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Recently I had a chance to see Eli Roth's newest gore-flick: The Green Inferno. Unfortunately, while it did have its moments (seriously, Daryl Sabara's character Lars stole the show), there were quite a few disappointing elements to it.
The premise sounds simple but promising; a bunch of inept college students go to Peru to save the rainforest and end up being picked off by a tribe of cannibals. It isn't the most original idea ever, but given Roth's previous projects, it still could have been an entertaining gore-flick. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
With its inconsistent script and misguided themes, what could have been a gleefully gory horror film just ended up becoming another bargain bin title to add to the pile. On the other hand, it didn't have to end up like that. Here are five things that I personally felt should have been improved.
1. The film's message.
Eli Roth said in multiple interviews that the film was meant to be a jab at today's "slacktivist" internet culture. In addition to making another gory horror film, Roth wanted the plot of The Green Inferno to satirize the internet culture's habit of lazily getting behind important causes by doing as little as they can behind their computer screens.
In an interview with the L.A. Times, Roth said:
I see that a lot of people want to care and want to help, but in general I feel like people don’t really want to inconvenience their own lives...and I saw a lot of people just reacting to things on social media. These social justice warriors. ‘This is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong.’ And they’re just tweeting and retweeting. They’re not actually doing anything. Or you see people get involved in a cause that they don’t really know a lot about and they go crazy about it. I wanted to make a movie about kids like that...I think there’s a lot of great things, obviously, about activism: people commit their lives to it. But I wanted to make a story about kids who don’t really know what they’re getting into. Get in way over their heads, and it actually works. And then the irony is on their way home their plane crashes and the very people they saved think that they’re invaders, and just dart them and eat them.
It seemed like Roth wanted to make a film about internet-obsessed college kids getting in way over their heads when they actually go to help a cause they know little about. The problem with that concept is that it contradicts itself. From what I understand, "slacktivists" are the kind of people who don't want to take any offline action for a cause they believe in. Just a few years ago, I recall several people on the internet wanting to raise awareness for child abuse by changing their profile picture to a cartoon character instead of donating money to a charity like Childhelp. That, by definition, is slacktivism.
On the contrary, the characters in this movie actually take their time to fly out to Peru to take action against deforestation. When the main character Justine finds out about female genital mutilation in third world countries, she actively tries to find a group that takes action against it. She doesn't show any signs of being a slacktivist, and she and the other characters are rarely seen using social media. Even after they find out how violent Peru's militia is, they still want to fight for the cause. They make extremely stupid decisions when they get there (such as triggering explosives at logging areas and chaining themselves to trees), but at least they are actually doing something. After implying that his movie would be about punishing slacktivists, the only characters that are punished for their actions are the actual activists.
I think a better plot would have involved the college students being on their way to a fancy resort. A half-hour into the film, their plane ends up crashing after they risk their lives protesting deforestation. Their plane should have crashed on the way to a comfortable place with wi-fi where they could continue their slacktivism. This would have made the message of slacktivism more clear, and it would have been more interesting to see how characters who spend most of their time online react to actually being in a real world situation.
As it stands though, the film's message ends up coming across as more of a cautionary tale against actual activism than slacktivism. It's a missed opportunity, plain and simple.
2. The use of its characters.
Most of the characters in this film are either cartoonishly evil or just kind of bland. In an Eli Roth film, one would think that the most unlikable characters would get the most brutal deaths. In this film though, the most unlikable characters get off easy, and the bland characters are the ones who get horrifically murdered.
Throughout the whole film, I expected the character Alejandro to have the most violent death scene. He is rude to the other students, knowingly deceives them, is willing to let them die to save his own skin, and even masturbates in front of them after one of them dies. So how is he killed off? He isn't. At the end of the film, it's revealed that he escaped off-camera and is still alive. Why even bother to have such an obviously villainous character if you're not going to kill him off? It's just a wasted opportunity.
Moreover, the character of Kaycee (seen above) is even more of a waste. Kaycee is Justine's roommate, and is portrayed as a bitter person who thinks actual activism is "gay." She scoffs at a janitors' strike and doesn't care about anybody but herself. Her character is a much more likely candidate for being eaten by cannibals, but she doesn't even go to the jungle. Again, it would have been much more entertaining to see anti-activists like her end up in a real world situation. Instead, she barely appears in the movie and is an entirely pointless character.
The main character and the rest of the characters are just bland activists that don't do anything but make dumb decisions. There's no reason to hate or love them, so I was indifferent when they were killed off. With the exception of Lars being a funny stoner, nobody did anything interesting to make the audience care about their deaths.
So by the end, the characters in this movie were either wasted opportunities or wastes of time.
3. The story's structure.
Although the message of the movie ends up falling flat, this film could have been passable as a mindless gore film. Sadly, it doesn't really deliver in that department either. The goriest death in the movie (Jonah's death) is shown about halfway through, and every other death after that is either off camera or quickly cut.
Eli Roth is infamous for the high amount of gore he puts into his movies. In The Green Inferno, there isn't that much gore besides Jonah's death scene. One could argue that an R rating only allows for so much gore, but Eli Roth himself recently said that the film was barely cut, and that working with the MPAA was quite easy. He said to IGN:
They were amazingly open-minded and cool about letting me make the movie I wanted to make. And I’ve never had that experience with any other organization in any other country. I feel like the MPAA understands you guys way better than you think. They know what the horror fans are paying to see, and it was very little back-and forth. It was a totally cool experience, and what you just saw was the R-rated cut.
Showing the most brutal death in the film so early makes the rest of the death scenes look tame in comparison. If Eli Roth wanted to leave a bigger impact, he should have saved the most gruesome kill for the end of the movie. It makes me wonder if Roth willingly cut the goriest death in the movie. I went through the whole movie waiting for another death scene to top Jonah's. Although Lars had a pretty humorous death scene, none of the deaths after Jonah's were anywhere near as over-the-top. It was a pretty big let-down considering all of the hype for this movie saying how gruesome and disturbing it was.
At the end of the day, The Green Inferno suffered heavily from these three problems. The message was vague, the characters were misused, and the story was structured poorly. While The Green Inferno is nowhere near being the worst horror movie I've ever seen, it certainly is one of the biggest missed opportunities for a horror film in quite some time.