cannibal Holocaust” is a menace and a snuff film. They murdered poor innocent animals on camera, and killed countless people’s sanity and parts of their souls in the process. It’s EVIL I say! EVIL!

I’m going to need a palate cleanser after this one. Excuse me while I go and binge watch some cute (aka Moe) Anime Comedies for 8 hours straight.



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About Cassie Carnage

Horror connoisseur. She who types too fast. Lover of cats and monsters. You can find her debut horror novel, WE ARE ALL MONSTERS here: Her upcoming vampire novel series, Addicted to the Abyss Volumes 1 and 2 will be out late 2017.
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  1. Hate when I get a Mudball in me.

  2. I am glad that I stumbled upon this article. I’ve been wanting to see this movie for ages and now I’m a little scared to! Ha! Thanks for the great read.

    • You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m told that there is a censored version with the animal death scenes removed from it, but I didn’t get the chance to watch that one. Probably would’ve been better for me if I had. Yikes.

  3. If you liked this one, you’ll love “Salo”.

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