A month or two ago we ran a story about Jonathan Hensleigh’s Welcome to the Jungle, a down and dirty cannibal movie that was characterized by Fangoria as all but a remake of Cannibal Holocaust. Hensleigh and I actually traded some emails about the whole thing, and in the end I was happy when he said that Ruggero Deodato’s gore classic was a touchstone for his film, but not the template.
That left the field wide open for Relevant Entertainment to step in and get the actual remake rights – their version of Cannibal Holocaust starts filming this summer. The truth is that the actual remake rights are useless here – so many films have been made that follow the same basic storyline of people go to the jungle, get et up, that you don’t have to worry about being too close to the 1980 film. But it isn’t the story that Relevant cares about; rather it’s the iconic title that makes the purchase worthwhile for them.
But will the movie be worthwhile for anyone else? There’s no point in getting worked up about a remake of Cannibal Holocaust, especially if titles like Eaten Alive! or Cannibal Ferox (more wonderfully known in the US as Make Them Die Slowly) are on your shelf – these films of the Italian cannibal boom, which lasted approximately from 1977 to 1981, are often so identical that it can be tough to tell them apart, except when they’re porno-cannibal films, like Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals. They’re all complete exploitation movies, making a quick buck on our most depraved urges.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But people don’t make movies like that anymore – Deodato was arrested on suspicion of making a snuff movie when Cannibal Holocaust came out. Both Holocaust and Ferox feature real animal killings, which would never happen on a movie set today. The sad truth is that exploitation today is much slicker and much more cleaned up, like the difference between the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! museum in Hollywood and a genuine, sawdust on the floor, carnival sideshow in a tent at a grubby county fair. In much the same way that you can’t find sideshows that exploit retards and cripples like your grandfather could, you can’t find movies like the ones that your father saw playing in grindhouses. Part of the problem is that nobody makes their small, shitty DTV films on film anymore – it’s all video or digital, which just doesn’t pack the same punch as 16mm. And most of the nasty DTV fare has come to realize that it is inherently laughable and often goes for the joke.
I feel like an old man bemoaning the changing times, but the truth is that nobody makes em like they used to, and that will go for a Cannibal Holocaust remake. I heartily endorse anyone who uses these movies as ways to make money – that was their whole purpose in the first place, so it’s fitting. But the new version just cannot have the same impact as the original. Now we have to go to rotten.com for that.