Can you make a tasteful horror movie about cannibals? Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno is proof that you can. In case you’re not familiar with his work, he’s the guy behind the East European nightmare that is Hostel. Here, he’s doing an homage to all those cannibal movies of the early eighties like Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox. All of them are taking place in exotic and remote jungles of South America which we will revisit here. They are mesmerizingly beautiful with lush vegetation and stunning vistas.
So, what do I mean when I say tasteful horror movie about cannibals? Well, it means that there won’t be that many gross-out scenes or realistic gore. A trademark of the above-mentioned movies complete with the casual slaughter of animals. They were really pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable back then. This in turn influenced many young filmmakers like Roth. Just to be clear, I don’t know what are your thoughts on what’s too much or too little gore. Depending on that, The Green Inferno could be a disturbing experience for you. However, I think that we need to push ourselves sometimes. To watch movies we wouldn’t necessarily check out otherwise.
Justine just got to her college campus when she noticed a group of activists protesting against a petrochemical company. Led by charismatic Alejandro and his girlfriend, they are trying to save the Amazon rainforest from further destruction. Justine joins them and soon they find themselves on the way to Peru, escalating their efforts to stop the bad guys. What will happen there will be far from what they envisioned.
The Green Inferno is not a perfect movie and it feels like it’s been distilled too many times. I can clearly see what they were trying to do with the lengthy exposition in the first part of the movie and the compressed horrors of the second. First, you get to know the characters well so you could feel something when they end up in the oven. Actually, that first part was surprisingly engaging and they could have just continued in the same fashion. It feels like we’re watching a very exciting adventure vlog from Peru.
This relatively sudden shift, we all knew was coming, makes it feel a bit uneven. Like it can’t decide on the tone and general direction. On the other hand, the sheer strength of the concepts explored binds it into an acceptable form. There are also a couple of strange moments that feel out of place and there just for the shock value. Also, the general plot is quite formulaic. This leaves a lot of room for thinking about what’s going and what would you do in the same situation. There are a lot of powerful concepts in play here. I’m not sure they were quite going for them but they’re here nonetheless. Oh and I just want to say fuck Rio Tinto and all the other companies that exploit the nature for profits.
For example, The Green Inferno prompted me to think about the whole isolated tribes’ thing. Actually, this was a source of huge controversy because Survival International heavily criticized the movie. Mostly for reinforcing colonialism and neocolonialism. What are we to do with the indigenous tribes living not only in South America but also in Asia and Africa? Leave them the fuck alone is an appropriate response I think. On the other hand, do we have the moral obligation to step in advance of their lives? What about all the issues that go on in their communities? We always have this vision of a “pure and just” primitive society living peaceful lives. However, history teaches us that oftentimes there’s a lot of violence and unnecessary suffering present there.
Of course, I’m not talking about the whole cannibalism issue here as that’s just what sparked the initial discussion. Instances of such behavior are quite rare in today’s world. Actually, more often you hear that people who got stranded somewhere turned to cannibalism in order to survive. The cast is pretty solid with Lorenza Izzo as Justine stealing the show. Her performance here was very committed and believable. Although the rest of the cast of The Green Inferno was also great considering the conditions they were filming in. And they were filming deep in the Amazonian jungle surrounded by all kinds of dangerous insects and animals. Not to mention yellow fever and all the other exotic diseases lurking from every corner.
Speaking of the cast, I must commend the indigenous cast. An entire village wanted to be in the movie after asking them if they would be willing to appear on camera. The only problem was they didn’t know what a movie was! Eventually, after seeing Cannibal Holocaust they were ready to begin shooting. They gave the movie a very authentic vibe and increased its replay value. When I set out to write this review, I thought it’s going to be short and to the point. As you can read, it turned out into something else and I’m hoping that this movie will engage you the way it did me. If you’re looking for something similar, I recommend you check out The Mountain of the Cannibal God. It’s not a horror but more of an adventure movie with a couple fucked up scenes. Enjoy.