Friday, 12 August 2016

The Green Inferno (2015)

The Green Inferno harks back to the Italian cannibal films of the 1970s but lacks the truly disturbing edge of the likes of Cannibal Holocaust, as well as their grimy underground feel. In addition the misjudged tone and annoying characters blunt any satirical edge.

Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is a college student and daughter of a UN lawyer. After going to a lecture on female genital mutilation, and meeting hunky rabble-rouser Alejandro, she agrees to sign up his protest trip to take a gang of do-gooders to halt a logging company and their paramilitary security in the Amazon rainforest. It looks like their protest is a success, but after their plane crashes on the return trip, the protesters soon realise that the people they are trying to save would rather have them for dinner.

To his credit, Roth has made a mostly well-structured film in terms of plot, and there are also some brilliant set pieces, not least the plane crash, which is every bit as stomach churning as any gut munching scene.

While the most of the characters exist in order to be bumped off, Roth takes time introduce some tension in the group, particularly through Justine, who finds to her disgust that the crusaders are happy to put her life at risk without asking, banking on her daddy's reputation to avoid her getting killed.

The film also brings the cannibal genre into the twenty first century. For a start, the idea of Westerners flying into a foreign country uninvited with good aims, only to have the natives turn on them still seems topical. The narcissistic campaigners seem as obsessed with getting their work noticed on the internet or planning their next tattoo as with any good they are doing. However Roth seems to lack any ideas as to where to go beyond this, and the constant sneering at the mostly unlikeable characters becomes tiresome, not helped by misjudged scenes about drugs and diarrhoea.

The lush photography is wonderful and is a throwback to more highbrow 70s films such as Herzog's Aguirre, Wrath of God. The cannibals, while portrayed by a real South American tribe, are never shown to be more than obviously outrageous caricatures so I found it hard to get as offended I might have done if I thought Roth was trying to portray anything realistic. But for all the nods to more lowbrow Grindhouse cinema of the same decade like this, The Green Inferno lacks two important elements from these films.

Firstly is unsimulated animal cruelty, something that makes the likes of Cannibal Holocaust uncomfortable viewing even in these jaded times. Incidentally, it is something that Holocaust director Ruggero Deodato seems to regret, having recently completed a special cut of the film that eliminates nearly all of the animal footage, while keeping, it should be noted, nearly all of the human cruelty. Similarly, the focus in The Green Inferno is on the grim and gory fates that befall the cast.

The second hinges on the viewing experience itself. I watched The Green Inferno on a plasma screen TV from a DVD I had bought in a supermarket. I first saw Cannibal Holocaust on a grimy, wonky, third generation dubbed VHS (on a double bill with Cannibal Ferox), borrowed from someone at school who had bought it from an ad in the back of a horror movie mag, with the sound turned down so my parents wouldn’t hear it. Every aspect of this reinforced the feeling that I was watching something truly underground and transgressive, (which also distracted from the problems with the film). Without being able to capture these elements The Green Inferno becomes ultimately, just another horror film.

Eli Roth's The Green Inferno - Official Trailer by FanReviews