Ruggero Deodato, the infamous (and legendary) cult filmmaker behind some of the more notorious Italian horror films ever made, has reportedly passed away at the age of 83. He leaves behind a career full of grindhouse classics, though none with such lasting staying power as Cannibal Holocaust, which might very still be regarded as one of the most infamous movies ever made. The boundary-pushing boldness of Deodato, meanwhile, played a major role in influencing genre filmmakers to come, particularly the likes of Quentin Tarantino or Eli Roth. Deodato himself even went on to appear in Roth’s Hostel: Part II, fittingly playing a cannibal.
The director’s magnum opus, 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust, was not the first film in the “cannibals in the jungle” subgenre of Italian horror movies, but it certainly went on to become the most famous. Charting the disappearance of a group of American filmmakers in the Amazon rainforest, the film’s early use of “recovered” film made it one of the earliest progenitors of the subgenre we would come to describe as “found footage,” lending an extra air of verisimilitude to scenes of extreme violence and gore. The film’s sordid reputation was likewise amplified by the inclusion of real-life scenes of violence against animals, and the incredibly gory effects work when it came to displaying dead human characters. These effects were so well-rendered, in fact, that rumors persisted after the film’s release that Deodato had literally killed members of the cast on set, and the director was arrested on suspicion of murder, being forced to prove that his actors were still alive. In terms of horror bonafides, that story has always been hard to top.
The world responded by banning Cannibal Holocaust in numerous markets—it should come as no surprise that the film was on the U.K.’s famed list of “video nasties,” and might well have been considered public enemy #1. To this day, Cannibal Holocaust remains banned in some countries.
Deodato’s career, meanwhile, included other cannibal films such as Jungle Holocaust/Last Cannibal World< along with horror movies like The House on the Edge of the Park, Body Count and Phantom of Death. But he also directed in additional genres, such as the sword and sorcery of Hercules, Prisoner of Evil or The Barbarians, in addition to erotic thrillers (Waves of Lust) or Italian crime movies.
In honor of his career, Deodato was honored in 2019 with the documentary Deodato Holocaust, chronicling his more than 50 years in the Italian film industry. You can see the trailer for that film below.