The Green Inferno
Director: Eli Roth
Screenwriter: Eli Roth, Guillermo Amoedo
Cast: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Sky Ferreira, Nicolas Martinez, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Aaron Burns
Universal Pictures | Blumhouse
Rated R | 121 Minutes
Release Date: September 25, 2015
Finally, after two years of waiting, Eli Roth‘s The Green Inferno has reached theaters. Roth burst onto the horror scene back in 2002 with the low budget Cabin Fever, about a group of friends whose fun small town weekend is ruined by crazy local hillbillies and a flesh eating virus. His offbeat sense of humor and gross-out effects signaled that he was a force to be reckoned with. Then came 2005’s Hostel, and its superior 2007 sequel which garnered notoriety and helped coin the phrase “torture porn.” He has since collaborated with Quentin Tarantino (!), and been busy producing horror films and TV projects.
In 2013, Roth completed The Green Inferno, his tribute to his favorite movie – Ruggero Deodato’s notorious 1980 Cannibal Holocaust. That film caused such a stir that director Deodato was arrested on suspicion that he actually killed his crew, and had to demonstrate scenes in court. It is still banned in parts of the world. A squabble between film distributors left Roth’s pet project in limbo, until Blumhouse Productions swooped in as saviors and here we are.
First off, there aren’t many people you can even invite to a cannibal horror film; certainly not the wife and kids. Two of my gorehound friends decided to take the journey with me, mere hours before flying to Florida. Hopefully, their flight goes a tad better than the one depicted here. To discuss the plot in detail would be silly since if (and it’s a big IF) this movie appeals to you, it’s NOT because of the plot. I’ll quickly summarize that a college girl gets drawn into an activist group devoted to “causes,” and ends up in the Peruvian jungle to prevent a native tribe’s extinction from greedy corporations. Roth has publicly stated that one of his goals was to show the hypocrisies of social justice warriors. Mission accomplished there. After 45 minutes of set up (no, I’m not kidding), the celebratory crusaders are on their way home when their small plane crashes in the jungle. Half the crew are killed in the crash leaving 7 of them stranded and finally apprehended by the same native tribe they were trying to save.
The activists turned captives include group leader Alejandro (Ariel Levy), main girl Justine (Lorenza Izzo), communications guy Daniel (Nicolas Martinez), panicky Amy (Kirby Bliss Blanton), and lovable Jonah (Aaron Burns). Unfortunately for them, this is a cannibal movie and well, the natives are hungry. This is where the movie was a success for me. My friends and I all squirmed and twisted, and occasionally looked away. This is a very specific subgenre of horror movies. There are no jump scares, or sudden rushes to evoke fright. Everything in cannibal exploitation is done slowly, and graphically, and with purpose. The tension is in knowing exactly what is going to happen, and being powerless to stop it.
Roth blatantly foreshadows events in the film, which makes you sit there waiting and waiting, and getting more restless as it rolls on. In one of the climactic scenes, all three of us were pushed far back in our seats trying to avoid the inevitable. That’s the best compliment I can give a movie like The Green Inferno. There is more than enough blood and body parts to go around. Roth’s film influences are as easily recognizable as meat is to a cannibal. We know Roth loves Cannibal Holocaust. He even showed that film to the natives, since none had ever seen a movie before. I think the new film is actually closer in plot to Umberto Lenzi’s 1981 Cannibal Ferox (which I just saw over the summer for the first time). There’s one specific scene that I’ll wager was a shout out to George A. Romero’s original Dead trilogy.
Was The Green Inferno a great movie? No. Was it worth the wait and anticipation of the 2 years of distribution hell? Probably not. Was it anything I haven’t necessarily seen before? Not really. But did I enjoy the heck out of it? Hell yes! Sitting there, at 33 years old with two friends, and all of us cracking jokes about the bad acting, and silly dialogue for the first 45 minutes, and then watching through open-fingered hands for the final 45 was legitimately fun. If you’re a horror movie fan, specifically one who craves blood, guts, and gore galore, then you will love it. Having seen the films that inspired Roth, I honestly think his film is better than those, although it certainly won’t have the long-term impact. The Green Inferno gets a hearty 3+ human steaks out of 5.
The Green Inferno is in theaters everywhere now. Eli Roth has another thriller, Knock Knock starring Keanu Reeves coming out this Fall and he’s slated to direct an adaptation of Steve Alten’s giant shark story Meg in 2017.