The most famous of horror's Italian cannibal movie cycle, Cannibal Holocaust was fraught with controversy, from animal cruelty to murder charges.

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By Roland Stephen

In the 1980s, Italian horror had a much bigger presence on the world stage than it does today, with dozens of highly entertaining fright flicks emerging from the European nation. Cannibal Holocaust lived up to its billing in so many ways. The scenes of real violence against animals are juxtaposed with the fake scenes of cannibals killing and eating their victims. Some of these look nearly ridiculous in stills or on their own, but combined with the real footage, they feel real.

The scene of the impaled Indian girl in Cannibal Holocaust (1980) , the film that created the found-footage. This scene was used as one of the arguments against the director of being a snuff film, meaning that the killings in the film were real. During the film's initial theatrical run, a magazine article in France posited that several of the human deaths shown onscreen were real, making Cannibal Holocaust effectively a snuff film. This was of course false, but before that could be proven, director Deodato was actually charged with murder. The charges were only dropped after the director managed to contact the two actors to appear in court along with tapes of the girl alive after the infamous scene was taped, proving that no humans were killed during filming (only animals themselves).

The movie follows a team of American film-makers into the Amazon basin in search of a previous expedition, who disappeared investigating cannibal tribes. Cannibal Holocaust tells the story of a group of documentary filmmakers who go missing after they take a trek into the Amazon rainforest to make a movie about cannibal tribes. After their footage is uncovered, an American TV news station decides to air the tapes, and the rest of the movie follows the recovered footage. Not only did this film basically invent the idea of a found-footage horror movie, but it created a new kind of exploitation film that influenced several recent flicks such as Eli Roth's The Green Inferno.

In order to secure a certain sense of authenticity, Deodato ordered for any actor who died in the film to sign a contract saying that they would stay out of all media and not engage in any interviews for at least a year to convince the public that perhaps the deaths on screen were real. When the film was released, it seems this plan worked too well. Since all the actors who had brutal death scenes in the film were not seen in the public spotlight for at least a year, Deodato was also charged with murder in Italy. During the court proceedings, people seemed convinced that the movie was indeed a snuff film since there were no media appearances by any of the actors that Deodato claimed were alive.

The creepiest scene in Cannibal Holocaust

Deodato was able to break down to the court how he achieved the gruesome practical effect by fusing a bicycle seat with a pole made out of iron and had the actress sit on the seat. She also held a short piece of wood in her mouth, to create the illusion that she was impaled by a large spike. After the evidence proved that no one was murdered on the set of Cannibal Holocaust, Deodato was cleared of all charges; although, the film was still banned in various countries because of its depiction of real animal deaths and the overall disturbing nature of the movie.