When I have the chance to review something, whether it be a video game, TV show or movie, it’s my job to try to do so in the most unbiased way possible. That being said, I must get this off my chest – I am not a fan of Eli Roth movies. To be more specific, I feel like his best work to date has been as “The Bear Jew” in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. Of the films Roth has directed, I’m the most tolerant of Cabin Fever.
Regardless, there was some excitement on my part when I got the chance to view The Green Inferno in a film festival environment. On the heels of watching Ti West’s new amazing film The Sacrament (which Mr. Roth produced), the hope of another mind blowing horror film had me all aflutter. But early feedback I was hearing from fellow horror fans and journalists alike was pointing to another horror film that focuses more on gore than story. Further, once I was in the theater, I heard word that Mr. Roth told a packed audience in a previous screening to “shut the f*ck up” if they didn’t like the film. Right. Okay, still trying to be unbiased here…
The Green Inferno is Eli Roth’s attempt at resurrecting a dormant sub genre: cannibal horror. Taking a cue from the classic Cannibal Holocaust, the film follows college freshman Justine (Lorenza Izzo) as she is drawn in by a group of activists on campus, led by the charismatic (annoying) leader Alejandro (Ariel Levy). The chemistry between the two is (not) palpable and soon, Justine joins these (unlikable) characters as they take a trip to the Amazon with the purpose of protesting the destruction of the native tribe’s land for purpose of some sort of industrial development.
Upon their attempted return to America, their plane experiences a malfunction and crashes in the jungle. And before they know it, one of the native tribes they were working so hard to save captures and imprisons them in their quaint little village. What follows is a barrage of very gruesome scenes (thanks to Greg Nicotero’s handy work) as Justine and friends realize these indigenous people like to eat other people.
That’s the basic synopsis, folks. And it’s not a bad idea. Come to think of it, I don’t think any of Eli Roth films’ stories are bad ideas. It’s the execution of the story from thought to end product where something ends up getting lost in the process. Within The Green Inferno’s first ten minutes, the audience is introduced to Justine and her idiotic blonde friend through some clunky dialogue that sets the stage for the unlikable characters and poor writing to follow. With any story, the audience must at least sympathize with one of the lead characters to truly care about the stakes of what will unfold. Aside from Lorenza Izzo’s talent at conveying unrelenting fear and anguish through some rather believable crying fits, I really lacked any sympathy for her or her fellow activists (victims).
The only other character worth any attention is Alejandro. However, Ariel Levy’s performance throughout the film came off as inconsistent. Ultimately, Alejandro is revealed as one horrible sociopathic son of a bitch. That revelation seems to come in the most absurd moment that I almost felt Eli Roth was pointing and laughing at the audience because, well, he can.
There is a possibility that Roth purposefully made the protagonists as abhorrent as I found them so it’d be easier to watch them get cut up and eaten down the line. However, it just instigated further anger in myself and my moviegoing companion as I was now sitting through a film filled with unlikable characters who go through a literally gut twisting ordeal only to end with a silly twist and an unrecognizable moral.
I can’t keep writing this review without touching on the film’s gore. While I’m of the mindset that gore works best in a movie where it’s justifiable in the story and overkill is (with some exceptions) a story killer, kudos really do have to be given for the graphic practical effects that include amputations, disembowelments, and some eye plucking to boot. I’ve seen my fair share of violent films but it is safe to say the effects featured in this film will test the strongest stomachs.
Credit should also be given to Eli Roth for creating a story within a long forgotten sub genre that blends this sort of hard-to-watch violence and gore with a sociopolitical commentary. Even if that commentary is subtext and not exactly consistent, it’s still there and in horror, many times that sort of attempt at depth is lacking or completely absent altogether.
At the movie’s end, the credits feature the Twitter handles of both cast and crew which confused me. Some friends in the industry expressed it as a genius move. Others found it silly and out of place. As well, the entire theater (laughing throughout the whole film) erupted in applause at the film’s conclusion just leading me to further anger and confusion. Some friends praised the movie as a brilliant dark comedy and others chalked it up to more typical Eli Roth horror fare.
Since viewing the film, I’ve drawn my own conclusion that The Green Inferno is indeed the second option. However, I’ve read many reviews praising this movie and if you’re the type of horror fan that enjoys over the top gore more than a consistent story, then this movie is definitely for you. Just do yourself a favor and go into the theater on an empty stomach…as a precaution, of course.
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