Italian director Ruggero Deodato, known for his notorious 1980 horror film Cannibal Holocaust, has died aged 83 according to reports from Italian media. The director was not only an influence for Hollywood directors Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone, but also was one of the pioneers of the now oft-repeated found footage filming technique.
Deodato is a name horror movie historians are well aware of; starting his career with a number of grindhouse films in his native Italy, but it was the release of Cannibal Holocaust that led to Deodato being thrust into both the limelight and movie censorship history. His gruelling, visceral film that used footage “filmed” by documentary makers before their untimely, grisly demise became one of the first films in history to harness the suspense of a found footage film, years earlier than The Blair Witch Project’s subsequent popularisation of the genre.
But it was the content within that film which led to numerous legal battles between Deodato and courts over the world. With its depictions of deaths of the documentary team shown on film in a way that had never been seen before (except in documentary or mondo films), coupled with asking the cast playing the documentary team to sign an agreement they wouldn’t appear in films for a number of months afterwards, many believed Cannibal Holocaust to be a snuff film.
Though the actors attended court to demonstrate they were alive and well, and one of the more gruesome scenes was demonstrated to simply be a camera trick involving a bike seat and a piece of wood held in the mouth, it was the subsequent real life animal killings that ended up being the cause celebre of his works. Deodato later in his life admitted that he regretted the decision to use the real life killings, saying in an interview with Fangoria that he was “stupid to introduce animals".
Despite it’s infamy and widespread censorship, including bans in countries still in place to this day, Cannibal Holocaust became a quintessential piece of horror movie history not only for its inclusion as a video nasty during the morality crusades of the 80s home video market, but for it’s techniques that are still widely used to this day.