The Green Inferno: Eli Roth's Near Miss
Dir. Eli Roth (2013)
A group of college activists travel to an remote jungle to save a local indigenous tribe from slaughter at the hands of evil land developers. When their plane goes down on the way home, they immediately regret their decision upon meeting the locals.
I've been excited to see The Green Inferno since I first heard about it in 2012. I'm a huge fan of the original (Cannibal Holocaust, for those who don't know; TGI is basically a remake of that horror staple), and I enjoy Eli Roth's movies in general, so I was super excited to check this out. Cabin Fever was excellent, and a great addition to the gorehound's library. I loved Hostel, both in idea and execution. The concept itself was horrifying to me, and I spent many hours thinking about the possible realism of the plot. Roth almost singlehandedly proved to the world that shock horror was not dead, and that the spirits of Lucio Fulci and Herschel Gordon Lewis were alive and well. The Green Inferno promised more of the same, and a return to Roth's disgusting roots. It unfortunately does not fully deliver on this promise.
This film is essentially a biting commentary on the Social Justice Warrior movement, where activists want to feel like they're making a difference because it makes them feel better, not because it actually helps the world around them. Roth's critique? If you want to make a difference, be prepared to get eaten. The message itself resonates well with fans of the genre, I would think, but the movie quickly goes downhill. There were certainly some uncomfortable moments, and there was some decent gore, but it didn't hold the same shock value as his earlier outings. There were no slit Achilles' tendon scenes (Hostel), no slow skin peels (Cabin Fever), only a slow, relatively monotonous movie about college kids getting eaten. I did enjoy his juxtaposition of the kids' mounting fears with the everyday life of the cannibalistic tribe. Roth shows us that while this is the worst moment in these kids' lives, this is a Tuesday for the tribe (or some other day of the week, I don't know that it was Tuesday). Kids wander around, laughing at their prey, stealing food off the table before they're allowed. There is a complete family dynamic amongst the tribespeople, and this is shown as much as anything else. It's these kinds of narratives that a good cannibal movie has to show, because the terrifying thing about cannibals is that they're just like you and me, they just have a different diet. The humanizing of the tribe was by far my favorite part of the movie, not to mention the fact that there are pigs and cows inside the tribal camp, lending to the absolute non-necessity of all of the horror. The kids' deaths are needless; there's no reason the tribe can't subsist on the animals they're already raising for food. It's this pointless sacrifice of human life that makes the plot truly horrific; if the tribespeople are eating people out of a necessity, it's just a part of life, the same way we'd eat anything else. If they do it solely because they choose to... well that's a whole different ball of wax.
Comedy in a horror movie, when done right, brings a little bit of relief from the horror. It helps to pace the action, and can lead to shocking scenes that the viewer isn't expecting because of the emotional rollercoaster they're on. The Green Inferno did not do this well. There were comedic scenes, or what you feel are supposed to be comedic scenes, such as the leader of the activists masturbating in their cage because it "helps him think clearly." and one of the kids having explosive diarrhea (which the cannibal kids find funny, I found less so). They're really out of place, and sort of forced onto the viewer in an attempt to lighten the mood. I get that Roth was attempting to make us hate this one particular gentleman, and mission accomplished I suppose, but it was handled rather poorly. There's also a scene where the captives attempt to get the tribe guards high so that they can escape, by slipping some marijuana into their friend's dead body and giving the tribe the world's largest pot cookie. As we all know, however, weed tends to give you the munchies. Not a good thing when you're trying to distract someone from eating you. Interesting take, sure, but a sort of an oafish attempt at making a complete unfunny situation humorous.
They're douchey kids, we get that. That's explained in the first twenty minutes of the movie. Within the first hour, we see that this group of activists is more than willing to sacrifice the life of their newcomer to prove a point, to further the cause, which is actually a legitimate critique of the SJW movement; that they care as long as they don't have to personally sacrifice. Once this is established, however, we can leave it be and move on to the gore, of which there is surprisingly little given the subject matter and the director's proclivities. You watch a movie like Inferno to see unrelenting, unapologetic, and unrepentant gore. You don't watch it for the storytelling (which was practically nonexistent), you don't watch it for the scenery (which actually was beautiful, that much is true). You watch it to see people being slowly dismembered, tortured, and ultimately eaten. While we do get a little taste (pun intended) of this, this was simply not what should be expected of an Eli Roth movie. I love that he supports horror, he's a wonderful benefactor for the genre as a whole, and his produced movies are generally very good. But he's fallen away from his forte. He's lost that loving feeling for body parts. Did Eli Roth lose his mojo shortly after Cabin Fever? Did he use up all of his remaining magic on Hostel?
Bottom Line: I love Eli Roth and what he brings to the genre of horror as whole, but this movie didn't go far enough. Believe it or not, he should've made it more bloody, more intense. I was left feeling just ok about this movie, and there was nothing special. It was no Cannibal Holocaust, and it really, really should've been. 5 out of 10 stars.