Before The Blair Witch Project, there was Cannibal Holocaust. Before Paranormal Activity, Quarantine, Chernobyl Diaries, and Grave Encounters, there was Cannibal Holocaust. Cannibal Holocaust predated the slew of ‘found footage’ films that permeate the horror/shock genre, and its innovate ‘firsthand’ approach laid the foundation for a style of film that has grown exponentially. The shaky camera, improvised dialogue, and the use of no name actors are all cinematic techniques pioneered by this film. The story involves a film crew sent to the Amazon to document local tribes; the crew disappears, and the movie is told through the missing team’s recovered video footage. The brutality and shock value depicted has become the stuff of legend. Italian director Ruggero Deodato’s film was met with awe, praise, and revulsion upon release, and his excessive use of graphic violence, gore, and sexual themes led to his arrest on murder and obscenity charges (many viewers and critics were convinced that the murders depicted were authentic), as well as the film being banned in over fifty countries at one point. Deodato was cleared, but the film remains a groundbreaking entry in the horror genre, and its controversial nature has earned it bona fide cult status.
I’d fallen asleep on the sofa in front the TV one Friday night (years ago) and awoke on Saturday morning to this mysteriously surreal little Russian gem, a dreamy, thought provoking tale guaranteed to drum up a few intelligent discussions about man’s quest for knowledge and his insatiable hunger for the unknown. Directed by legendary filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and adapted from the novel Roadside Picnic, it deftly explores the depth of human want and need and desire, and trails the journey of a Stalker (a hired guide) and the two men who call upon his expertise to lead them into the gritty bowels of “The Zone”. It is there that they intend to enter the fabled room within the ruins of The Zone that enables any wish to come true. The journey is not without its trials though. To gain entry into The Zone (a deserted city that fell victim to a mysterious incident), they must first bypass a thickly guarded military checkpoint; but the true challenge is navigating the desolation of The Zone itself, an entirely barren, ever changing landscape full of unseen and unbeknownst dangers that have tested the will, searched the souls, and claimed the lives of countless Stalkers and wish seekers.
A beautifully minimalist film, shot in unfortunately toxic, abandoned Russian industrial locations, is said to have contributed to the early cancerous deaths of several cast and crew, including the director Tarkovsky. But the often several minutes long takes, the haunting landscapes, the telling score, and the philosophically rich dialogue combine for a journey that will not soon be forgotten.
Director – John Boorman, 1981
Below is a clip depicting the knighting of Arthur; if you’re a fan of Richard Wagner (my favorite composer), note the very Wagner heavy score.
Below is a fan made trailer, which does quite an effective job evoking the power and mystique of the film: