Before I dig in, I want to put a couple of caveats out there. For one, I’m a huge Eli Roth fan, and have been greatly looking forward to this movie for years. I know some of you feel differently, so you should know where I’m coming from. Secondly, while I’ve seen a handful of the Italian cannibal films The Green Inferno is inspired by, I don’t consider myself an authority on them. The ones I’ve seen I haven’t watched in roughly a decade, save for Cannibal Holocaust (which I re-watched this week in preparation for The Green Inferno).
I’d like to see a detailed analysis of how The Green Inferno utilizes these films as inspiration and whatnot, but I’m sure we’ll get plenty of that on an eventual DVD commentary. I’d also be interested in how someone who has never seen any of these films views Roth’s film. Once you’ve seen some of them, you go in with a general expectation of what you’re going to see. The Green Inferno must be a true sight to see for someone who’s never dipped their toes in the waters of say Cannibal Holocaust or Cannibal Ferox.
The titular “Green Inferno” refers to the rainforest. It’s a term used in Cannibal Holocaust, and was even the title of another late 80s cannibal film, which ultimately got slapped with the “Cannibal Holocaust II” title for marketing purposes. I’ve yet to see that one, but Roth’s film does not appear to be a remake of that. Rather, it’s a remake of that entire sub-genre. More specifically, it’s just Roth’s contribution to it, and the first true contribution in many years.
While the films of the cannibal genre are viewed largely as exploitation, it is not uncommon to find social commentary among the nastiness. And these films do get very nasty. Roth’s film is no exception in either the commentary or nastiness departments. I’m not going to get too into the commentary or Roth’s intentions for it here. Plenty of other reviews are trying to pick that apart, and frankly I think some of them are kind of missing the mark. I’d suggest seeking out interviews with Roth about the film (of which there are many floating around) for a better idea about that.
I will say that said social commentary is a staple of many of the horror genre’s most memorable entries throughout history, and it does elevate The Green Inferno to something more than the gruesome violence it subjects its audience to…and oh how gruesome that violence is.
Chances are, you know the general gist of The Green Inferno by now, but just in case, it’s about a group of college students/activists who make their way to the jungle to stop some bulldozing, trend on Twitter, and make it to the front page of reddit. They’re rewarded for their efforts by a series of atrocities.
The star of the show (beyond the gorgeous setting itself and of course the cannibals) is Lorenza Izzo, whom you may know from other Roth-related projects such as Aftershock, Hemlock Grove, The Stranger, and the upcoming Knock, Knock. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but her performance is on point, and she has a number of scenes you won’t be forgetting after watching the film.
That’s not to take anything away from the rest of the cast, which is quite good in general, and includes some recognizable faces from previous Roth projects. You’ll find Nicolás Martínez (Aftershock), Richard Burgi (Hostel: Part II), Ariel Levy (Aftershock, The Stranger), Aaron Burns (Restaurant Dogs, The Stranger, Knock, Knock), Matías López (Aftershock), Ramón Llao (Aftershock), and Ignacia Allamand (Aftershock, Knock, Knock). Other notable cast members include singer Sky Ferreira (who also contributed a song), Kirby Bliss Blanton, Magda Apanowicz, and Daryl Sabara. And let’s not forget Antonieta Pari, who turns in a chilling performance as “The Elder,” and the cast of natives, who had (according to Roth) never even seen televisions before, let alone acted on film (they were introduced to Cannibal Holocaust).
The gore FX from Nicotero, Berger, and co. are top notch, which is to be expected, and the film’s use of wildlife add an extra layer of authenticity and dread. And no, you won’t see any butchering of real animals like in the old films.
Some characters in The Green Inferno are more developed than others, but Roth does spend plenty of time letting us get to know our cast. It’s very much an Eli Roth movie in that regard, though he did co-write it with Guillermo Amoedo with whom he also wrote Aftershock and Knock, Knock. We are invested in the story and the people involved before we get to watch them suffer.
I’d have to compare them all side by side to tell for sure, but this feels like Roth’s bloodiest film to date, which is saying a lot. There are some unexpected moments of levity, which may turn some off as they feel like Roth’s Troma roots showing through, but to certain sensibilities, these will be welcome additions to the film. Personally, I’m completely fine with Roth trading in the rape and real animal violence depicted in the film’s predecessors for dick and fart jokes, as outlandish as they may appear. Somehow, they keep the movie fun (on a gallows humor level), which is quite a feat for this type of film, as any viewer of the source material can attest to.
That’s not to say this is a comedy. It’s completely a horror movie. You just might find yourself grinning a few times if you’re not completely repulsed. Either way, this film will leave an impression on you – something that has become increasingly rare in theatrical release horror.
As a rabid fan of Roth’s work since first setting eyes on Cabin Fever in 2003, I can report that I am completely satisfied with his first feature directorial effort since 2007’s Hostel: Part II (which I should point out is one of my favorite films of this century so far). As far as I’m concerned, The Green Inferno is a welcome entry to the cannibal sub-genre and the horror genre at large, and I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Roth.
Go see this film in the theater while you have a chance. Support unflinching horror on the big screen. Hollywood execs are paying attention (especially with the unique release strategy being employed with The Green Inferno). Show them that you want your horror to have some edge.