Review: The Green Inferno

A group of student activists travels to the Amazon to save the rain forest and soon discover that they are not alone, and that no good deed goes unpunished.

There’s nothing like a nice gory cannibal film to get you going on a Friday morning at Frightfest and that’s exactly the experience I was hoping for at last year’s festival but in reality there wasn’t that much gore to be had. Eli Roth’s fourth feature-length film as director sees him drop a host of college students into a Peruvian rainforest on a quest to help an endangered tribe against a corrupt construction company. Young charismatic woman Justine finds herself roped into the action and unfortunately lured as bait against the company. All goes to plan and as far as the students know they’ve won the battle. Enjoying their success on the journey back their plane takes an unfortunate turn and crashes into the jungle. The survivor’s find themselves captured by the very tribe they went there to protect and they just happen to be a clan of rather hungry cannibals.

The film builds nicely and the swooping shots of the beautiful rainforest are breath-taking. The characters are well-developed and you can tell there’s a decent script here but unfortunately the film tends to suffer from, well a lack of blood and guts to be quite honest. This is not what you expect from a master of horror like Eli Roth. There is one scene half way through where the excitement finally kicks in and we know we are back in a Hostel type scenario, but then it never quite reaches that level again. Instead the tension peters out along with the survivors and it all just becomes a little boring. Not to mention the disappointing third act that sees the director making a very obvious underlying message about human rights and the economy that makes it all seem rather ridiculous and a tiny bit pretentious.

To hand it to the film there are some decent scenes where we are on the edge of our seats and it is indeed quite uncomfortable at times. However this just isn’t really enough coming from the man who bought us such horror delights as Cabin Fever and Hostel. Ross is starting to resemble a director whose early career exceeds his more recent work. The film does look good and is well acted but perhaps this is one director who simply peaked too early?

Eli Roth’s Green Inferno didn’t exactly stumble out of the starting blocks last year as much as face plant. It had a badly received screening at Edinburgh Film Festival, lost its distribution, and promotional focus was shifted to the Green Inferno App Game instead of the film it was intended to promote. Quietly, on a Friday last summer the screening planned before all this happened was held at FrightFest before it all went dark regarding the film. Green Inferno opens on a college campus and introduces the ‘American’ characters planning to head to the rainforest, all are given a back story and a little character development, but all are instantly forgettable.

For a while I was struggling to see what had caused the poor reaction… It wasn’t that bad at all (was nowhere near the worst of Frightfest2014). The film opened strong enough, following college students into the amazon to stop/protest deforestation & save the natives – before actually meeting the deranged natives. As the film enters the village and the first twist occurs (the situation we have all been waiting for) the film seems to hit its stride as the endangered natives turn against the group. Then something rather unexpected happened while it holds the fate of the group (and it’s audiences expectations) in its sweaty little hands. It drops the ball, trips over its shoe laces and promptly starts running in a circles while reverting to a mix of weed, poo and wanking jokes for the next 20 minutes. It just pulled the rug out from under everything it had set up.

Granted the film managed to regain itself a little towards the end, but at no point did it really manage to deliver what it had promised. It all felt a little muted in what it was trying, unsure if it should try to be the gore fest we would have expected from the director of Hostel, or a film going for cheap laughs and toilet humour. The real highlight of the film is the village and the cast of natives, who are all genuine.

Green Inferno isn’t totally dire, but it isn’t anywhere as good as it could be, and certainly isn’t as good as it SHOULD be considering Roth’s previous outings in the directors chair.

‘The Green Inferno’ has languished so long in cinematic purgatory that what was originally slated to be the ‘Hostel’ director’s comeback film was eventually overtaken by the twisted, funny, effective ‘Knock Knock’. Now finally afforded a cinematic release, ‘Inferno’ feels pallid by comparison, a tonal muddle of a film that never really finds its voice, and lands well wide of the mark of the Deodato homage it aspires to be.

Anyone familiar with Roth’s other work will have a good idea of how the opening third of the film plays out; characters are introduced and time is allowed for the audience to invest in them a little. While it’s a noble pursuit, and one that’s sadly lacking from all too many big releases in the horror genre, the real problem here is that the majority of the main characters here are desperately unlikable and fairly difficult to muster up much enthusiasm for. Here, our protagonists are a group of student activists whose campaigning takes them to the Amazon. In an admittedly spectacular and impressively visceral sequence, their plane goes down under explosive circumstances, and they’re soon taken prisoner by a cannibalistic tribe. The film documents their attempts to escape from the village, and the various bloody encounters they endure along the way.

Widely regarded as Roth’s love letter to Ruggero Deodato and landmark found-footage shocker ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, this is a film that’s altogether too clean-looking to ever threaten to get under your skin in any significant way. Beyond some admittedly impressive gore (the film’s first isolated kill, for instance, is undeniably squirm-inducing) this all just feels a little too safe too much of the time. A key problem here is that too much of this is played for laughs. A baffling preponderance of toilet humour prevails in the film’s middle act, and as a result the horrors that lie in between these moments exist as just that: isolated shocks that don’t ever contribute to any kind of cumulative effect. Throw in a maddeningly convoluted ending that exists only to leave the door open for a sequel and what you’re left with is a horror that’s sporadically gory but never scary, occasionally funny but never hilarious, and ultimately just lacking a little in character.

I must admit, I was excited about this one as I’m a fan of Roths work, and The Green Inferno had such promise.  I heard a lot about it before the screening, and was obviously thrilled at the Cannibal Holocaust comparison (although now that seems like a bit of a weak link.  That’s what happens when so few cannibal films are made).  It’s such a shame that I didn’t enjoy this more than I did.

It’s got a strong start, setting the scene nicely up in this bitch (you’ll get that later – line of the year, ammaright Mitch?), beginning with a well executed plane crash scene, which seemed to genuinely impress all.  Then followed some legitimately scary, skin crawling action when the kids meet the villagers.  This is where it lost me.  What should have been a terrifying turn of events, drawing on our primal fears, quickly became a college frat house comedy.  Stoner jokes, in which the villagers get off their noggin and start eating flesh – really – cannibal munchies.  Fart jokes and crap jokes (actual faeces, not just poorly written puns – though I think it had those too), where one of the kids takes a dump outside a cage, which could have been accompanied by a WOMP WOMP WOOOOOMP. NO! THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! How DARE you lure me in with promises of terror and give me TOILET HUMOUR! HOW DARE YOU!!!

Look, I get it, this is what Eli is about, but the plot sounded too good to be anything less than a serious, played for straight horror.  The pre-release shots alone looked amazing, and gave no impression that there was going to be over the top humour. The ‘jokes’ completely overshadowed any effect that the deaths could have mustered and, because of this, I just didn’t care if their intestines were eaten for breakfast.

Looking back, I maybe need to watch it again, going in with a different mind-set.  Maybe I need to expect more of a Cabin Fever vibe.  There’s already a sequel planned for 2018, so maybe knowing what I know now, I might enjoy that more.  Anyway – 2 stars, that seems fair.

The Green Inferno is out on DVD on 22nd of February 2016




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