Director – Eli Roth
Cast – Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Magda Apanowicz, Sky Ferreira, Nicolas Martinez, Ignacia Allamand, Ramón Llao, Richard Burgi, Antonieta Pari
Release Year – 2015
Reviewed by John of the Dead
The Green Inferno is a film that came with a lot of hype. Completed in 2013, it sat on the shelf for two years until it was finally released to the masses. Much like the classic Italian cannibal films of its sub-genre, the flick was considered “too extreme” by many. Normally, such a label would be seen as a good thing by the gorehound fans, but then came its released date and mounds of negative reviews. I took my time getting to this, and I can say I was pleasantly surprised. This flick wasn’t was bad as I heard it would be. Sure it has its negatives, like risky acting and a conclusion nobody will enjoy, but its positives were what is most important in such a film: gore, and cannibalistic violence shot in full-frontal fashion. It excels where it needed to excel, and that is why I mostly enjoyed this “bad” film.
Lorenza Izzo (Aftershock, Knock Knock, Holidays, The Stranger) stars as Justine, a freshman college student who, after watching a documentary, feels the need to advocate against injustices. She joins a social justice group and agrees to travel with them to the rain forest to prevent deforestation by major corporations. This good deed becomes one that does not go unpunished when their plane crash-lands and leaves the activists face-to-face with a cannibalistic tribe.
I know I am not alone in saying I enjoy films/stories where do-gooders find themselves way in over their head. With the recent wave of “social justice warriors” taking over internet timelines, it was only right for the horror genre to include them in our mayhem. I applaud writer/director Eli Roth for using this modern day trend in a mashup with a sub-genre that was popularized in the 70s from across the pond. While I do not hate on those using their voice to stand up for perceived injustices, I sure did take joy in watching our leads regret their decision to meddle in affairs they are unprepared for.
Just like the cannibal films of decades past, there is quite a bit of development before the horror arrives. We follow Justine and her effort to do more for those who lack a voice. This interest leads her to a group lead by the charismatic and strong-willed Alejandro (Ariel Levy), who leads them on a trip to the rain forest where they will block workers of a conglomerate from tearing it down. Their plan works, and they receive the national attention they were hoping for. Of course, Murphy’s Law kicks in and their plane crash leaves them smack dab in the middle of headhunter territory. The crash is intense, and some of them don’t make it. For those that did survive, the worst is yet to come. At 40 minutes in, this is where the horror begins to manifest. After being captured by the indigenous tribe they are brought to their village, which is adorned human heads and corpses. The shock value here is enjoyably high. From here on out the horror grows at an insidious pace. The first cannibalistic scene occurs 51 minutes in, and it is a brutal one. Eli Roth plays on the viewer’s emotion by having this first gruesome torture scene occur to the one person you least want to see tortured. The horror is paced very well, with continuous violence occurring just about every 10 minutes. We see escape plans foil, and most importantly, we see social breakdown occur between the survivors. There are plenty of tense and brutal scenes for us to enjoy during the latter half of the film, but I really was disappointed with the film’s climax. In a sense, it is a shoutout to the climax in the classic Cannibal Ferox. At the same time, it kept the film from a strong finish. To top it off, the final scene before the credits seals the deal in leaving the viewer with a sour taste.
Roth’s direction played a big part in my enjoyment of this experience. Sure you are going to hear issues about the acting and cinematography (more on that later), but those are minor issues for a film like that. What matters most in a cannibal film is the gore, and Roth handled those scenes like a maestro. Adorned with practical effects from maestro Greg Nicotero (The Evil Dead, The Walking Dead), these scenes were shot in full-frontal fashion, leaving very little to the imagination. There are 17 on screen deaths, with the deaths of our protagonists serving as the most gruesome. As far as the cinematography goes, I was impressed with what I learned about the filming process. Because of the rain and humidity the crew was forced to rely on a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 7D for some of the scenes. This was because the cinema lenses were not weather proof so they had to use weatherproof photo lenses, which required the Canons. Learning this reminded me of the type of film-making I enjoy. Low-budget efforts always force you to get more creative, and I was glad to see that the film’s budget went to the issues that really mattered – the incredible gore scenes.
Overall, The Green Inferno isn’t the amazing film I had hoped for when I first heard of it years ago, but it definitely is not as bad as many others made it out to be – so long as you watch it for the type of film it is. It has its negatives, but the positives left me enjoying it overall.