‘The Green Inferno’

The Green Inferno

The Green Inferno (2013) — Directed by Eli Roth. Starring Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Magda Apanowicz, Ignacia Allamand, Daryl Sabara, Nicolás Martínez, Sky Ferreira, Ramón Llao, Antonieta Pari.

Feel like going on a trip? Eli Roth thinks you’re better off at home. Cabins in the woods, Eastern Europe, and now the Amazonian jungle have all come under his scrutiny and the world he sees is dangerously unaccommodating to outsiders. Woe to you, oh traveler, who wanders this wicked world!

Columbia University freshman Justine (Lorenza Izzo, Eli Roth’s wife) doesn’t care if her dorm mate Kaycee (Sky Ferreira) snarkily proclaims “activism is so f**king gay”, she joins a campus activist group anyway. The group’s leader, Alejandro (Ariel Levy), sees her father’s connection to the UN as a vital piece in his plan to save an Amazonian tribe in Peru threatened by deforestation carried out by a company mining fuel in the area. The activists aim to halt the company’s progress by chaining themselves to the demolition equipment and streaming the protest online via their smart phones. They succeed surprisingly quickly, though there is a dubious reason for that, and while celebrating on the small plane taking them out of the Amazon, an engine explodes and the plane crashes… wouldn’t you know it, right next to the tribe they were trying to save. And they’re just in time for dinner! You can probably guess who is on the menu…

The Green Inferno is Eli Roth’s tribute to cannibal films of the kind that flourished in the 70s and 80s, peaking with Ruggero Deodato’s controversial Cannibal Holocaust. If you want to get caught up you can go through the filmography presented near the end credits of Inferno and then see how this one compares. The Green Inferno is the highest profile cannibal film in some time. The only other cannibal film I’ve seen is the infamous Cannibal Holocaust so I don’t have much to compare it to but as an exploitation/horror film in general, The Green Inferno held my interest but wasn’t all that impressive.

I have to admit to being distracted throughout the movie as I contemplated its themes. Roth has been through the press junkets for the film talking about how he can’t stand “slacktivists” who apparently get pissed at him when he doesn’t retweet their posts about Kony 2012 or whatever the cause of the moment is. I kind of get his point; changing your avatar to support a movement or posting videos to “raise awareness” about an issue is really the absolute least anybody can do for a movement, and may actually be harmful, but why not just roll your eyes and move on? Roth is convinced that they’re just in it for the attention. They get under his skin so much he wanted to make a film about some well-meaning but misguided kids who are served up as a perfect stew of poetic justice simmered in their own lazy liberal outrage.

Frankly the premise of the movie contradicts what he’s talking about. These students are traveling to another continent to act upon something they believe in, they’re not just sitting on their phones tweeting. But I guess the “slacktivists” he can’t stand are far less likely to be eaten. The characters in The Green Inferno use social media as a tool by streaming the action they’re taking a part in; it’s not just an avenue to brag about their opinions. If anything can be said of these kids he dreamed up it’s that they head into the jungle half-cocked, following their leader too eagerly and end up duped by him when he reveals his true intentions. And even though he’s deceiving them he still has a larger goal in mind for what he sees as the greater good. I get that Roth can’t send the cannibals to his characters’ homes (I thought you were pizza delivery!) but I’m not sure how he can put this plot together and proclaim he’s attacking lazy activists. There might be a good movie to be made that expresses the themes he’s concerned about, or even ones that actually mean sometihng, but this isn’t it. And to fantasize about these kids being eaten is distasteful. Ha-ha.

But really, who cares? I’m not sitting through an Eli Roth film because I want to learn something about the current state of activism, I just want to see some motherfuckers get eaten. And in that area The Green Inferno… kind of delivers. The first scene of cannibal feasting where our victim succumbs to the hungry mouths of the tribe is pretty intense and hard to watch. The main course gets his eyes gouged out and eaten, his tongue cut out and eaten, and his limbs severed before being beheaded and put into an oven. It’s a horrifying scene.

And despite how hard it was to watch… I felt like Roth was holding back. Maybe I’m just too jaded of a horror movie fan. The notion of being eaten by another human being is kind of terrifying but that one scene is the worst of it. The rest of the sequences are standard horror movie fare and the gore stays around the level of The Walking Dead, which isn’t bad just not as intense as I was bracing myself for. I felt like he trimmed scenes in an effort to get the R rating rather than going for broke.

I found the cinematography flat and the compositions dull. There may be some beautiful landscapes in the Amazonian jungle but apart from the opening flyover shot you can’t really tell by watching The Green Inferno. The acting early on is similarly uninspiring, with Sky Ferreria putting in the most wooden performance as the sarcastic roommate. At least Lorenza Izzo is good. She’s relatable early on as we follow her along the path that leads her to Peru, which allows us to feel her terror when she falls into the hands of the cannibals. But the worst/best performance (probably the only?) of someone masturbating while they’re being choked (yeah, that’s a thing that happens and it’s played for a laugh) goes to Ariel Levy. Bet you never saw that coming… he never does.

Eli has a cynical view of Americans and this film continues to support that. I suppose one could grudgingly agree with some of his points but the gleeful sadism he drags his subjects through sure does make him come off as an asshole. Still, it is those scenes that I’m there for. It’s too bad they are for the most part unremarkable. Perhaps I should be glad he held back a bit and I should instead be chiding myself for expecting even more horrible flesh eating than what he delivered. Really I just can’t get past his ridiculous message. All The Green Inferno ends up being is Eli Roth’s “I hate bumper stickers!” bumper sticker.

If you were concerned that he’s focusing too much on the hazards of the outside world, his next movie Knock, Knock shows that your own home can be just as dangerous.

Feel like some outrage? A reviewer on the horror website Bloody Disgusting spends two paragraphs chastising the movie for not providing a balanced approach to female genital mutilation, claiming that the movie should “offer up both sides of the debate.” I’m normally willing to entertain both sides of a debate in an attempt to obtain a complete understanding of an issue but you’ll have to forgive me if I have a blind prejudice when it comes to this issue. The World Health Organization’s stance that FGM “has no health benefits” seems pretty cut and dried to me.  Our contrarian reviewer only mentions two points when suggesting that the action might not be immoral. She compares it to male circumcision, a topic that some defend as having significant health benefits while on the other hand there is a resurgence in the idea that this may not be the case. False dichotomy much? These aren’t the same argument and no matter which way it goes, neither side can provide support to FGM. And then she bemoans the lack of “proper medical centers that would safely conduct these events”. Really? That hardly even deserves a response. This kind of moral relativism is just a bunch of bullshit.

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