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Script to Pieces: Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibals

Cannibal Holocaust directed by Ruggero Deodato.

Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.

In the mid-2000s it was announced that audiences would soon be treated—well, we’re not sure “treated” is the word, necessarily—to a remake of Cannibal Holocaust. On one level, the announcement made a lot of sense. The decade had already seen remakes of several controversial ‘70s horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, with remakes like The Last House on the Left already in production.

But Cannibal Holocaust also has the distinction of being one of the most controversial movies ever made. It was taken to court where director Ruggero Deodato was accused of actual murder because the violence in the film looked so life-like. People love to say that there’s nothing left to be shown on screen and many accused the remakes of the 2000s of being as gory as they could possibly be, but the simple truth is that they were not on the level of Cannibal Holocaust.

The cannibal Holocaust directed by Ruggero Deodato.

Anything that attempted to remake that in the 2000s would have to tone it down significantly, as there are some things in that movie that truly cannot be done today thanks to more staunch laws regarding animal cruelty. A remake, in this case, seemed impossible.

But something along the tone of Cannibal Holocaust, an expansion of the idea, especially in an age rediscovering its love of found footage—that made a kind of sense. Things began to click into place when original director Ruggero Deodato said that he himself would be helming the project and that it would not be a remake, but rather a sequel called Cannibals.

It was also later said that the movie would be less of a direct sequel and more of a spiritual sequel or vague sequel. Whatever the case, it was looking like the feature was set to become a reality.

Deodato also dropped the surprising news that Cannibals would not adopt the original’s proto-found footage style, which in the late 2000s one would almost assume would be the only reason it was even green lit in the first place.

Filming was set to take place in Canada and it even sounded like the director had begun scouting locations. Christine Condradt, a true crime expert and writer of dozens of TV movies for Lifetime such as Accused at 17, Betrayed at 17 and Missing at 17, penned the script.

While the specific details were never announced, there was one bit of tension between the director and producers that appeared to be big enough to wind up cancelling the entire project. In August of 2008, Deodato mentioned that he and the producers were not seeing eye-to-eye on a single key element of the script.

cannibal holocaustWhile the project was still promoted in 2008 for a 2009 release, whatever it was in the script must have proven to be serious, because there’s been absolutely no movement on the project in the past ten years.

Almost nothing is known about exactly what Cannibals would have looked like. That’s part of what makes it so endearing. We don’t really know what direction it would have gone in. It’s almost impossible in 2008 to try and recapture the idea of documenting the extreme rituals of small jungle tribes—there’s no way that would fly even ten years ago. Green Inferno has pretty much proven that remaking Cannibal Holocaust doesn’t work.

But even the vague synopsis of Cannibals promised new territory, explaining that in the modern world, these extreme acts aren’t in the jungle committed by any outsider, they’re committed all around us. It sounds like, somehow, the unforgettable violence of the original would be reinterpreted for middle or upper class America. It would make its way into the neighborhood and that, at the very least, is an interesting prospect.

It could have been terrible, of course, but there’s something about this movie that will forever remain in limbo that I can’t help but find fascinating. A sequel to Cannibal Holocaust seems like such an impossibility and, just from the sound of this, it sounds like we probably got the best version of what this could have been with Lucky McKee’s The Woman.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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