The Green Inferno  is the latest entry to Director Eli Roth’s increasingly gruesome catalog, recently acquiring a North American wide release after 2 years on the festival circuit. The film follows Justine (Lorenza Izzo), who, along with a group of college activists, helmed by the “crazy and charismatic” Alejandro (Ariel Levy) as Justine’s doubtful roommate describes him, venture into the Amazon to protest an industrialist project. But when their plane crashes on the way back home the students are forced to survive the very jungle they helped saved, and escape from the very cannibalistic tribe they unknowingly helped protect.
#SavetheAmazon. Distancing itself from Roth’s more traditional slaughterhouse pictures (Cabin Fever, Hostel) The Green Inferno, an evident nod to Ruggero Deodato’sCannibal Holocaust, is just as much a criticism of contemporary activism as it is a grotesque grindhouse massacre. From Kaycee, Justine’s angst-filled best friend of a roommate played by Sky Ferreira, claiming hunger strikes are merely an excuse for wannarexics to watching the evident degrading and bloodying of these students’ #SavetheAmazon t-shirts to Alejandro wielding an iPhone, shouting “these are our weapons!” before trekking into the jungle without means of actual protection – Roth applies consistent criticism of negligent ‘slacktivism’. Thankfully, the writer/director didn’t spread himself too thin, as Roth gently included a handful of moments nodding LGBT, marijuana, and feminist rights without losing focus on both it being a critique as well as an entertaining film.
This ain’t Christmas. Stepping out of the grindhouse, Roth and cinematographer Antonio Quercia gawk at the lush emerald of the rainforest against the cardinal body paint of the natives. And so do we, for Quercia crafts several memorable frames – none of which, however, come close to the claustrophobic swarm of crimson hands molesting and enveloping the students as they’re paraded through the settlement. But the contrast transcends aesthetics, instead working thematically to illustrate nature’s capacity for both life and death. Roth, along with Co-Writer Guillermo Amoedo, fill the script and screen with tonnes of imperialism; We see these natives laugh, dance, sing, joke and prank just like us within a culture that is beaming with art, music and food. It just so happens the latter bit is human.
Fueling its own fire. For as much as it’s concerned with questioning the infliction of our own values onto these people, The Green Inferno shamelessly contradicts itself. Rather than spend time painting the natives as a unique culture, save for 2-dozen quick cuts of laughing, singing, and a single ritual, the film thrives off of the horrendous deaths of these students. Yet, by the third killing we still don’t learn anything new about the culture – the types of Gods they worship, the hierarchy of power, annual celebrations – instead justifiably fearing them before we’re told we’re imperialists for feeling such a way by Justine’s jarring metamorphosis. At times, though, the unpredictability of the tribe works effectively as a means of organic suspense; the lack of a means of communication and the killing ritual did a commendable job at keeping me rigid in my seat.
Scared straight. Unfortunately, the same praise can’t be reserved for the cardboard acting of the opening 45-minute slog. Making matters worse, Roth’s directing of conversations are nearly as sickening as the various tribal tortures, frantically cutting to uninspired one-shots of whoever is talking even if the speaker prior said a single sentence. It’s almost as if none of the actors in a single first act scene we’re available for one shoot together. The cast thankfully becomes more bearable once fear is the sole emotion they’re assigned to convey, for Roth adapts the script to limit the number of conversations whilst exploiting the amount of terror.
Leaving the grindhouse opened up a visual feast, but homesickness cut the meaningful journey short.