“Cannibal Holocaust” was inspired by the horrors that Deodato witnessed on the nightly news in Italy in the 1970s. There were brutal, bloody images on the television that were far worse than anything he had seen in any horror film, and he decided to create a commentary on that double standard. The violence, both real and fictionalized, served a purpose beyond simple shock value, though many audiences would only ever appreciate “Cannibal Holocaust” for being gory and gruesome. Few would look past the pure shock of it all to discover that the animals killed were all used to feed the cast and crew, and fewer still would try to see any sociopolitical themes or motivations.
Deodato got his start as an assistant director, working on Sergio Corbucci’s “Django” and “Ringo and His Golden Pistol” before going on to direct his own films. He directed a bit of everything, like cop thriller “Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man,” slasher “Body Count,” and sword-and-sorcery epic “The Barbarians.” He also occasionally popped up in documentaries, like “Django & Django,” and he had a brief cameo in Eli Roth’s “Hostel: Part II.”
The horror genre owes a debt to Deodato, who helped create the found footage subgenre and inspired horror filmmakers to get as gross and gory as they wanted. While some of the nuances of his legacy may be forgotten, no one will ever forget the guts and brains it took to pull off one of the greatest movie tricks of all time. “Cannibal Holocaust” is infamous for many reasons, but Deodato’s audacity should forever be celebrated.