After a long absence from the director's chair, Eli Roth finally returns with his much-anticipated new horror film, The Green Inferno. Best described as a loving ode to the cannibal sub-genre once made notorious by the likes of the great Ruggero Deodato, so much so that it even takes its title from the film-within-the-film as seen in Cannibal Holocaust.
In The Green Inferno, a group of plucky radical college activists head deep into the Amazon in protest of loggers tearing down the rainforest. After somewhat succeeding in their intended mission, they board their rickety small plane and head back towards the mainland. But it all goes wrong as the planes engine malfunctions, and they crash. Leaving them stranded in the heart of uncharted territory. Isolated and stranded in the heart of the unknown, the college students are preyed upon by a neighboring savage tribe. Unfortunately for the students, this tribe just so happens to have a particular taste for human flesh.
The college students are pretty much what one would expect from this type of movie. Thinly sketched archetypes with no real character to speak off. As a collective group, they are the type of naive passive-aggressive do-gooders who think they have all of the answers to solve the world's many ills but in reality haven't the first clue. Amongst this group is newcomer (and most likable of the bunch), Justine played by Lorenza Izzo. A perky freshman who grows infatuated with the radical group's noble if not questionable intentions.
After a lengthy and somewhat clunky setup, Roth finally moves the action into the confines of the terrifying unknown. Here Roth displays what it is he does best by creating unbearable moments of squirm worthy tension. As the protest group is dragged kicking and screaming into the tribal grounds, Roth keeps his camera lingering up close and personal on the laughing manic faces of the surrounding tribesmen and women. Allowing for an intense visual aura of claustrophobia.
Naturally, being a cannibal film, gorehounds should very easily get their fix. Special effects gurus Howard Berger and Gregory Nicotero have teamed once again with Roth to provide the highly detailed gore effects on offer. Eyes gouged out of their sockets; tounges cutout and limbs hacked off. Not to mention there are a couple of truly nasty and uncomfortable moments involving potential genital mutilation to top it all off.
Although, despite one particularly brutal kill, the gore on offer never quite manages to top itself. Let alone does it ever quite live up to the best of what this sub-genre has offered in its sleazy past. It's abundantly clear that Roth is still looking to get this film in front of a mainstream audience. None the less though, there is more on offer here than what there is in most mainstream efforts. Hopefully providing more than enough to satisfy the most ardent of gorehounds.
Despite its good qualities, The Green Inferno is plagued by a screenplay that feels at odds with itself. The most annoying thing about The Green Inferno is that it can never quite decide what type of movie it wants to be.
In one instance, it wants to be a loving ode to the likes of Cannibal Holocaust. Another case, it wants to be a pulp adventure film. It also plays its hand as a serious and unnerving horror film with unrelenting moments of tension throughout. But then it also briefly dips its toes into the sordid pool of 9/11 conspiracy theories for laughs.
The many tonal shifts are awkward, to say the least. As the film plays its many hands, it all winds up feeling a bit devoid of anything of interest to say. Be it intentional or a downright misfire on Roth's behalf, somewhere buried in amongst the burning pile of human flesh is the shred of his original idea. It's just a shame it never quite comes together in the way it probably should have.
Still, The Green Inferno is not without its virtues. It's always nice to see a filmmaker attempt to resurrect the Cannibal sub-genre. The fact that Roth and his crew ventured deep into the heart of the Amazon and shot the film with an uncontacted tribe is noteworthy and goes the extra mile. The film is terrifically shot by Antonio Quercia as he captures both the beauty and unsettling dread of the unknown. And the cannibalistic carnage on offer is satisfying. Also, the native tribesmen and women playing the savages do well to capture that menacing forebode of madness.
There is a lot to like about The Green Inferno. But there is also just as much about it that is troublesome. So much so that it just might leave you scratching your head pondering as to what exactly Roth was thinking in the moment?
(out of five)