CINEMA ATLRETRO MACABRE #1: Of Cannibals and Chocolate: A Short Chat with Ruggero Deodato

Posted on: Jan 19th, 2014 By:

Andrew Kemp and Ruggero Deodato at Twisted Fears.

Since Atlanta has become such a classic monster movie kind of city, ATLRetro presents the first in an ongoing new feature, CINEMA ATLRETRO MACABRE, featuring exclusive interviews with the masters and mistress of 20th century horror films. Our intrepid Retro Reviewer Andrew Kemp caught up with Ruggero Deodato, director of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980), last fall at the Twisted Fears convention. A special thanks also goes to Sandra Despirt, who translated the taped interview from Italian into English. Watch for our next interview with Barbara Steele soon.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

We’re done talking, but the elderly gentleman holds me up for a second. He smiles and palms me a tiny wrapped piece of candy. He has, I swear, an actual twinkle in his eye. The gesture reminds me of something a movie grandpa might do, and the man—warm sweater, round glasses and with one last tuft of unruly white hair atop his head—certainly fits the role. I half-expect to find a golden Werther’s Original in my hand, but it turns out to be a fun-sized Milky Way. It’s not what I expect, but I can’t stop smiling at the thought that Ruggero Deodato just handed me a little morsel of something to eat.

A scene from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.

Moments earlier that kindly old man, speaking to me in Italian with a translator, expressed bewilderment at his place in cinema infamy. “What I find incredible is that when I ask young people what they find more disturbing—my movie, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST or the film of the real beheading of an American in Iraq—and they reply CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST,” he says. “Incredible, very disturbing.” Over 30 years after Deodato’s cannibal opus, the director still appears surprised at the power of what he made, even though he remains to this day one of the few film directors forced to produce his actors in the flesh simply to prove to authorities that they were still alive. Clearly, there’s just something about his film that digs beneath the skin.

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980) is one of cinema’s great provocations. A late entry into the brief Italian subgenre of cannibal movies, the film is alternately credited with canonizing the genre or destroying it, or sometimes both in the same breath. The film concerns a documentary crew that traipses into the Amazon to acquire rare footage of a savage, stone-age tribe of locals who may or may not engage in cannibalism. The title, I guess, is a spoiler. Suffice to say that no good comes to the crew, or to pretty much anyone else, including some unfortunate animals butchered on camera. Unlike the crew “deaths” that fooled the Italian courts, the animal torture is regrettably unsimulated. In the past, Deodato has claimed he was only filming a fact of daily life  for the local tribes, that animals were routinely slaughtered in such a way for food and materials, not simply for his cameras. (A similar argument has always been made by Francis Ford Coppola about the bull death that closes APOCALYPSE NOW [1979]).  Still, if you plan to see the film, consider the state of your stomach.

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.

Central to the movie’s ability to unsettle is the way Deodato frames the movie as a documentary and shoots it accordingly. Today, we know what that should look like, but nothing else quite like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST existed at the time. Already established in cannibal cred after his 1977 LAST CANNIBAL WORLD [aka JUNGLE HOLOCAUST], Deodato found inspiration for his new technique much closer to home. “I had already made the film LAST CANNIBAL WORLD, which was a big success, especially in Japan. I ultimately decided to make CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST when terrorism [the Red Brigades] was almost a daily occurrence in Italy and my 7-year -old son asked me why there were so many horrific images on TV, casualties of these acts of terrorism. I thought to myself, hey, why is it that journalists can get away with it and I can’t? If I make a film, they cut it, so I decided to make this movie as a statement against the journalists and censorship.”

Although Italian media may have been the inspiration, Deodato’s film had a global impact because it tapped into the rise of media violence being beamed into televisions everywhere, including those seen in American living rooms every night during the Vietnam War, still a fresh wound in 1980. The brutality and realism of Deodato’s images rankled the public. It felt real, with none of those distancing effects that make movies so much fun to watch. A cult classic was born. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST became so notorious that other directors had difficulty launching their own cannibal productions, and the bubble quickly burst. Deodato’s was a tough act to follow.

In recent years, Deodato is seen less as a rebel and more as a horror pioneer. The journalistic style Deodato developed in 1980 is today called by another name: found footage. Both fans and critics of the now-ubiquitous genre usually point to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) as the movie that brought shaky cameras and screaming amateur actors into the mainstream, but it’s hard to watch those mapless teens die in the Massachusetts woods, or to remember the internet buzz the accompanied the film, without noting that Deodato got there almost 20 years earlier. Don’t expect Deodato to be proud of all of his misbegotten children. “Unfortunately my idea has ruined movie-making to some extent because there are those that think all they need to have is a small camera and [to] start shooting without consideration for technique or storyline development.”

Deodato's cameo in HOSTEL, PART II

“When I see films that have truly been inspired by my CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, I’m very happy, but not when they start putting in zombies, aliens and vampires,” he adds. “I hate that.”

Eli Roth is one Deodato admirer who not only shares the director’s taste for horror realism but also prefers to populate his pictures with sadistic human monsters rather than ghosts and ghoulies. After breaking out with the disease gorefest CABIN FEVER (2002), Roth became a spiritual successor to Deodato with his HOSTEL series, replacing clueless journalists with clueless American teens whose condescension to Europe and lust for booze and sex make them prey for sinister millionaires willing to pay big bucks to kill. Roth wears his influences on his sleeve, adding a wink to this in HOSTEL PART II (2007) by casting Deodato as a cultured cannibal in one of the film’s more memorable gross-outs. Roth’s latest effort, THE GREEN INFERNO (2013), takes another step in Deodato’s direction by reigniting the cannibal drama. In Roth’s film, again it’s the naïve outsiders who are torn apart by the natives they were hoping to protect. “Thirty-three years have passed and I’m still being imitated,” Deodato says. “Eli Roth is a friend of mine so at the end of his movie he did an homage to me by saying in the credits – To Ruggero.”

GREEN INFERNO.

The warmth that Deodato has for Roth doesn’t extend much further, it seems. I asked him about the current state of horror, how nobody seems to be terrorizing and disturbing audiences quite the way he did. “LAST CANNIBAL WORLD was filmed in the black jungle of Malaysia,” he notes. “For CANNIBAL HOLOCAUSTI was filming in the middle of the Amazon with indigenous tribes. Back in those days, people still didn’t know about a lot of things so when you came across a tribe in the middle of the jungle that was something. Now people travel everywhere. People were more easily shocked. It is much more difficult to do so now.”

Later, sitting on a panel with other Italian horror cinema legends Lamberto Bava and Barbara Steele, Deodato reminds me once more of a kindly old gentleman. When asked about horror cinema, he confesses that he doesn’t much like the genre anymore, noting his preference for dramas and romances. I think back on the story of the “murdered” actors he had to produce in court, and recall that even after the actors appeared, not all of the charges were dropped. Such was the impact of Deodato’s gore that to be fully cleared, the director first had to first demonstrate to court officials exactly how he had accomplished a signature, grotesque impalement with special effects. I think the prosecutor in question just wanted to get that particularly nasty bit out of his head.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else. 

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tis The Season to Be Spooky: A Torturous Journey into the Chambers of Horror, Atlanta’s Most Extreme Halloween Attraction with Mad Mastermind Luke Godfrey

Posted on: Oct 21st, 2011 By:

Atlanta’s only Halloween haunted attraction inside the Perimeter, Gorehound Productions‘ Chambers of Horror doesn’t settle for the usual scares. Definitely not for everyone, the adults-only haunt behind The Masquerade, open every night in October and the first weekend of November, aims to be the most extreme in ultra-violence, depravity and gore, and from our recent visit, we can testify they succeed and then some.

Grab a drink at the Splatter Bar, then head down the hill to see a short news clip by intrepid Atlanta reporter Monica Coffin, which reveals that a black van bearing the logo of Chambers of Horror has been spotted near the mysterious disappearances of several locals. All of which is meant to wander if you’ll be taking a one-way journey through the meat-locker-metal doors of Torture Co. And beyond, indeed, the emphasis is on realism of the sickest kind, nothing supernatural but torture of all kinds—fire, assorted blades, chainsaw, firearms and even a gynecological scene so sensationalistic that it makes Cronenberg’s DEAD RINGERS seem like a Disney movie. Inside it’s more vignettes of increasingly shocking and gory body mutilation than monsters jumping out of dark corners. The acting is unnervingly good from torturers to victims, but it’s no fun to reveal too much. Much of it draws from contemporary splatter—though that has its roots in the limits pushed by Fulci, Argento and Clive Barker. A nod to the dungeons of Hammer and AIP’s Poe pictures, though, can be found in the Torture Museum, exhibiting Medieval gadgetry that Vincent Price’s WITCHFINDER GENERAL might have employed with gruesome glee in a dank dungeon. And then there’s a certain minister of mayhem, but hush, we can’t tell you any more except everything is meant to make more than uncomfortable and maybe, like a certain movie also playing this week, scream DEAR GOD NO!

ATLRetro managed to chain up Luke Godfrey, one of the mad masterminds behind Chambers, to get a sneak peek inside. And while we had him talking, we got him to confess a little about some of his other creepy contributions to Atlanta’s thriving horror scene as one of the co-creators of the Zombie Walk Atlanta (Sun. Oct. 16); Splatter Cinema, which won the Creative Loafing readers’ award for Best Film Series again this year, and is presenting a Halloween bonus screening this month of Lucio Fulci’s 1979 cult classic ZOMBIE (Fri. Oct. 21) at the Plaza Theatre; and the Buried Alive Film Fest, which rises again at the Plaza, Nov. 10-12.

Photo Credit: Thomas Kerns.

ATLRetro: How and when did Chambers of Horror get started?

Luke: In 2009 After doing horror events like Zombie Walk, Atlanta Horrorfest, Splatter Cinema, and an adults-only haunted house in the basement of the Graveyard Tavern called Crypt of Terror, I received a phone call from a good friend, Rene Arriagada, a local artist and event producer, asking me if I would like to start up a haunted house with him. I brought in my partner in Gorehound Productions, Ian O’Brien, and we began the creation of the sickest thing this city has ever seen.

What separates Chambers from Atlanta’s other haunts? 

Chambers is about as sick and twisted as you can get. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen—pushing the limits and boundaries to an extent that really sets peoples nerves on edge. We are an adults-only attraction with a full bar and there are many reasons for that. We kicked all the monsters—ghouls, goblins and zombies—out the f—ing door to make room for real horror. It’s like being dropped right in the middle of a SAW or HOSTEL-type movie. All well-trained actors delivering skits that will have you on the floor screaming in fear or crying in laughter. We hold hard to the 18+ policy due to extreme situations, simulated nudity and vulgar language. It’s real. It’s just like what you would expect at an R-rated movie—no censoring here.

Photo Credit: Thomas Kerns.

Definitely more of the SAW/ HOSTEL/ torture porn genre. We want to keep with the times and do something none else is doing. I love the classics and zombies and the such, but there’s a place for that and we are not it. No rednecks in overalls here; we have people in suits and ties cutting titties off.

What’s new and different in this year?

Lots of new actors, some seriously amazing new additions to our cast that really bring our show together, as well as many new rooms and additions. We amped up the gore and skin throughout the entire place. I mention simulated nudity before, yeah…there’s a lot more of it this year.

Without giving too much away, do you have a favorite scene or one that you’d like to especially warn visitors about?

Three words….”I got peed on”

How long did it take to create the sets? Any behind-the-scenes trivia or secrets?

Myself and Rene have been at it since February of this year—building most of the props ourselves and coming up with some ridiculous ideas. Many people ask us “how the hell do you come up with this shit?” Our constant reply is “lots of drunken nights sitting in rooms and spurting off some of the most ridiculous ideas ever.” I really wish someone was around recording some of our impossible and bad ideas.

How many zombies participated in last Sunday’s walk and how did that go?

I would say we probably had around 750 zombies this year. We did over 1000 last year and it was way outta control. I warned everybody that I would punch them in the face if they stepped out of line and its seemed to work. Everybody was really cool and respectful to both Wonderroot where we started and Oakland Cemetery. I was very pleased with the walk this year. It was awesome.

Splatter Cinema is presenting a bonus show this month of Fulci’s ZOMBIE. What do you love about that movie and what else is coming up for Splatter?

Whats not to love. It’s gory as hell. I think my favorite scene is the eyeball splinter scene. I love Fulci’s eye torture gags. They are ridiculous. The one from THE BEYOND always gets me, too, with the spiders,

The Buried Alive Film Festival is also right around the corner. What can you share about this year’s line-up and is there anything Retro or Retro-inspired?

We do have an film called CHILLERAMA that has a bunch of grindhouse/retro shorts from different acclaimed directors. It’s a pretty awesome flick. Definitely the highlight of the fest this year. As CHILLERAMA’s Website states, “In the spirit of classic anthology films like CREEPSHOW and TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE and containing films that not only celebrate the golden age of drive-in B horror shlock but also span over four decades of cinema, CHILLERAMA offers something for every bad taste. With titles like Wadzilla, I Was a Teenage Werebear, The Diary of Anne Frankenstein and Zom-B-Movie and featuring appearances by Joel David Moore (AVATAR), Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS), Ray Wise (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS), Kane Hodder (FRIDAY THE 13TH), Eric Roberts (THE DARK KNIGHT) and more cameos than you can count, CHILLERAMA is sure to have you screaming for more. From the depraved minds of Adam Rifkin (DETROIT ROCK CITY), Tim Sullivan (2001 MANIACS), Adam Green (FROZEN), and Joe Lynch (WRONG TURN 2).

Finally gotta ask, you’ve built an entire career/lifestyle around horror. How did you get into horror and what’s the appeal to you?

I was exposed to horror at a pretty early age. NIGHTMARE (ON ELM STREET) and Freddy Krueger were a pretty regular occurrence. My mom is a huge horror fan, too, and was always letting me watch the stuff. Or I would sneak up after hours to catch some cheesy after hours horror flicks. I just love the rush I get from horror films. They don’t scare me anymore, but they still get me pumped when I find a good flick that somehow manages to surprise me with something new.

Chambers of Horror is open seven evenings a week for the entire month of October and the first weekend of November and offers many ticket options from $17 general admission to a limited $45 VIP Pass (which includes getting to skip the line and a free drink) to satisfy even the most discerning torture connoisseur at Ticketmaster.com. No one under 18 admitted.

 

Category: Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2019 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress