In 1980, Italian filmmakers released the notoriously graphic horror film “Cannibal Holocaust.” Its release plunged the director and writers into a tumultuous year of obscenity and murder charges, as well as various international bans on the film itself. Since then, it has become a type of cult classic for anyone looking for the most extreme types of gross-out gore within the horror genre. Inspired by this film and those like it, “The Green Inferno,” directed by Eli Roth, can be seen as a kind of revival of the cannibal-horror subgenre. Originally set to release in 2014 following its premiere at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, “The Green Inferno” faced an aggressive uphill financial battle with distributor Open Road Films. Following a pick up by horror-led Blumhouse Productions, “The Green Inferno” was placed on limited release.
“The Green Inferno” tells the story of a group of student activists who travel to Peru to save an Amazon tribe from deforesters. However, while the activists “successfully” hold off plans to tear down the rainforest, a resulting plane crash proves to be anything but successful. What ensues is a series of bloody, anxiety-inducing on-screen deaths following encounters with a fictional, cannibalistic tribe deep in the “Green Inferno.”
For years, Roth has evoked images of bloodbath-style gore. With “The Green Inferno,” this trend stays. In its opening moments, a lot is left to yearn for. With the exception of star Lorenza Izzo and some minor characters, sour acting plagues the movie’s first scenes. However, once on the plane, the movie and its actors pick up in both pace and skill. Like so many horror films before it, the camerawork provided by Roth’s directorial prowess enhances the film. From the drop of the plane until the final moments outside of the jungle, the film works its best.
However, with awkward opening and closing scenes, the film seems like it knew where it wanted to go, but not how to get there or leave. This is a common problem in horror, and one that this film could not overcome. That’s a shame because the middle is gut-wrenchingly intense, and with the exception of one sillier moment where a member of the group gets sick, is heart achingly believable.
With multiple points of social commentary to be made, “The Green Inferno” misses the mark. On one hand, fighting against the millennial notion that privilege college students “need to help,” Roth’s film does a formidable job in showcasing that often people’s intentions are misplaced and that sometimes help is not needed or wanted. Regarding the cultural dehumanization of tribes untouched by civilization, “The Green Inferno” becomes a complicated film to judge positively. Surely the film and its stars do bring out and deconstruct many ridiculous standings of global heroism so prominent in American culture today, but in the process they also represent and stereotype tribal communities as less civilized.
Overall, even with controversies surrounding the film and its production, “The Green Inferno” is an edge-of-your-seat-gripping adventure. It’s anxiety-inducing plot paired with strong acting from lead Lorenza Izzo and intense camerawork that leave the film with plenty of mindless potential. What’s especially important for this movie in particular is to remind viewers that it is purely fictional. Like a fantasy, its look at tribal life is an over-the-top portrayal of the lives of a cannibalistic group in the rainforest. For those not intelligent enough to realize this, the resulting complications place heavy burdens on Roth and “The Green Inferno.” However, rational eyes and an understanding that what you are about to watch is going to turn your stomach, the gore-fest that is “The Green Inferno,” will be an exhilarating mess of a movie that knows exactly what it is.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5