As if there isn't enough goodness already going on in the month of October, I'm excited to kick off a new series tonight that I'll be undertaking along with the stupendous Missy Yearian of Chickapin Parish. I've been invited by Missy to select, for each Tuesday of the month, a film that I've seen only once, and can't seem to bring myself to ever go near again (on Thursdays this month, we'll be selecting our "Guilty Pleasure" horror movies, so stay tuned for that, as well)...
Cannibal Holocaust (1985)
For me, the choice for the very first week was beyond easy. If you read the Vault regularly, you may be aware that a while back, I finally decided to check out Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust for the very first time. Not only did I see it for the first time, but I actually live-tweeted the hellacious experience, and then even posted the transcript of that live-tweet right here. Talk about being a trooper--the things I do for you people!
Watching CH was, for me, an intensely odious experience which I would have no desire to ever revisit, if I should live 100 years. I enjoy a good old-fashioned disturbing horror flick as much as the next maniac, but this thing was just a different breed altogether. I felt like I needed to take a shower after seeing it, and in a lot of ways, it really has never left my psyche since. There are times I wish I could "unwatch" it, to tell you the truth. It was that disturbing.
I don't mean disturbing in a "Wow, isn't this so cool! We're being so rebellious and subversive by watching this!" kind of way. This was disturbing in the true sense of the word. I was upset at the very fact that the movie had been made. Particularly this was due to the graphic and very real animal torture and murder that occurs in the film, which had me on the verge of becoming sick, as a result of both physical and moral revulsion. The rape and torture that peppers the film is gratuitous in the worst way, and makes the viewer feel like something has been taken from him for having watched it. And then there's the sad, cynical attempt to sell me on some kind of important message being conveyed here about man's inhumanity to man. Spare me.
As I watched, I took turns getting angry, disgusted and depressed. Not exactly what I'd call an ideal viewing experience. Hell, if I wanted to go through that emotional range, I'd jump on the subway. I suppose in a way, one could argue that this makes it an effective film, by virtue of the fact that it provoked such a strong reaction. Normally, I'd agree, but in this case I make an exception. Because it's not really all that well-made or constructed; it just deals in gravely upsetting subject matter, making it easy to conjure those reactions. I might get strong emotional reactions watching 1940s concentration camp footage; this does not make the documentary I'm watching an effective film per se--it simply means I'm being shown some pretty messed up stuff.
I'm honestly not sure if I'm glad I at least put myself through the experience of watching it once, or if I regret ever doing that to my brain. In any event, one thing I am totally sure of is that I will never be watching Cannibal Holocaust again.
And now, Ms. Yearian's pick for Week 1 of Tuesday Too Scared to Watch It Twice...
First a confession: I have not seen all of Irreversible. I will never see all of this film. It was—to be reductive—upsetting. I have never seen a film that had as visceral an effect on me as Irreversible. It’s a film I would never recommend, and in fact, I often actively discourage people from seeing it. What is it, you ask? Why it’s only a bunch of sensationalism wrapped in a pseudo-art package.
Irreversible is a rape revenge film played in reverse. The beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten in a Paris underpass, and her boyfriend and ex-lover enlist the help of criminals to help them find the perpetrator to exact revenge.
Yes, it seems rather par for the course for a rape revenge film, but what this film lacks in originality, it makes up for in brutality. Watching this film is like doing a tour of ‘Nam. From the fire extinguisher face-bashing to the anal rape scene, this film is the very definition of “too much.” While it pretends to be an art film with the content of a Grindhouse film, it’s really a series of visual assaults pretending to contain a message.
One walks away from Irreversible feeling… well, feeling traumatized. In fact, after walking out during a particularly awful scene, I got into my Chevy Corsica (her name was Ellie) and drove in the wrong direction on the interstate for a solid hour before realizing what I’d done and finally turning around and heading back from Boone’s Lick, Missouri.
While I think the film is an overrated mess, there’s at least one thing I can say for it. It had a stronger effect on me that any other film I’d seen. And yes, I know it supposedly got better as the film went on, but I’d seen enough. I don’t need to see the rest of the film to understand the horror of the film’s events. Hell, I didn’t need the first third of the movie either. But one thing’s for sure, the film managed to shake me, and I’ve never seen another like it.
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