Director - Eli Roth
Writer(s) - Eli Roth, Guilermo Amoedo
Starring - Lorenzo Izzo, Ariel Levy
From the man who brought us Hostel, who together with the Saw franchise gave birth to the torture porn genre, comes a visceral, raw and brutal nod to the infamous Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox. The Green Inferno, despite being made way back in 2013 is only now being granted a nationwide UK release. So, is it worth a view?
Justine (Izzo), a college freshman at New York University, becomes interested in a social activism group on her campus, led by Alejandro (Levy) and his girlfriend, Kara (Ignacio Allamand). The group plans a trip to the Amazon rainforest to stop a company from logging and obliterating ancient native tribes there; the goal is to film the logging crews with cell phones and stream footage to raise awareness. After initial success, disaster strikes as the plane crashes, leaving the activists stranded in the rainforest. It quickly becomes apparent that the indigenous tribe are cannibals, and the activists are next on the menu.
To start proceedings, a disclaimer. This film will be inevitably polarising, for two major reasons; firstly, the fact that it’s central message appears to be one criticising activists for interfering with matters that do not necessarily concern them, and the irony of the very tribe they wished to preserve attacking them, which also suggests you should make sure you fully understand the dangers before putting yourself in any situation. Now, I personally agree with this message somewhat, and don’t find it offensive at all. However, if you are an activist, this will almost certainly bother you, so I advise you now to simply not watch this movie, because you won’t enjoy it. That’s not a generalisation either. Most activists tend to be very serious about their causes, and I can’t imagine this not offending them somehow.
Reason two is the depiction of an indigenous tribe as cannibalistic savages. Now, is this necessarily ignorance and racism? I’d say not, as it is clearly stated by Roth in press around the film to be an entirely fictional tribe. Perhaps you could argue it depicts the indigenous in a negative light, but I’d argue that’s not Roth’s intention. I’d lean more towards him deploying them for two reasons. One, because he liked the irony of the story. Two, because he wanted to make a throwback to those famous Italian films that caused a media frenzy. It’s never once implied or stated that all tribes are cannibalistic - merely this one. Does it perpetuate an existing stereotype? Potentially, but we do know that cannibalistic tribes do exist in the world. So should we never deploy them out of fear of offense and allow an entire film genre to fall into obscurity? I’d say no, just be sure to make it clear that you are not tarring all tribes with one brush, and make damn sure the tribe depicted is fictional.
The writing is average at best, and the story is basic and raw, but it does at least make an effort to make an attempt at political commentary. In fact, it’s just given me two paragraphs to sink my teeth into before even getting into the technicalities of the film. It doesn’t always hit the mark, but I think it deserves some iota of credit for attempting the shot.
Izzo begins ropey with her dialogue delivery, and some early exchanges are cringeworthy, but she grows into the role and in the end gives a surprisingly strong performance. It’s no more than your traditional horror scream queen role, but she plays the part more convincingly than most. She also has some of the most attractive eyes I've ever seen on a person. I know that's necessarily criticism, but it demanded a mention. Levy is ropey throughout, and the rest of the cast are solid but never dazzle.
Now, for the stuff you actually care about in a gore fest horror film. Visually, it’s surprisingly very classy, based more of an arthouse film than a cheap exploitation flick. The muted colour palette adds a sense of gritty realism, whilst still retaining the beauty of the surroundings. A wonderful juxtaposition to the horrors that proceed therefrom.
The violence is constant from around the half hour mark and I’m delighted to announce it’s all prosthetic work! As a throwback to those infamous Italian gore fiestas, I’d expect no less, and it is enough to delight even the most seasoned horror fan, whilst never being too much. The film toys with the idea of going beyond the limits of taste but never quite pulls the trigger, refusing to even try and match its spiritual predecessors for shock value. Whilst a fun tribute to those Italians efforts, it never comes close to the pure brutality and surprise they unleashed upon the world at release.Still, the level of brutality and the score keeps things nice and tense, with a certain dreamlike ambience perpetuating the picture.
This is a considerable increase in quality from Roth’s previous efforts, whilst never necessarily straying into great territory. Polarising and potentially controversial, whilst delightfully violent and tense, it ticks the box of emulating those Italian ‘classics’ it pays homage to. If you want a brutal and visually pleasing experience, this is worth a watch.