I’ve always found Eli Roth’s films to be mixed bags. GREEN INFERNO is by far his best picture, but as in most of his other films his limitations as a dialogue writer are foregrounded too often, albeit thankfully to nowhere near the extent they were in the RZA’s execrable vanity project MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. His character development skills, however, show unexpected signs of refinement during his six year absence from the director’s seat.
In particular, Roth’s take on environmental activists — all of the main characters in Green Inferno are self-serious, latte-drinking “save the rain forest” university types who infiltrate a clear-cutting operation deep in the Amazon jungle and chain themselves to the logging machinery in order to protest “corporate greed” via satellite linkup with their iPhones — cuts effectively deep for a filmmaker not usually given to social criticism.
Most criticism that could be leveled at the film’s dialogue and subtext, however, is irrelevant since the drawing card for horror buffs will without question be the exotic, “dangerous” location (which promises enough stories for multiple gory sequels, according to Roth), and the copious scenes of torture, dismemberment and cannibalism that ensue when the protagonists’ plane — possibly due to sabotage, it’s later implied — crashes into the forest on the return trip home (the opening protest mission is entirely self-contained, and actually successful, or so it seems at first). Enter the natives — reportedly played by an authentic Chilean tribe, albeit one not prone to dining on human flesh — and the feasting begins.
The grisly makeup effects are by a team led by legends Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger (who aren’t credited at IMDb as of this writing, but ARE listed in the opening credits of the film), and they certainly deliver, particularly the squishy, screaming dismemberment that sets the ball rolling. As far as cannibal movies go, the special effects in GREEN INFERNO are certainly the most elaborate to date, but considering the most notable (and notorious) run of this genre happened thirty years ago, that probably goes without saying.
Manuel Riveiro’s full orchestral lends the film an appropriately ominous sense of portent — especially when it accompanies sweeping flyover shots of dense jungle — and a feeling of scope and import that belies the fact that GREEN INFERNO is ultimately a throwback/valentine to the works of Ruggerio Deodato and Umberto Lenzi, almost to the letter, in particular Lenzi’s CANNIBAL FEROX (aka MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY). Speaking of those two, Roth’s film is actually dedicated to Deodato, and the credits list most if not all of the films in this sub-genre that one should probably see or at least be aware of going in or coming out. At TIFF, Roth claimed this list (along with numerous tweet handles in the final roll) was simply a great way to insert some marketing magic directly into the film itself, but one could also read it as a preemptive strike against critics (and fans) who might realize just how shamelessly he treads familiar ground with this show and attempt to dock points for it. Mind you, if enough future audience members haven’t seen any of the late 70’s or early 80’s Italian cannibal pictures — and let’s face it, a whole new generation or two probably doesn’t even know they exist — that might bode well for this picture, especially via DVD/streaming, as there’s nothing like experiencing a dedicated cannibal movie for the first time, and with a strong stomach. It’s also now very likely that some of GREEN INFERNO’s predecessors will get fancy new Blu-ray re-releases thanks to the existence of this film. So there’s that.
As for gratuitous skin — always a component of the originals — Roth treats us to more of Daryl Sabara’s junk than most viewers probably ever thought they’d care to see, for what that’s worth, while for the likely-to-be-predominantly-male demographic of this type of picture, Loranna Izzo spends a fair portion of the final act bounding through the rain forest in a skimpy little muslin jungle bikini (and — SPOILER AHEAD!! — appears oh-so-briefly topless during her FGM “preparation” scene), while she and a couple of the other actresses have fleeting moments sans pants getting “examined” by the tribe’s cataracted, jaundice-skinned resident witch doctor and gynecologist. Such as it is, the skin quotient — when it’s not being ripped and chopped apart, and cooked and eaten, at least — is more or less on par with the original films. Thankfully Roth and company avoid scenes of animal cruelty (even faked) altogether, so those who uncomfortably recall such unpleasantness from the Deodato/Lenzi films can rest easy; it’s only the humans who get eaten this time out.
Finally, a dangling subplot involving one character will undoubtedly serve as the foundation of the just-announced sequel, which reportedly begins production almost immediately. To be honest, I’d almost forgotten about this character until the drive home, which was probably the point all along.
Rating – 2.5/5
Review by Coolestmovies