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IFI Horrorthon 2015 Review - THE GREEN INFERNO

A group of American students crash land in the jungle of Peru and become a human banquet for a tribe of cannibals.


Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Eli Roth

Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Magda Apanowicz, Sky Ferreira


"Like most of Roth's films, The Green Inferno is devoid of tension or suspense, its narrative simply taking the form of a series of gruesome deaths of protagonists we couldn't care less about, all blood and no build-up."





As exploitation sub-genres go, the cannibal flick is one of the least profligate. Its heyday was of course the 1970s, when a bunch of Italian filmmakers followed Werner Herzog's lead in traipsing off to a jungle to shoot tales of unscrupulous westerners coming a cropper when captured by remote man-eating natives. Italian exploitation was known for cashing in on Anglo-Saxon trends, giving birth to the likes of the Spaghetti Western, the Peplum and the Giallo, but the cannibal trend was unique in that it was chiefly an Italian creation, though some of the earliest entries were loosely inspired by 1970's A Man Called Horse.
The Italian cannibal genre had a pretty good batting average; there weren't many made, but most of them were worthwhile to some degree, the best being the infamous Cannibal Holocaust (widely considered the first found footage horror), the almost equally notorious cash-in Cannibal Ferox, the relatively all-star adventure Mountain of the Cannibal God and the soft-porn crossover Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals. Unfortunately, thanks to Eli Roth's entry, The Green Inferno (just as the Coens took the title of O Brother Where Art Thou from Sullivan's Travels, Roth borrows his title from the movie within a movie of Cannibal Holocaust), that batting average has now been considerably soiled.
Roth's film follows Justine (Lorenza Izzo), a freshman at an American college who wakes up one morning and decides to become an activist. She joins up with a group led by Alejandro (Ariel Levy), and before you can say tie-dye a Che Guevera t-shirt, they're off to the jungles of Peru, tying themselves to bulldozers in an attempt to stop the encroachment of progress on a local tribe. The group's stunt works, and thanks to the wonders of said progress, they find themselves 'trending' back home. In an ironic twist, their plane crashes right beside the very village they sought to protect, and the natives are only too delighted to have such tasty, well fed western guests.
As with the classic Italian cannibal flicks, The Green Inferno features a foreign cast pretending to be American, and it's interesting how Roth has adopted Chile as his filmmaking base in the way Roger Corman based his '70s productions in the Philippines, but that's where the comparisons end. Those original movies had an inherent sleaze factor that just can't be replicated today. For a start, the animal cruelty featured in so many of those movies is a non-starter now - and rightly so. Then there's the look; today's digital cameras give everything a polished aesthetic a million miles from the grainy grime of cheap '70s film stock. The '70s was a dangerous time; with western capitals subjected to terrorist attacks on a regular basis, and crime at an all time high, this edginess seeped into celluloid. Times Square might resemble Disneyland today, but back then it was a seedy corner of a violent metropolis, packed with cinemas that showed these sort of movies, and there was as much violence in the auditorium as on the screen.
Roth travelled to Peru and employed a genuine native tribe to play his cannibalistic villains, but the movie may as well have been shot in a national park in Hawaii, such is the lack of threat from this locale. Like most of Roth's films, The Green Inferno is devoid of tension or suspense, its narrative simply taking the form of a series of gruesome deaths of protagonists we couldn't care less about, all blood and no build-up.
In interviews, the director has described his movie as a commentary on the 'Social Justice Warrior' phenomenon created by social media in recent years, and twitter is home to several groups calling for a boycott of the movie for its negative portrayal of indigenous tribes. To Roth's credit, the worst characters in his film come from the 'civilised' side, which tells you those groups haven't deigned to watch the movie before condemning it. But discussing political subtext in an Eli Roth movie is a waste of energy. Like his buddy Tarantino, he knows more about the world of movies than the one we live in, and The Green Inferno exists simply to provide a frame for a series of references to horror and exploitation movies, from the explicit (a Day of the Dead style live disembowelling) to the esoteric (an implement shaped to resemble the murder weapon from the wonderfully titled Giallo Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key). Roth appears on the extras of many blu-rays, and is highly entertaining when discussing genre cinema, but throughout his career he's resolutely failed to transfer his knowledge and enthusiasm to his work. The Green Inferno is no exception.




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