By James Hancock September 25th, 2015
With Eli Roth’s love song to the cannibal horror sub-genre, The Green Inferno, I feel as if I should write two reviews, one for regular moviegoers and one for the small audience that knows and loves cannibal movies in particular Ruggero Deodato’s notorious, found-footage classic Cannibal Holocaust (1980). If you don’t like horror movies and don’t understand the appeal of spending time in a movie theater with a bunch of freaks who laugh and roar with approval when they see excessive gore, The Green Inferno is not for you. Or if you’re a SJW who pats themselves on the back for criticizing The Green Inferno for its lack of authenticity in its depiction of South American natives, the movie is not for you. There are several characters in the movie who fully embrace that superficial style of political activism and ***spoiler alert*** things do not end well for them, almost as if Eli Roth predicted their objections in advance and decided to throw the first punch. The only question that matters is if the movie works for the intended audience. The plot follows a group of well-intentioned activists who fly to South America to participate in a demonstration only to be captured and eaten by a tribe of cannibals who live in a remote area that the activists were trying to preserve. Speaking as a hardcore horror fan, even I’m willing to admit that there is no rational way to justify why horror fans dig this kind of material. In theory, enjoying a cannibal movie should be indefensible, and perhaps it is, but from the laughter and joy I heard in the theater tonight during scenes of unimaginable brutality, clearly the movie is working on some level. Eli Roth loves the obscure video nasties from the late 70s/early 80s and has done his best to deliver a wild ride in that spirit. But from my sympathetic perspective, I have to say that Eli Roth’s movie is only half successful. More fun than terrifying, I felt like I was watching a raunchy dark comedy. Each and every grotesque moment of the film was met with cheers and gleeful howls from the audience, clearly excited that the movie was delivering on raw shock value. Most in attendance seemed to be having a blast, but as a horror film, which on the surface this movie ostensibly is trying to be, I was left wanting a little bit more from the movie.
For the most rabid fans of cannibal horror movies, there are only but so many movies to choose from, movies like Cannibal Ferox (1981), nearly all of which are poorly made and originally distributed on grainy VHS cassettes. But as every horror fan from that era knows, in some cases the poor craftsmanship of the films lends a surprising realism that made exploitation movies like Cannibal Holocaust that much more effective. As Eli Roth once said in an interview, watching Cannibal Holocaust makes one feel as if people actually got killed making the movie. I discovered Cannibal Holocaust late in the game and still found it incredibly disturbing to watch (in a good way). The Green Inferno has a slick, polished visual aesthetic as well as a cast of gorgeous young stars, a fact that immediately sets up different expectations than I would have watching one of the low-budget films from which The Green Inferno draws its inspiration. With a super low-budget movie I’m happy to forgive a weak story, amateur acting, etc. as I wait for the movie to kick into high gear, but with an established filmmaker like Eli Roth, I expect something more. The Green Inferno structurally suffers from a lot of dead weight, particularly in the first half of the story. The star of the movie, Lorenza Izzo, gives the movie her all (Roth hired her again to star in his next film Knock Knock) and on the whole she does a solid job of carrying the movie as the cast begins to dwindle. ***spoiler alert*** But at the climax of the film, when she is subjected to an intricate female genital mutilation ritual, I was never actually frightened or anxious in any way. This is a movie where the gore is the feature attraction, something to look forward to, but after I’ve had my fill of this content, I need more of a compelling story to remain engaged over the long haul. I applaud Eli Roth for making this movie when he obviously knew how self-righteous online keyboard warriors would lash out predictably at his movie. Just the physical exertion alone to make this movie is impressive in its own right. And while I was thoroughly entertained by many of the extreme sequences in the movie, I’ll not likely be returning for seconds (pun very much intended) anytime soon. That said, I count myself as a fan of Eli Roth in general and I’ll be there opening day for his next film Knock Knock on October 9th.
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