Sunday, 7 February 2016


Of all video nasties out there, few have reached the notoriety of those in the cannibal sub-genre. Cannibal Ferox, The Mountain of the Cannibal God and, of course, Cannibal Holocaust, took on an almost mythical quality to tape collectors/horror fans here in the UK back during the Eighties.
So, considering the extreme nature of the original movies, it should come as no surprise to hear that modern master of gore and Grindhouse connoiseur, Eli Roth has resurrected the cannibal flick for today's audiences.
Could he hit the visceral depths of his predecessors?
Or would The Green Inferno leave a bad taste in my mouth?
Read on...


Dir: Eli Roth
Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Sky Ferreira, Magda Apanowicz, Nicolás Martínez, Aaron Burns, Ignacia Allamand, Ramón Llao, Richard Burgi, Matías López, Antonieta Pari

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

Justine (Izzo) is an idealistic young college student, a girl on the brink of womanhood who wants to find her place in the world.
She becomes interested in a group of activists, led by the charismatic and handsome Alejandro (Levy). Despite Alejandro's initial misgivings — and those of his possessive girlfriend Kara (Allamand) — she eventually gains access to the group and joins them in their plan to travel to the Amazon rainforest and stream footage of a logging crew to raise awareness of deforestation. As Justine's father is an attorney for the United Nations, Alejandro comes to view her as a valuable commodity.
The plan takes shape, and funded by co-conspirator Carlos, the group flies to Peru and heads into the heart of the jungle known as the Green Inferno. Upon reaching their destination, the group attempt to chain themselves to the trees in the loggers' path.
However, Justine's lock doesn't work and she narrowly avoids being shot by the militia that accompanies the loggers. It's not long before she realises that events were set up especially to put her risk, as Alejandro knew that any violence towards a UN attorney's daughter would undoubtedly see the group's misadventures go viral.
After being forceably removed from the area, a disillusioned Justine and her fellow activists are loaded back onto a small plane with Carlos to be flown back home.
However, there is a problem with the engine and the plane loses power, crashing into the heart of the jungle. As the battered and bruised students try to regain their bearings, they are subjected to a rain of arrows and poisoned darts.
Succumbing to the drug, Justine and her colleagues regain consciousness captive to a group of natives who have had no dealings with the outside world. Travelling along the river on a primitively boat to the tribe's village, Justine's nightmare is about to become far, far worse...

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Whenever I review a throwback film I find myself having to approach it from two angles: how does it compare with those movies to which it pays homage; and how does it stand as a movie in its own right?
The Green Inferno makes a pretty good fist of it on both counts. Roth (the man behind the gory smash Hostel series) is obviously a massive fan of cannibal flicks and his movie pays homage to them throughout. From a technical standpoint, The Green Inferno is head and shoulders above all the other films in the sub-genre. Most of these movies were made in excess of 30 years ago, for a fraction of the budget of Roth's flick and this is pretty obvious onscreen.
The production values really are quite fantastic, with polished visuals and rich, gorgeous cinematography from Antonio Quercia.
The sweltering, oppressive atmosphere of the teeming, dangerous jungle positively drips from the screen, making the Green Inferno itself a character in the movie.
That's not to say that the cast don't deliver some decent characters themselves.
Izzo is undoubtedly the star of the film and her character is given quite the arc. From wide-eyed naïveté to grim-faced avenger, by way of screaming victim, she runs the gamut of emotions and delivers admirably throughout. She's a good-looking girl with some serious acting chops, so I look forward to seeing more of her in the future.
Elsewhere the broodingly handsome Levy delivers the goods...
******** SPOILERS ******** as the erstwhile bad-guy of the piece. From as early as 1980's Cannibal Holocaust we have been encouraged to ask who is the true 'savage'. Sure the acts of the tribe are pretty horrific, but it is the callous, self-serving cruelty of Levy's Alejandro that really makes him stand out as the biggest bastard in the film ******** SPOILERS END ******** 
Levy knows exactly what the role requires of him and he delivers it in spades. He too is one to watch.
Among the supporting cast it was the work of the likeable duo of Ferreira (who sadly does not get anywhere near enough screentime) and Burns that most stands out. Each manages to keep their character interesting and entertaining — what more can you ask of your cast.
Earlier I mentioned The Green Inferno's production values, and one thing this vastly improved funding affords the movie that it's humble predecessors could only dream of, is a significant effects budget.
From the pulse-pounding crash landing sequence, through to a brutally graphic ritual sacrifice, the effects teams (including gore FX legend Gregory Nicotero) pull out all the stops. The bloodshed is shocking, the gore jaw-dropping and the digital effects seamlessly integrated into the movie.
Of course, as great as the effects and key cast are, it's the story that really sells a film.
Roth and longtime collaborator Guillermo Amoedo return to a common theme — what happens when privileged and affluent young Americans venture into the world beyond their comfort zone. In much the same way that the loutish teens of Cabin Fever and Hostel brought a shitstorm down upon themselves, or the smug hipsters of Nicolás López's Aftershock find themselves in a world beyond their comfort zone, the achingly narcissistic slacktivists of The Green Inferno are the sort of student union political posers that care as much about looking like they care and make a difference as they do about the actual subject that they claim means so much to them.
I'm, for all intents and purposes, a pretty privileged white guy, with a decent job in one of the world's largest and most affluent cities, but even I can't help but get a modicum of satisfaction at seeing this group of chino-wearing, pumpkin-latte sipping soapbox shouters face the truth about the issue with which they feel comfortable handing out cheaply produced leaflets. That's not to say they're a bad bunch (well, except for one) and Roth manages to walk the fine line of keeping most of our leads likeable, even while pointing out how ill-advised their actions are.
With a decent cast, some surprisingly, ahem, 'biting satire and some gorgeous visuals and horrifying gore, there's plenty to like here.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): First I want to address a major problem that many critics have pointed out with The Green Inferno, the offensive portrayal of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. It's true, there are no cannibalistic tribes in the rainforest, but as far as I'm aware, there are no special clubs for wealthy individuals to spend vast quantities of money to torture tourists to death in Slovakia either. This is a work of fiction, it is not meant to be a factual representation of the world. As such, I'm quite happy to let this depiction of a non-existent tribe slide.
Elsewhere, however, as much as I praised the main cast in The Green Inferno, sadly the characterisation in the script gives the supporting players very little to work with and the vast majority of the slacktivists fade into the background, eventually notable only for the gruesome manner in which they meet their grisly end. This is a shame as there should be some moments in the plot that hit with serious emotional weight (such as a key scene involving Blanton's Amy).
This is especially galling as we seem to be given an interminable amount of time with these characters before they hit the Green Inferno, yet that period mainly comprises of reiterating their political views over and over without giving us much cause to actually invest in most of them emotionally.
Another small misfire, as sadly can be the case with Roth at times, is an ill-advised attempt at juvenile humour in a couple of scenes. A frankly daft sub-plot in which the captured activists attempt to dope their captors by stuffing a large bag of cannabis into one of their deceased colleagues just leads to eye-rolling, while a disgusting joke about one of the group experiencing explosive diarrhoea in the small cage added nothing and robbed the film of some of its gravity.
Sadly, the one area in which I felt most let down was that, compared with the hardcore earlier movies in the cannibal subgenre, The Green Inferno is actually quite tame. There are a couple of decent graphic gore sequences, but it never feels as hard-hitting or stomach-churning as the likes of Cannibal Holocaust. It may seem unfair to compare Roth's film with Ruggero Deodata's notorious flesh-ripping opus, but let us not forget that Roth invites this invitation by naming it after the fictitious film-within-a-film in Cannibal Holocaust.
I think that the higher production values and more polished look of The Green Inferno, while delivering a better quality film, actually detract from the experience of the movie. The grimy, grainy, down-and-dirty feel of those original blood and guts cannibal flick is as much a part of the visceral viewing experience as the plot. By sanitising the visuals a little, it feels a lot like the subgenre itself is watered down. Add in some unnecessary (and not particularly well executed) humour and some pacing issues and, unfortunately, The Green Inferno does not come close to surpassing those movies to which it pays homage.

THE VERDICT: It may sound like I disliked The Green Inferno — this really is not the case, I merely feel a little disappointed that it didn't quite show enough bite to join the ranks of the cannibal classics. 
As a film in its own right, it's a fine and enjoyable piece of entertainment and one that I recommend to viewers with a hardened stomach. However, if you're a fan of the hard-hitting blood-soaked masterpieces of the genre, this one may leave you a little flat.
However, in closing, much like I said about the wonderful We Are Still Here and the works of Lucio Fulci, if Roth's film brings his influences to the attention of a new generation of horror fans, and causes those who might not have seen or heard of the works of Deodata, Lenzi and Martino, then he's done enough good with The Green Inferno to win my praise.
The Green Inferno will be released in UK cinemas, this friday, 12 February.
The dvd will be available from Amazon at the end of the month. Preorder it here.

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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