The Green Inferno has been anticipated by many horror fans because it’s the return of Eli Roth who hasn’t written/directed a film since Hostel: Part II back in 2007. I have never been a fan of Eli Roth’s films, but I was nonetheless intrigued. I was fascinated by the fact that Eli Roth shot the film in Peru and Chile with participation of a Peruvian tribe who were convinced to work with the filmmakers. They apparently thought Cannibal Holocaust was the funniest thing ever. Anyway, the film was set to come out last year around the same time as now, but got pushed back after some financial difficulties with the production company, Worldview Entertainment. It took the help of Blumhouse Productions (because really, who else at this point?) to finally set a release date for the film, a whole two years after its premier at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is a college student in New York who joins a campus activist group led by Alejandro (Ariel Levy) to save native tribe in the Amazon from corporations planning on bulldozing the jungle. However, after a plane crash, the surviving members of the group are found by the natives, and they aren’t as peaceful as they had hoped.
Not only is this the first film by Eli Roth in years, it’s also the first big cannibal films to be released in a while, and the good news is that the film delivers on both accounts in spades. In fact, it’s so good it’s making me consider giving Eli Roth’s filmography a second chance. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its problems. The first 25 minutes or so was a chore, all the little things that bug me about Eli Roth’s writing, especially the dialogue, was in full force. There are some elements about the first-third that hold up in retrospect, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sitting there impatiently waiting for the cannibal action to begin. Another thing about the first-third, specifically all the city scenes, is that it looked very cheaply made. The dull lighting and flat digital cinematography wasn’t particularly easy on the eyes, which is a bit disappointing considering I do think Eli Roth is a capable enough filmmaker to prevent his films from looking like a direct-to-DVD feature. However, the vibrancy and beautiful jungle sequences in the rest of the film more than makes up for it.
Where the movie starts to get kind of amazing is during the plane crash sequence, which sets off the crazy and brutal adventure for the characters. Granted the film hardly reinvents the genre or bring anything new to the table that I haven’t seen in other cannibal films. I don’t think it needs to though because it hits the beats fairly well. It owes a lot to films like Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, The Mountain of the Cannibal God, Sacrifice!, and Jungle Holocaust. It’s very much a love letter to the genre, but fortunately doesn’t resort to non-stop references and homages. Aside from one blatant (and frankly, obligatory) homage to Cannibal Holocaust, most of the references are fairy subtle. The film already had a lot on its mind anyway. It takes an aim toward modern activism, specifically the kind of activism that does good to nobody, and has little understanding of how the world really works (“slacktivism,” I believe is the term). The characters in the film are idealists, well-meaning, but way in over their heads and it backfires big time. This point is made clear when a reveal is made regarding one of the characters around halfway through the film.
Then again, it’s not the themes that anyone goes for with the film, it’s the gore. Once the cannibal stuff starts, the movie goes insane and I had an absolute blast. Eli Roth has a great way of shooting his death scenes where he is able to convey the pain and brutality of the situation, but at the same time, make you laugh at the sheer glee of its excessiveness. While there are certainly way, way more likeable characters in this film than any other Eli Roth film (so, like maybe two or three) that I can remember, I was rubbing my hands waiting for the next victim to get offed in awesomely gory ways. This is not a serious or dour film. It actively encourages you to have fun with the material, and it’s here where I see some of Eli Roth’s best work as a filmmaker. The practical gore effects were top notch, the first major kill, especially, is an all-timer. However, I have to say, I was disappointed with one sequence that involved ants crawling on a guy as they bite his face, and it was done through CGI. It felt out of place, and considering we don’t even see the ants do the damage, there was really no point to having the scene there. I feel like the filmmakers should have known better, but thankfully, it’s a short scene.
The Green Inferno is exactly what you think it’ll be, not just as a cannibal movie, but as an Eli Roth movie. Yet, it follows some of those beats with such enthusiasm and joy (seriously, after experiencing Black Mass, I’m glad to see a movie that has some energy to it) that it won me over despite a rough first act and an admittedly bizarre final five minutes and mid-credits stinger, that if I didn’t know any better, I’d assume Blumhouse forced them to include it. The good stuff in the film is phenomenal, and well worth sitting through the more frustrating parts. In a way, that applies to even some of the best exploitation films. It is so cool seeing an Amazon cannibal movie getting a wide-release, and seeing a horror film that is more visceral, primal and extreme than the creepy, slow-burn and atmospheric stuff that we have gotten over the last several years felt surprisingly refreshing. The last time a film like this came out wide was maybe Evil Dead and that was more than two years ago. It’s a fun, enjoyable and hilarious ride for those who can stomach it, and there was no animal cruelty, so yay! Oh, and one last thing, during the credits alongside the cast, they also listed their Twitter handle. No movie, just…no. 70