March 1, 2015

Screening Report: Cannibal Holocaust with guest Robert Kerman (Alamo Drafthouse 2/28/15)

Last night I went to a screening of Cannibal Holocaust, one of the most infamous of notorious movies. It has previously been banned in a large number of countries, although I am unsure if any of those still actually stand. In any case, it is a movie I have had something of a contentious relationship with over the years (evidenced by this review I wrote upon my first viewing back in 2006). In the years since, my disgust has softened and I have become something of a fan of it, even if I have some issues with the animal violence. On a happier note, how could I pass up a screening with an audience?

The screening took place at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY, and if you have access to one of these theaters, you really need to pay it a visit. They have all manner of specialty screenings (digital and 35mm), have waitress service to your seat, and have a full menu (complete with beer!). It was a 35mm screening and was hosted by Mike Gingold from Fangoria magazine. If that wasn't enough, I got to hang out with a number of horror loving friends, including the writer/director team of Brian Weaver and Evan Makrogiannis (The Turnpike Killer, The Super). Wait, it gets better. One of the stars of Cannibal Holocaust (and Cannibal Ferox, and Debbie Does Dallas) Robert Kerman (aka R. Bolla) was in attendance! More on that in a bit.

Cannibal Holocaust is one hell of a movie. There is no getting around it, if you intend to be any sort of horror movie connoisseur, or whatever, this movie is going to stand in front of you, waiting. It must be surmounted if you want to climb to the top of the mountain, for better or worse. While I do think of myself as a fan now, this is not a fun movie. There is really no other way to describe it. This is not a piece of entertainment.

Seeing this movie in a theater on a big screen is a daunting task. This is an undeniable fact. I first experienced it theatrically in 2011 at Hudson Horror Show III. Watching the things people do, the violence, the brutality, the animal kills (very unsettling), there is no where to go. It is much easier to avoid it on the small screen, in a theater it is your field of view. This second time was no different. The sound, the music, it is such a downer of a movie.

The 35mm print was absolutely gorgeous. It was in amazing shape, with scarcely a mark or a nick anywhere. Combine that with a small but enthusiastic crowd and it was quite an experience. There were people there who had never seen it before, die hard fans, and those who have not seen it since a scratchy old VHS tape from decades ago. The crowd was fantastic.

Once the movie ended, Mike Gingold returned to the front of theater (where 90+ minutes earlier he gave us the trivia that the building where they are reviewing the footage in the movie is now home to Fox News, interesting). He introduced Robert Kerman to a round of applause and for the next half hour he answered questions and spoke openly and honestly on his Cannibal Holocaust experience.

This when I met Robert Kerman, October 2014

Among the things he spoke of:

-He signed on to the film with no knowledge of what it was, he based it on having worked with director Ruggero Deodato on The Concorde Affair.
-He described Deodato as a clinical sadist and if he knew of the content beforehand, he may not have signed on in the first place.
-After scene with the muskrat, he walked off the set into the jungle for an hour. He almost did not return, but they convinced him to return and finish the film.
-The voice you hear from his tape recordings and at the end of the film is his voice, most other times he was dubbed by another actor.
-The native tribesman were locals and were paid $10 a day, as well as lunch a booze.
-When he was offered the human meat (actually pig's liver) by the chief, a piece of beef was taped to it for him to bite into as he does not eat pork.
-The first time the man playing the chief arrived on set for the above scene, they could not shoot because he was so drunk.
-He is not a fan of the movie, and in reference to the director he says: F*ck Deodato.” Although, he does believe his a good director and this movie has a good story.
-He never got over the muskrat killing.
-He believes the story that Deodato had to bring cast members to court to prove he did not kill them is a myth. However, Deodato was charged with animal cruelty and faced up to four years in prison and the film negatives were almost destroyed. Clearly, that did not happen but he did not say what the outcome was.
-The budget was around $750,000.
-The woman impaled on the post was the makeup woman, they could not find anyone else to do it, she was paid an extra $1500 to do it.
-He told of how Deodato had a fight with a bull in the small village they were staying in while shooting.
-The documentary footage was all shot first and that cast was leaving as he arrived, the total of their interaction was a cup of coffee.
-The location was at the southern tip of Columbia, right near Peru and Brazil.
-The hotel he stayed at had a military guard with an Uzi and they were told not to go out at night.
-The town was only accessible by plane, there were no roads.

Robert Kerman was funny, friendly, down to earth and very happy to meet and talk with all of us fans. After the Q and A he moved out of the theater to a table in the hallway, where he stayed to sign autographs and chat further about the film. He was very generous with his time and wanted to make sure everyone was happy and that he did a good job answering all of the questions.

I have to say, while the movie is an incredible downer, it is a solid film that holds up and deserves its notoriety. The print was great, the crowd was great, and Robert Kerman was a great guest. It is not often I get to see a movie with one of the stars in attendance (I was just a few seats away in the same row of seats).

In closing, be sure to go out and support screenings such as this. Keep film and the love of cult cinema alive!

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Bunnybun Films said...

So glad it was a success and you got to chat with Kerman. I hope everyone else was as happy as you! He is a nice man.

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