'Cannibal Holocaust'

I was in fourth grade when I found out just how awful people can be.

My school had gone on a field trip to the zoo. I saw some older kids sneaking off. Wanting to be cool, I followed them. They stopped at the alligator pit and started yelling at the alligators, annoyed because they were just lying there, being boring. So they started throwing stuff at the animals. When that didn’t work, they grabbed a bench and tossed it in the water.

Spooked – or simply smart – the gator slid into the water and got as far away as it could get. I wished I could’ve done the same. Having realized what they’d done, the older kids looked around and saw me watching. They surrounded me and threatened to beat me up if I told anyone. I was really scared and started to cry before they chased me off with a few punches for good measure.

What really upset me was that I felt bad for the gator … and there’s no critter in the animal kingdom that needs less pity than an alligator.

Those jerks could just as easily have been the filmmakers sacrificed at the hands of Amazonian headhunters in “Cannibal Holocaust,” a movie largely reviled and banned in upwards of 50 countries because of its cruelty to animals.

Actual animals – including a giant turtle and a monkey – were killed in the filming of this movie. That’s what makes it hard to watch. It’s not the only reason, but it ranks right up there.

Made back in the 1980s well before PETA started doing really silly things, “Cannibal Holocaust” was the original found-footage horror movie about a group of supposedly humanitarian documentary filmmakers who travel into the Amazon jungle in search of a lost tribe that has never been seen by “white men.”

As noble as the pursuit sounds, it’s a lie. Granted, the tribe, which practices shocking sexual rites and are actual cannibals, aren’t exactly suited to set up residence in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. But it’s the filmmakers who are the actual savages.

That’s putting it kindly. The three men and one woman rape, burn and pillage their way across the jungle, terrorizing the so-called lost tribe before they’re captured and learn the hard way that some things that are lost should never be found.

There’s one scene in which the filmmakers come across a woman who’s been impaled on a tall stake. The cameraman catches one of the filmmakers looking up at the dead woman with nothing short of glee and excitement.

“Hey man, I’m filming,” warns the cameraman, at which point the filmmaker, realizing how it must look, becomes somber before ranting about the “savage behavior” of the tribe they’re seeking to exploit.

It’s vile and violent, extremely gory and at times disturbing, but it’s not a film without certain redeeming qualities – mainly showing what damage can be done when the Western world forces its ideals onto a country and a people that doesn’t want or need it.  

Plus sometimes, it’s nice to see awful people get their due.

Brett Buckner is watching a horror movie every night in October for #StarHorrorfest. Follow along on Twitter @bbuckner32 or AnnistonStar.com/Horrorfest.