The Green Inferno

They’re coming after all you Ice Bucket Challengers next. Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy and Daryl Sabara star in Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno.

The Green InfernoCast of Characters:
Justine – Lorenza Izzo
Alejandro – Ariel Levy
Lars – Daryl Sabara
Amy – Kirby Bliss Blanton
Kaycee – Sky Ferreira
Samantha – Magda Apanowicz
Daniel – Nicolas Martinez
Jonah – Aaron Burns
Kara – Ignacia Allamand
The Bald Headhunter – Ramon Llao
Charles – Richard Burgi

Director – Eli Roth
Screenplay – Eli Roth & Guillermo Amoedo
Producer – Eli Roth, Miguel Asensio Llamas, Nicolas Lopez, Christopher Woodrow & Molly Conners
Rated R for aberrant violence and torture, grisly disturbing images, brief graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use

Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is a promising NYU freshman, and privileged daughter of United Nations lawyer Charles (Richard Burgi), who is drawn into the world of campus activism through the student group ACT. Led by Alejandro (Ariel Levy), Justine and other student activists set out for Peru on a mission to prevent a natural gas dig that threatens the lives of the local tribes.

The protest goes off as planned, but on the way back, their plane experiences engine trouble and crash-lands in the jungle where Justine, Alejandro and a handful of survivors are captured by a cannibal tribe. Now imprisoned, these misguided UC Berkley types soon become front-row witnesses and participants to the tribe’s savage way of life.

And it will surly bring them to their sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na knees! Knees!!!!

Eli Roth’s prior films have gained notoriety for popularizing the repugnant torture porn genre, and while it’s safe to say that most everyone was not expecting him to reverse the trend with his his fourth feature film as writer/director, The Green Inferno, that film would gain additional notoriety for studio drama that occurred prior to its initial release.

Originally slated for September 2014 theatrical release, financial difficulties surrounding production company Worldview Entertainment caused the film’s distributor, Open Road Films to pull the plug on its release date and leaving it up in the air as to whether it’d see the light of day. But leave it to Jason Blum, like he just recently did with M. Night Shyamalan, to once again come to the rescue with his studio’s multi-platform arm Blumhouse Tilt, providing it with the theatrical release the good Lord always intended it to have.

Though I’m not a fan by any stretch of Roth’s films, I also wasn’t rooting for this film to stay locked up in development hell (to be completely honest, I wasn’t on my knees praying everyday for it to come back either). As absolutely horrible as those two Hostel movies of his were (I honestly don’t get the love people see in those films, nor do I see the so-called satire they apparently see), I still contend that there’s gotta be a good film within him. His faux trailer Thanksgiving in between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse movies was a funny riffing on the cheesy schlock slasher films of the ’70s and early ’80s (and speaking of Tarantino, he’s been able to mine good performance work from him in a few of his own movies). His feature film debut, Cabin Fever, while not a good film, wasn’t the empty excuse for shock value that Hostel was. The performances were solid, and there was satirical potential in his love letter to films like The Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but in the end the film couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be satire or a straight-up horror film and that indecisiveness caused the tone to suffer.

From a technical angle, Roth makes competent looking films; the problem is that his story and characters lack the same competency. If he put just as much effort into both story and character as he does in trying to push the envelope of over-the-top gore, perhaps he’d have a more impressive filmography.

So now we have The Green Inferno, Roth’s love letter to the controversial 1980 film Cannibal Holocaust that tackles the whole “slacktivism” craze. For those that don’t know what slacktivism is – slacker + activism = slacktivism. Pretty much, it’s contributing to a cause without much knowledge of what you’re fighting for (e.g., “Like was Lou Gehrig – like – you know – like the doctor that – like totally discovered Lou Gehrig’s Disease?”) and putting as little effort into it as you can. You know those bull shit socially conscious photos your friends share on Facebook all the time in an effort to feel all self-important and good about themselves but they just look like self-indulgent douche-holes? It’s that, and about 95% of my friends do it.

A proven writer could’ve brought a sharp, darkly funny, and clearly relevant critique of the social media driven fad (much like Cannibal Holocaust skewered media exploitation), but Roth’s writing isn’t anywhere as smart or clever as his fans claim it is, and unfortunately, it’s more of the same setbacks that weigh down his films.

Roth loves slow buildups before diving into the slaughters, and just like his prior films, he once again takes his time to get to all the blood, guts, limb tearing, eye-gouging, tongue slicing insanity. I usually appreciate slow-burn horror films that take their time to get to the good stuff. John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the best examples that gives us a great buildup of colorful characters and slow-burn, simmering tension before trotting out Rob Bottin and Stan Winston’s excellent makeup effects. The key, or at least one of the keys, to the setup of Carpenter’s classic, however, was the memorable characters, whereas The Green Inferno has a collection of flat one-note nothings that we have to put up with until the meat of the plot kicks in. The only memorable traits they have are that one is heavy, so that’s a big neon sign telegraphing to us who’s getting cannibalized first, and one likes pot.

Not exactly sympathy-evoking characteristics. Go ahead, tribesman. Slice away.

Once we get to the jungle, Roth is able to develop a few effective moments of suspense thanks to the unpredictable atmosphere of the jungle and the tribe that’s decently unsettling without being portrayed as monsters (reportedly, most of those used were from actual South American tribes). But it’s hard to be consistently moved with fear when very few of those captured give us no reason at all to be concerned for their survival. They come in a variety of simplistic broad strokes that range from super nice but stupidly naive, self-righteous asshole, or the so-called passionate leader who has his own ulterior motives.

Also to blame here is Roth’s awkward use of comic relief that ruins any potential for tension building. Scenes of one character releasing a flood of diarrhea (which we don’t see but the sound effect performs double duty to get the point across), or another jerking off in order to “calm himself” serve no purpose to the story and just stick out as horribly poor attempts at being funny.

One of the few pluses the film can claim is Lorenza Izzo who’s quite good here (we’ll see her again next month in Eli Roth’s second film this year, Knock Knock). When all hell breaks loose, she’s effectively vulnerable and frightened to death, while gradually transforming that fear into a desperate fight to survive. Of course, it helps that she’s one of the very few who is actually worth rooting for.

The Green Inferno won’t be winning Eli Roth new converts any time soon, but his choir of devotees on the opposite side of the aisle will surely sing the praises of his brand of horror. Though it doesn’t take much at all to do so, this is certainly a step up from his two Hostel atrocities, one that benefits from a fine Lorenza Izzo performance, beautiful on-set footage of Peru and Chili and some first-rate makeup effects work from Greg Nicotero. However, like Cabin Fever, The Green Inferno has glimmers of satirical potential that unfortunately are not capitalized on, choosing instead to fall back on more shallow characters and meaningless body mutilation that produces more Zzzzzzzzs than shock out of its viewers.

I give The Green Inferno a C- (★★).

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