According to this post over on Cult Labs forum, the BBFC have just rated the long version of Cannibal Holocaust with only 15 seconds of cuts. For anyone who has followed the film’s remarkable censorship history, this is an amazing situation.
Cannibal Holocaust is a brutal, unpleasant and difficult film to watch, and it crosses a line which many people (myself included) feel that films shouldn’t cross with regard to the depiction of the killing of animals. The BBFC have decided that only one of these numerous sequences (the killing of a muskrat with a knife) actually represents animal cruelty, which boggles my mind a bit. The part of me that hates censorship collides with the part of me that really doesn’t think that creatures should suffer or die in order to make a goddamn movie.
Regardless, I saw Cannibal Holocaust back in the early 90s, during a time when I was sharing a flat with a guy who was determined to watch every banned film that he could lay his hands on. I don’t feel particularly moved to watch it again, but understand the point of view of those who praise it as a landmark film, and the unpleasantness with animals is clearly a big part of what makes the film as a whole feel so horribly transgressive. It blurs the lines of what you’re watching, takes the viewer way out of their comfort zone and gives the faked violence against humans the uncomfortable air of something that might be real after all. The version I saw was a million-generation pirated VHS that had been Frankenstein-ed together from various prints, and whenever anything really unpleasant was about to happen, the screen tinted green (presumably these bits were spliced in from a fully uncut print with much worse picture quality).
Can’t quite believe that those ‘green bits’ (as I shall always think of them) will now be legally obtainable in HMV. Amazing how much the BBFC has changed since their days of butchering the knockabout gore comedy in The Evil Dead.
There’s a speech in the original script of The Devil’s Music, (which ended up being shot but not used, and can be found in the deleted scenes short called ‘The Last Tour’ on the US Special Edition DVD) in which Erika Spawn explains her attitude to horror. ‘Coincidentally’, it mirrors my own.. Horror is a form of escapism, and when you mix real life shit into it the whole thing stops being fun.
The BBFC passing of Cannibal Holocaust almost unscathed is culturally significant, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be rushing out to pick up a copy. Not when I could spend that 90 minutes watching The Haunting for the umpteenth time instead.