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Cannibal Holocaust
Dir: Ruggero Deodato
Release: 1980

Long before pseudo-documentaries like "The Blair Witch Project" had even been heard of, Ruggero Deodato began filming what would become one of the world's most famous horror movies ever made. The story is about three young filmmakers who travel deep into the Amazon jungle to make a documentary about cannibal tribes and their natural habits. Two months later they vanish. A professor from New York begins his journey to search for the missing filmmakers.

The film takes us deep into the jungle where the law of nature still prevails and determines life and death. On his search, the professor becomes acquainted with different tribes of cannibals that live near riversides and beaches. He is first met with distrust and suspicion. Later on, he finds out that the cannibals have killed the filmmakers, something he cannot understand, but which surely must have something to do with the attitude of the tribes.

While home, he's asked to hold a series of documentaries about the filmmakers and air the films that they shot while in the jungle. When exploring these films, the professor realizes the brutal truth: the filmmakers have burned down villages, raped women and killed animals. They have therefore been slaughtered and eaten by the tribes, as an act of pure revenge.

"Cannibal Holocaust" is not your regular horror film. It's shot in the now-common "shockumentary" style, where the viewer is treated as beholder of a real documentary, giving the film an authentic feeling, as well as an uncertainty of what exactly is going on. This film often goes from theatrical to documentary type of shooting, where the latter serves as presentation of shocking material and is the main driving point behind the entire work. Many scenes are surprisingly brutal and rough, including actual killings of turtles, pigs and monkeys, as well as graphic depictions of rape, mutilation and slaughter.

While this film shocks, it also brings up a subject of relevance: today there is a collision between traditional culture and Americanized consumer culture. We in the West often like to believe that our culture is the dominating and "civilized" one, but who is the real savage? Ruggero Deodato asks us this question in his portrayal of ignorant white teenagers burning down villages and raping women. It's easy to condemn this film for provoking a feeling of cultural relativism, but this is not the case.

On the contrary, "Cannibal Holocaust" seems to suggest that evolution is dynamic: each tribe organizes itself after its unique habitats and surroundings. The cannibal tribes use ancient rituals and strict cultural sacrifices in order to maintain a form of eugenic standard. The peoples of the Amazon jungle live close to nature and see it as its God. When the filmmakers intrude on their natural environments, they see people living in "the stone age", without access to cars or computers. They therefore believe that they are "above" the primitive tribes, resulting in the total lack of respect for humans, culture and nature alike.

Ruggero Deodato is an excellent director and knows how to push the lines in order to provoke realism and cultural debate. By forcing us to behold the conflict between our Western view on ancient cultures and presenting a world of natural selection, murder and sacred marriage, we automatically re-value our respect and understanding for nature and the people who have chosen to live by its laws as well as our own culture and way of living. As such, "Cannibal Holocaust" is a truthful, although sometimes brutal, insight into the conflict of modernism and naturalism, and its impact on us living in the Western society today. -Alexis


Director: Zack Snyder,
Release: 2007 (117 minutes)

In short, this is a comic book turned into a movie with video game aesthetics, telling the tale of the 300 Spartans who died fighting back parts of the Persian army at Thermopylae in 480 BCE. The very fact that the introduction rather cheerfully depicts the eugenic conditions of Spartan adolescence, and that the almost two hours of film are filled to the brim with (some, historically accurate) lines mirroring Spartan warrior ethics, could make this movie into a nice slip road from a seemingly endless stream of movies focusing on the quite tiresome theme of modern individualism.

But that's only on the surface. In one scene, the Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) lectures on the importance of the army keeping together, using their shields to protect each other, and consequently creating a strong unity. In combat, this unity is initially kept, but then each Spartan runs along towards his own one-on-one battle, showing off a few hokum stunts. Interestingly, this is quite a precise parable for what makes this movie collapse: there is nothing keeping it together. This makes the movie, at its heart, into the very opposite of what it is set out to be. The exterior of an over-blown praise of an interpretation of Spartan life, accompanied by mediocre acting, blue screen animations, Hollywood sound effects, Nu Metal riffs, billions of slow-motions, and the constant use of the increasingly obscure concept of "freedom," will most probably entertain some people. But beneath all this, there is nothing. Those who seek art that beautifully portrays heroism, will not find it here.

Not even the debate on whether the movie draws its motivations from current politics or not is very interesting. Instead, what makes this work sort of fascinating as a phenomenon, and meaningful to review at all, is that it's an excellent example of the extreme contrast between modern and traditional thinking, and of surface versus content. These filmmakers take some ingredients from the past, but don't know how to deal with them other than by throwing them into a stew of modern decorations and purposes. While awful as a movie, and hardly worthy of ancient Sparta, at least "300" stands as an unintentionally comical monument of contemporary misunderstandings. - Ensittare

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