What could be more exploitative than exploiting the death of a human being or animal? Pretty much nothing -- which makes the shockumentary exploitation subgenre particularly attractive and repulsive at the same time.
The film is part of a legacy created by the sensational faked documentary of cannibalism and bestiality in Africa -- RKO's "Ingagi," released in 1931 -- and the film "Mondo Cane," an Italian documentary that explored cultural taboos throughout the world and created the mondo genre.
"Faces of Death" represented a peak of the shockumentary/mondo film when it was released in 1978. It was the first wide-released film to show footage of actual human deaths. The documentary cobbled together underground videos and films that circulated among exploitation enthusiasts for years and was filled out with staged scenes (faithful to the genre), as was the case with the famed scene where a group of tourists supposedly beat a monkey to death at a restaurant in Asia and eat its brains directly from its skull. Others, like the lengthy autopsy performed on a cadaver, are real.
The film's producers proudly boast that it was banned in 46 countries; authorities also blame it for numerous acts of violence.