Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is a freshman in college. She finds herself attracted to the charismatic leader of a social justice group named Alejandro (Ariel Levy). Jonah (Aaron Burns), a member of the group, hears Justine express her concerns for women subjected to genital mutilation in a class they both attend and invites her to the next meeting. At that meeting, Justine hears Alejandro outline his plans to stop a logging operation in Amazon that will soon wipe out a tribe of primitive indigenous people deep in the rain forest. Despite the objections of her father, a lawyer at the United Nations, Justine hops on a plane with several other students, Alejandro and his girlfriend Kara (Ignacia Allamand) and heads for the logging site. After a lengthy trip using a small plane, scooter rickshaws and boats, the group arrives. The plan is to chain themselves to bulldozers and trees using their cellphones to live stream everything to a hacked satellite feed on several environmental websites. The logging operation is protected by an armed militia. Justine can’t get her padlock to close and is held with a gun to her head by a militiaman. Alejandro makes a speech about how the world is watching and will react badly if he kills the daughter of a U.N. lawyer. Justine realizes she’s been set up to be the sacrifice of the protest. The militiaman’s cell rings and he is ordered to tell his men to lower their weapons and let the protesters go. Put on a plane by the state police, the group celebrates but Justine is still fuming about being nearly killed. Alejandro is unapologetic and continues to celebrate with the rest of the group. During the flight, the engine develops problems and the plane crashes, killing the pilot and a couple of others. Soon, the survivors are attacked by the primitive tribe with most of them tranquilized by blow darts and Kara killed by spears. Justine, Alejandro, Jonah and four other survivors are taken back to the tribe’s village. As they are walked to the village surrounded by tribespeople all covered in red body paint, the survivors notice mostly decomposed bodies on poles along with heads on stakes. They are being held by a tribe of cannibal headhunters.
The making of “The Green Inferno” was difficult as writer/director/producer Eli Roth filmed in the rainforest using an indigenous tribe that required several hours travel to reach. There were also problems with a torrential downpour wiping out a location and the added snag of a team of Christian missionaries arriving on the first day of shooting, trying to convert the locals and stop production of the film by blasting religious music from loud speakers. Compounding the shooting difficulties, the original production company had money problems forcing the release to be delayed a year. These are the kind of birthing pains that can make a great movie all that much more entertaining to watch when it finally sees the light of day. In the case of “The Green Inferno,” all the roadblocks to getting it to theatres could be viewed as an omen of what a difficult task it is to sit through since the film it is such a giant turd.
Every character in “The Green Inferno” is obnoxious and annoying to one degree or another. Justine is easily manipulated and a bit of a spoiled brat. Alejandro is a misogynist with a Napoleon complex that uses intimidation to keep his followers in line. Jonah is desperate for love and acceptance. He’s willing to overlook Alejandro’s shortcomings to be a part of a group. He also has a crush on Justine while she is lusting after Alejandro. The other non-native characters in the film each possess some trait or behavior that makes them just as loathsome. It is a group of people I would have happily seen die at the hands of their captors. The fact they all don’t is something of a disappointment.
Aside from their taste for human flesh, there’s nothing all that interesting about the native tribe. The two members of the tribe featured in the advertising, a one-eyed woman that appears to be in charge and a large man painted black with a yellow face and bone through his nose that acts as the enforcer, are actors while the rest of the tribe are actual natives. Roth treats the natives as some kind of homogeneous mass that largely moves together in the same direction with no individual doing anything to set itself apart from the rest of the tribe aside from a small child that appears to be interested in a piece of jewelry worn by Justine. This is likely done to give the audience some human connection to the local people and not just view them as mindless cannibals; however, Roth undermines that with a scene late in the film that shows the children of this tribe are just as deadly as the adults. It seems the writer/director/producer can’t decide on just what direction or tone he wants his movie to have.
“The Green Inferno” is rated R for torture, language, aberrant violence, grisly & disturbing images, brief graphic nudity and sexual content. Where to begin…there are stabbings, throat slashings, beheadings, dismemberments, people eaten alive, tree limbs through chests and heads, a guy walks into a spinning propeller, a woman has a spear thrown through her neck and her head, a guy while alive has both eyes gouged out and then his tongue cut off and they are all eaten as they are removed, three women are sexually violated by what looks like a large animal claw and there’s probably more that I just can’t remember. We see part of a man’s sex organs as well as a fully nude woman. None of it is sexual in nature. One character masturbates on screen with all of his bits hidden behind his leg. Foul language is fairly common.
Most of Eli Roth’s films have some level of gore in them. From “Cabin Fever” to the “Hostel” films, Roth can usually be counted on to deliver buckets of blood and guts. He opens the tap in “The Green Inferno” but what comes out fails to deliver the kind of ick factor films like this need. None of the beheadings, limb amputations or other disemboweling delivers the shiver up the back fans of this genre expect. Perhaps the location made it too difficult to use the best special effects to do the job right. Maybe the unlikable characters and slow-moving story made watching the atrocities less impactful than they might have been otherwise. Whatever the reason, the gore in “The Green Inferno” makes for only a mild visual diversion from what is otherwise a dull slog.