UK Release: 12 February
Director: Eli Roth
Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Sky Ferreira
Taking its name from the film within the film in Ruggero Deodato’s brutal 1980 picture, Cannibal Holocaust, The Green Inferno is Eli Roth’s latest, provocative sideswipe at modern America, viewed through the somewhat distorting prism of a schlocky horror movie.
The Green Inferno opens with a beautiful shot of the Amazonian forest, which is quickly ruptured by large machinery that’s destroying trees and presumably decimating the wildlife. All this is witnessed by indigenous tribes members who watch on from within the forest. Roth, who wrote the film with Guillermo Amoedo, is laying his cards on the table from the outset, introducing us to one of the themes that will dominate the film. And he quickly introduces another, connected theme. A strong criticism of a particular brand of social activism.
We are introduced to the lead character in The Green Inferno, Justine (Lorenza Izzo), on a campus in New York, where she is slowly becoming more and more interested in social activism, thanks to a lecture on female circumcision and the fact that she finds the head of a local activist group kind of dreamy. Justine, who happens to also be the daughter of an attorney of the United Nations, is recruited into this group and heads off to Peru to, you guessed it, save the Amazonian forests and the indigenous people who live there.
Justine and many other members of the group head into Peru pretty clueless as to the situation and what they’re doing but they’re armed with camera phones, a sense of self righteousness about affecting change and the instruction from the group’s leader that, “You must shame them!” This appears to work at first, albeit with a few slight hiccups, but the group’s plane soon crashes over the forest, they are captured by the tribespeople and one by one plucked out of a cage and eaten. All in a rather amusingly mater-of-fact but thoroughly gruesome manner.
With Hostel in 2005 Eli Roth took a chainsaw to the idea of American exceptionalism that was on the rise at the time and with The Green Inferno he takes a hatchet to another modern issue he sees spreading through college campuses – slacktivism. Whilst his weapon may be a little blunt here – a lack of subtlety and nuance to his argument occasionally makes the film unintentionally amusing – and some misjudged humour and cheap-looking production will throw some right out of the film, The Green Inferno is for the most part a thrillingly provocative and often very effective film.
Marketing for The Green Inferno has suggested a terrifying and brutal experience for anyone settling down to watch the film and whilst it does have more than its fair share of blood and violence it’s nowhere near as relentlessly gory as you may have been led to believe. Roth may have been inspired by the likes of Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox but there’s a lot more lightness to be found in The Green Inferno than in either of those films. Roth’s savagery lies not in the gore in The Green Inferno but in his message.
And whilst this message is not one that everyone will agree with – I’m not entirely on board with all the ideas Roth is putting forth here and the film is racially problematic, to say the least – but it’s always thrilling to see a horror movie that’s actually about something and one made by a filmmaker not afraid to provoke and to make his audience think.
Review by Craig Skinner