It’s been a long time coming but I finally got to see Eli Roth’s return to cinema after a 7 year hiatus, in the form of The Green Inferno. Struggling for distribution since its festival release in 2013, trailers, images and video clips have been released in such abundance that I felt like I had seen the film before I had actually seen it.
Based on a film within the notoriously violent film, “Cannibal Holocaust” (one that was taken to court to prove it was not a snuff film) The Green Inferno serves as homage to the splattery exploitation B-movies of the 1980s. Roth, known more widely for his work on the gruesome Hostel I & II, has attempted to pull out all the stops in Green Inferno, but ultimately falls way short of anything remotely scary.
I’ve always made clear with horror that fear is subjective and as a result, I can appreciate that some may find this type of horror scary. If seeing people’s eyes gauged out, bad CGI and the occasional knife wound creeps you out then you would have every right to be scared. Similarly, horror buffs may find more to like in this, no doubt noticing the subtle references to other films of the same nature, and perhaps unsatisfied with the Roth’s previous “torture-porn” outings. In spite of all of that, I just didn’t find it entertaining.
The plot is simple, and essentially takes the “Rainforest Schmainforest” episode of South Park, and ramps it up a notch combining traits of I Spit On Your Grave and Cannibal Ferox. For those who haven’t seen any of those, The Green Inferno involves a bunch of activists going into the rainforest to protect an endangered tribe, only to hopefully return to their middle-class privileged lives with a new sense of self-worth. In South Park, the kids don’t want to go and it’s all the funnier for it. In Green Inferno, it goes to the other end of the spectrum; these activists absolutely want to be there, and the sense of self-importance and smugness is more nauseating than the upcoming violence on-screen.
After what feels like an eternity of nonsensical dialogue, finally the tribe capture the activists, and it turns out they love eating people! From here on out, it’s a relatively formulaic affair with more laughable than genuinely horrific moments, as our motley crew of social justice warriors are tormented and tortured in a variety of ways. The violence depicted is convincing to an extent, set to a backdrop of a beautiful environment, the juxtaposition of pain and pleasure is well used. Yet it feels too polished, too predictable, and part of the appeal of the films it pays tribute to was their believability, yet here we have characters that are just parodies of themselves.
With over the top acting, violence that does not live up to the hype and a plot with so much foreshadowing you may as well just watch the first 10 minutes, the horrific nature of this well-hyped film failed to meet expectation. The Green Inferno appears to have become caught up in skewering the perceived stereotypical self-entitlement and arrogance of an activist, depicting yet again why Roth believes Americans in foreign countries leads to bad things, and lost the focus on what made these movies great in the first place; authenticity and fear.