Considered a tribute to “Cannibal Holocaust” and exploitation films of the 70s/80s, Eli Roth’s film actually plays more like a knock-off version of its influences than a worthy update.
Following in the footsteps of the subgenre, as well as Roth’s own oeuvre, “The Green Inferno” follows a group of naive college kids as they travel to the Amazon with ambitions of saving the world.
They have a plan to stop evil Peruvian militias from destroying the rain forest and displacing/murdering the natives, and even though this proves to be a successful operation, their plane crashes on the way back, and the terror begins.
The rest of the film is a horror show in which our group of protagonists are imprisoned by a cannibalistic tribe, and one by one, the Americans are systematically maimed, cooked, and eaten amongst the villagers. While the gore is certainly there, Roth simply doesn’t take things as far as he should.
“The Green Inferno” doesn’t fully commit to the carnage. It’s all inherently grisly and horrific, but anytime things get really hairy, you can count on a juvenile reminder that you’re watching the work of a not-so-great filmmaker.
There are so many frivolous, tone-altering moments that take the viewer right out of the action.
For example, while the protagonists are all awaiting their gruesome fates, one of them gets really bad diarrhoea, which makes the locals laugh. When confronted with the possibility of eating their friends, the very same girl claims she doesn’t want to because “she’s vegan.”
Later, their genius plan to escape involves shoving a bag of marijuana down the throat of one of the deceased so that when cooked, the villagers will all get stoned and become distracted.
It’s scenes like these that keep “The Green Inferno” from being the mock-gonzo horror masterpiece it so desperately wants to be. Eli Roth is not one to mask his ambition and actually said that he wanted to distance himself from “Cannibal Holocaust” and “do something that was much more like a Werner Herzog movie.”
In this case, actions speak louder than words, as “The Green Inferno” very much looks and feels like “Cannibal Holocaust.” Even the manner in which people die (aside from the cannibalism) is shockingly similar. Homage still requires a twinge of originality.
Squeamish viewers will likely consider the film among the most repulsive they have ever seen, but more seasoned horror vets will scoff at how few and far between sequences featuring bloodshed are.
The first victim’s death is appropriately visceral and hard to watch, but the rest of the carnage is played way too safe. Rather than one-up its predecessors, Roth pays homage in ways that actually water-down the material. Nobody wants to see a death by CGI-ants in this movie, nor do they want any blood and guts to spill off-screen, yet both of these things happen.
It doesn’t help that the plotting is too familiar and the characters far too archetypal for their interactions to add any value.
The “final girl” here isn’t atypical to the trope in any way and everything that happens to her can be seen from a mile away. Her entire trajectory is made clear from the very opening sequence in which she’s in a college course being lectured on female genital mutilation. When a film is this easy to peg down, it’s hard to be that moved by it.
One element that actually works fairly well is the film’s indictment of “Social Justice Warriors” and “Facebook Activism,” or the idea that these college-aged kids are so willing to put themselves in danger for a vague cause just to rack up recognition on social media.
The film posits that these acts are more selfish than helpful, as they’re all really there to take selfies and look like a saint amongst their friends back home. This adds some relevance and satirical commentary, but it’s not enough to do all the heavy lifting.
“The Green Inferno” features a premise so genuinely terrifying that it’s extra disappointing when the film doesn’t quite live up to it. It’s a fine entry in the cannibal movie canon, but not the transcendent experience fans were promised.
Watch the trailer below.
“The Green Inferno” opens in limited release Friday, September 25th.
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