WARNING: I will be describing certain certain scenes in detail, so reader discretion is advised.
Released: September 25, 2015
Director/Writer: Eli Roth
Distributor: Open Road Films
Run Time: 100 Minutes
Lorenza Izzo: Justine
Ariel Levy: Alejandro
Aaron Burns: Jonah
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Amy
Magda Apanowicz: Samantha
Daryl Sabara: Lars
Nicolas Martinez: Daniel
A little over a year ago, I watched this little Italian horror film from the early 80s called Cannibal Holocaust. It was directed by Ruggero Deodato. Initially released back in 1980, Cannibal Holocaust quickly became one of the most notorious horror films in the genre. If you had never heard of the film, you might ask why it was so notorious and controversial. Short answer: It was one of the most brutal, graphic and unpleasant movies ever released. There were graphic depictions of rape, cannibalism and other forms of extreme violence. It was particularly controversial once it was discovered that real animals were butchered on screen. This angered a lot of people. The other thing is, is that a lot of people thought that Holocaust was a snuff film. As a result, the director was arrested on obscenity charges. He also had to prove that the actors were not actually killed during filming. Cannibal Holocaust, along with its many imitators, were subsequently banned and put on the U.K’s infamous “Video Nasties” list. A few years back, filmmaker Eli Roth completes filming and production on a film that is inspired by Cannibal Holocaust, called The Green Inferno.
The film begins as young college freshmen Justine wakes up to activists that are protesting outside her dorm room. Shortly afterwards, Justine attends a class that describes female circumcision as a global catastrophe. Clearly distraught over the idea of something like this happening, Justine is introduced to activist Alejandro who plans on taking a group of people to Peru to protest the destruction of the country’s jungles, which would endanger the primitive tribes residing within. After convincing Alejandro to let her join him, Justine travels with the group and ends up tying themselves to the trees and bulldozers that are destroying the forest, as the activists claim. After a successful mission, the group’s plane crashes somewhere in the forest, where they are promptly captured by a local indian tribe. Right from the outset, it is very clear that Eli Roth is skewering what is called college “slacktivism,” or the act of protesting something without putting any real effort towards it. It’s a simple story that’s been done before. It’s been done better, namely by Deodato. There’s actually a great deal of stuff to like here. I definitely like the fact that Roth is skewering political and social issues, namely the whole Social Justice Warrior movement that’s been irritating everybody over the past few years.
The setting of the film is absolutely stunning. It was filmed on location in Peru, and Eli Roth actually managed to use a local tribe to play the cannibals in the film. That is absolutely fantastic, and it lends a certain authenticity to the film, which it would have never had otherwise. It’s very well-filmed, and while the film starts off a little slow, it picks up and it doesn’t stop. Once the group is captured, the film’s pace skyrockets. It gets really intense. The visual effects are absolutely impressive, being done by the legendary KNG Effects group. They are masters of their craft, so when you see the village’s elder cut out somebody’s eye and then eats it, it looks pretty real. The Green Inferno, being an homage to the old Italian cannibal flicks, is naturally a very violent movie. I’m amazed that Eli Roth managed to get away with just an R rating, considering the crap that’s happening on screen. It’s brutal stuff, and it’s definitely rubbing some people the wrong way. Those people probably didn’t see Cannibal Holocaust.
There are a lot of comparisons to Deodato’s film, which isn’t surprising, considering the film’s name. The title itself is referencing the documentary being filmed by a group of people in Holocaust. It was a kind of a film-within-a-film deal, which was surprisingly brilliant. Eli Roth himself has said he’s a huge fan of Deodato’s films and the horror films of that era, so it’s no real surprise that he decided to tackle a cannibal movie. Roth actually managed to get Ruggero Deodato a cameo appearance in Hostel II. Roth clearly wears his influences on his sleeves. While the comparisons to Deodato’s film are obvious, The Green Inferno doesn’t quite live up to Cannibal Holocaust. Depending on your perspective, that can be a good or bad thing. On the plus side, it’s not Cannibal Holocaust. On the downside, it’s not Cannibal Holocaust. I’ll explain why. One the one hand, The Green Inferno really doesn’t have the extreme brutality that Holocaust did. While it does feature some pretty graphic nudity, there are no rapes to speak of, but I would imagine that an unrated version of the film would feature some of that. The film also has the fortune of not butchering live animals on screen. On the other hand, The Green Inferno doesn’t actually push the envelope enough to shock people who have already seen Deodato’s opus. It’s a bit of a mixed bag in that regard.
One of the other things that works against the film, is the fact that none of the characters are likable. They’re all a bunch of pretentious and naive little twerps that end up in a very bad situation. That’s also a throwback to Deodato. The characters are scumbags, so when they get butchered and eaten, you feel nothing for them. The film would have been better served if Roth had written more sympathetic characters. The effectiveness of a horror film lies in its ability to make its characters sympathetic, not apathetic. The acting is also….questionable. One of the running themes that I’ve noticed in Roth’s movies is the fact that he’s got attractive young Americans in very dangerous places around the world. There’s an element of xenophobia that really comes across as being pretentious. Some of the humor in the film feels really out of place. The masturbation and fart jokes are really inappropriate for a film like this, and I was rolling my eyes when this stuff was happening.
The Green Inferno isn’t a bad horror movie. Not at all. There’s a lot I love about it. But it’s really offset by some of the more questionable decisions and writing that Roth had made throughout the movie. Considering some of the horror movies I’ve seen recently, The Green Inferno is relatively tame in comparison. That’s not really a bad thing though. I enjoyed Inferno more than I did Cannibal Holocaust. It just doesn’t have the some kind of power. It’s definitely worth watching, and I’m actually hoping to see a director’s cut of the film on DVD, because it also feels like some stuff was cut out to hit that R rating, so the film could be released in theaters. Eli Roth is not a bad filmmaker, far from it, it’s just that sometimes he gets a little full of himself and it sometimes ends up on screen. Overall, though, I think I can recommend The Green Inferno to horror fans. This gets an 8/10.