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 of 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.
DIRECTOR: ELI ROTH
WRITER: ELI ROTH, GUILLERMO AMOEDO
STARS: LORENZA IZZO, ARIEL LEVY, DARYL SABARA, AARON BURNS, KIRBY BLISS BLANTON, SKY FERREIRA, MAGDA APANOWICZ, NICOLAS MARTINEZ, RICHARD BURGI
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX