Having initially been screened in mid-2014 and finding a US theatrical release six months ago, this one feels like it’s been in limbo, taking forever to slowly creep its way towards our shores. Sitting down at the weekend to finally view a film I had worked up some tiny measure of interest in three years ago, it’s not hard to see why this has been sat on the self for so long.
Eli Roth is, to his credit, a man not afraid to shock, but he’s also a man who dabbles with crass and offensive stereotypes in the dubious name of satire. As with his Hostel double-bill, there’s a sense that Roth is attempting something approaching socio-political commentary in The Green Inferno, but it’s a clouded message that gets lost among the inane screams and perfunctory gore.
Taking its title from the film-within-a-film in Cannibal Holocaust (itself a reference to Holocaust’s working title), The Green Inferno seeks to breathe fresh air into the cannibal sub-genre that has mercifully remained dormant since its 80’s heyday. Lorenzo Izzo stars as Justine, the naive daughter of a UN official, who joins a troop of tree-hugging eco-warriors on a mission into the Amazon rainforest to thwart a logging company’s plans to displace an indigenous tribe. Following a partial success, the group is on its way home when their plane crashes into the jungle leaving them stranded and at the mercy of the very tribe they were attempting to protect. No prizes for guessing that the tribe turns out to be a merciless bunch of cannibals with a penchant for slow-roasting their victims. Justine is imprisoned in a bamboo cell with what’s left of her party of activists as they squabble, literally shit themselves and await their grisly fate.
When Ruggero Deodato made Cannibal Holocaust in 1979, you couldn’t help admire the fact that, beyond the puerile, exploitative sexual violence and unforgiveable animal cruelty, was a film that took a wry look at the various taboos of disparate societies and skewered Western hypocrisy. With The Green Inferno, you suspect that Eli Roth is attempting to satirise something, you’re just never sure you know, or he knows, quite what. Focus of much of Roth’s early attention is the questionable practice of female genital mutilation. Something against which Roth’s character’s initially rally but are then seemingly pacified (Justine’s UN delegate father explains that one cannot simply trample over other people’s traditions). By the second half of the movie any discourse on the procedure seems to have dried up though and you suspect it was little more than a signpost for a final act torture scene that you know and dread is coming. Perhaps much of the problem is that Roth seems to hate all of his characters. The militantly leftwing students are self-satisfied, smug and duplicitous to a man, while the indigenous tribe seems to exist only for the purpose of carving out intestines. The characters are painted with such broad strokes that Roth’s imagination seems to be that of the most jaded cynic.
Most of this would be of little consequence if at least the thing looked good. Alas, the blood and guts bonanza of the disembowelling and eye gouging looks faintly ridiculous, not helped by frenetic camera work and hyperactive editing. Remember that Deodato was called into Italian court to prove that his work was not a genuine snuff film, so horrendous was the level of detail. As limbs are liberated from torsos in The Green Inferno, the whole thing looks faintly amateurish. A shame too that Roth spoke of wanting this to look as much like a Werner Herzog or Terrence Malick movie as a piece of Italian schlock. Roth went to all the trouble of shooting in location in the jungles of Chile and Peru and yet, with its stilted sense of staginess, you really don’t feel the benefit.
Nothing in the way of special features on the DVD release barring a commentary. Aaron Burns discusses watching an Al Qaeda beheading video to accurately capture the noise of a man being sliced apart, which pretty much sums up the level of class on show.
Horror | USA, 2013 | 18 | Entertainment One | 22nd February 2016 (UK) | Dir.Eli Roth | Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns |Buy:The Green Inferno [DVD]