The gore certainly gets extreme legs severed with a machete, a woman tied up by native women and her child forcibly aborted, multiple rapes including one where a native woman is held down and raped and then her head bashed in with a stone dildo, a guys dick being cut off and so on. What is more alarming is the unnerving realism of the film. It gives the appearance of actually having gone out and shot on real locations in the Amazon (in actuality the wilds of Colombia). There is remarkably detailed and realistic observation of native rituals. Indeed, Cannibal Holocaust was doing the faux documentary thing way before The Blair Witch Project (1999) was even an idea in someones video lens. The documentary realism is such that after the screening someone asked me if the incident really did happen. When Cannibal Holocaust was first screened in Italy, director Ruggero Deodato was placed on trial and had to go to court to prove that what is seen on screen was faked.
Perhaps what is most alarming about the film and something that is most definitely not faked is the violence enacted against animals. We see a musk rat being gutted with a knife while still alive, a snake hacked up with a hatchet, a scene where one of the filmmakers casually shoots a small pig that is tied up in the head and most nauseatingly a scene where a giant turtle is killed and then its organs eviscerated in sickening detail, solely for the cameras edification. What is disturbing about these scenes are the expressions of glee on the faces of the actors who are clearly getting off on what they are doing.
What is a little hard to swallow up against this is the message that Cannibal Holocaust tries to make wherein the documentary filmmakers trekking into the jungle are seen as so sadistically exploitative in their treatment of the natives that what they do becomes more sickening and repulsive than the cannibals themselves. The film wants us to be shocked and outraged at the things the fictional filmmakers are prepared to do in the name of sensationalism. The question then becomes: when the film starts conducting shocking and alarmingly unfaked scenes of sadism against animals to make its point that filmmakers are exploitative, at what point does the outrage against the sleazy documentarians portrayed in the film end and the outrage against the filmmakers staging such an outrage begin? There is a line here that seems not only to have been morally blurred as stepped way, way over. You are never sure whether the filmmakers either have a blind spot about the size of the Amazonian jungle itself in that they seem unaware that the very outrage they are trying to get us worked up about is one that can equally be levelled against them, or the film is being ultra-clever and inviting an audience to ponder the relationship between the faked and the real in film and documentary and question the grander conception of the moral point a film usually guides us to. Cannibal Holocaust is a film that it is impossible to either praise or ignore without taking a moral point-of-view on it. Whether it was intended that way or not is exactly the whole of the moral dilemma.
There have been several films purporting to be sequels, including Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Catherine Miles Story (1985) and Cannibal Holocaust II (1988).
Ruggero Deodatos other films of genre interest are:- the masked superhero film Phenomenal and the Treasure of Tutankhamen (1968); a previous cannibal film Last Cannibal World/Jungle Holocaust (1977); the sadism and torture film House on the Edge of the Park (1980); the sf adventure Atlantis Interceptors (1983); another savage jungle adventure Cut and Run (1985); the slasher film Body Count (1986); the sword-and-sorcery film The Barbarians (1987); Dial Help (1988) about ghostly phone calls; Phantom of Death (1988) about a man who needs to kill to rejuvenate; and an episode of the anthology The Profane Exhibit (2013).