Please note, this is my same review as it originally appeared over at Flickfeast. But f you didn't see it there then please enjoy it now.
Expectations have been high ever since Eli Roth announced that he was working on a cannibal movie. The fact that it was titled The Green Inferno – a title that was originally going to be used for Cannibal Holocaust (and
ended up being the title of a cash-in “sequel”) – clued most horror
fans in to the fact that this should be a goodie. It should be intense,
gory and slightly disturbing.
Thank goodness, then, that The Green Inferno is intense,
gory and slightly disturbing. It may well be the best film that Roth has
directed so far, and it’s certainly the best, full-on, cannibal movie
that I can think of since the heyday of the subgenre. It takes time to
put everything in place, but viewers are then rewarded with a second
half that moves from gruesome set-piece to gruesome set-piece.
The plot sees a bunch of young activists travelling from America to
Peru to protest against the destruction of the natural habitat by a
nasty corporation with nasty, big bulldozers. That’s dangerous enough,
thanks to the armed guards on the site, yet it’s nothing compared to
what happens after the protest. The small plane that they’re travelling
in crashes, leaving them in the middle of the jungle. However, they’re
not alone. It’s not long until some jungle inhabitants drug the
youngsters, take them back to their village, and start to plan lunch.
It’s hard for me to think of any major flaws here. The characters,
despite being potential menu courses, are all quite well-written, and
certainly all get enough moments to mark themselves out from the group.
This was a pleasant surprise, as I really expected a bunch of unlikable
and interchangeable victims, but that wasn’t the case. The first half
might be slow for some, yet Roth rewards everyone with a second half
that starts to deliver the goods and doesn’t really let up until the end
credits. Even the humour, so often an easy source of criticism in his
previous movies, is perfectly pitched here. The movie doesn’t provide a
lot of obvious laughs, although there are some, but the sly wit of the
commentary here is probably the furthest that Roth has ever moved away
from his comfort zone of “Jock talk”. Cannibal Holocaust was
about people meddling where they had no right, and different forms of
savagery, from the visitors and from the local inhabitants. The Green Inferno
is about people meddling where they have no right, and also pretending
to do more, and be better, even while operating within a protective
bubble of privilege and ignorance.
The cast all do well, with Lorenza Izzo really easy to root for as
the nominal leading lady. Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Aaron Burns, Kirby
Bliss Blanton, Sky Ferreira, Magda Apanowicz, and Nicolas Martinez all
make their characters feel like proper individuals, as opposed to
“potential victim #2″ or “shrieking white girl”, for example. They’re
all helped by the script, which Roth wrote with Guillermo Amoedo, and it
also helps that a few of the people involved will be familiar to fans
who saw Aftershock. They’re vaguely recognisable, yet not so
famous to be exempt from any of the ordeals that the cannibals may have
planned for them. Richard Burgi also does well with his few minutes of
screentime, although he gets to avoid the jungle madness.
With some lush cinematography, an appropriate score by Manuel Riveiro, and a real feeling of authenticity to the whole thing, The Green Inferno manages
to cram in all of the obvious homages that fans of the cannibal movie
subgenre will expect while also standing proudly as a new leader in the
ravenous, though admittedly sparse nowadays, pack. The screen may not be
dripping with gore at every opportunity, which only makes it all the
more powerful when it’s put front and centre (kudos to the special
effects guys for such moments of visceral brilliance).
Roth is a master of hype, and it seems as if he’s been building up The Green Inferno
for a long, long time. That will inevitably lead some people to view
the film and feel disappointment. Hell, this review will also help to do
that, so I apologise for getting your hopes up. I won’t apologise too
profusely, however, as I feel that, on this occasion, you CAN believe
the hype. The Green Inferno is a modern horror classic . . . . . . . . . . . . for those who have the stomach for it.