WHAT’S ON THE MENU: One of last year’s most polarizing releases, The Green Inferno is Eli Roth‘s homage to the notorious Italian cannibal flicks of the late 70’s and early 80’s. In fact, “The Green Inferno” was the original working title for what is perhaps the best known of these films, 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust. Here’s the official synopsis:
New York college student Justine (Lorenza Izzo) meets student activist Alejandro (Ariel Levy) when he goes on a hunger strike on behalf of underpaid janitors. Smitten, she agrees to help Alejandro undertake his next project: rescuing an Amazon village from destruction by a greedy multinational corporation. But Justine soon comes to regret her decision when their plane crashes in the Peruvian jungle and the students realize they are not alone. No good deed goes unpunished as the well-meaning students are captured by the cannibalistic tribe they came to save.
The Green Inferno is the first feature film to be directed by Roth since Hostel: Part II. In addition to Izzo and Levy, it also stars Aaron Burns (The Stranger, Best Worst Friends), Daryl Sabara (John Carter, Spy Kids), and Kirby Bliss Blanton (Project X, Candy From Strangers). The screenplay is by Roth and Guillermo Amoedo (Knock Knock, Aftershock).
BLUNDERS/GAFFS: Some stupendously heavy-handed foreshadowing (on first boarding the plane, one character gobbles a sedative and actually says “Small planes make me nervous. I feel like we’re gonna crash.” A street vendor hacks at a tropical melon, glowering menacingly. Nearly everyone tells Izzo’s character Justine to be safe, that Peru is a “dangerous country,” that the jungle is treacherous, that she’s crazy to go on such a risky trip with a group of people she just met. SUBTLE.) Roth and Amoedo’s screenplay takes some equally hamfisted swipes at well-meaning but hopelessly naive social justice warriors. Even the lead character’s name, Justine – just one character removed from “justice” – is clumsily on-the-nose.
And there are some howling non sequiturs. After a well-staged, terrifying crash that decimates their party and leaves the remaining survivors battered and bleeding, Alejandro shouts “Is everyone OK?” Um, no dude. Not even close.
EVALUATION: It makes an attempt, at least, to build sympathy for the main character, Justine. In fact, we don’t even arrive at the jungle until a good 40 minutes into the film, by which time we’ve learned a great deal – maybe too much – about the group. But the characters are stereotypes, and the performances are uneven, at best. Sky Ferrera is simply awful as Izzo’s annoying roommate. There is some fine aerial photography, not only of the titular jungle but also of Peruvian cityscapes and roadways. In fact, the cinematography is good to very good throughout, and thank the horror gods Roth and Amoedo didn’t opt for a “found footage” approach. Most genre fans will be able to pick out the many call-outs and influences, but in the end they serve chiefly to make you long for those other, better films.
One puzzling thing about this Blu-ray release (out today) is its claim to be a “director’s cut.” In an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit a few months back, Eli Roth denied the existence of any cut other than the theatrical version. Unsurprisingly, he also had some lengthy negotiations with the MPAA to secure an R rating:
I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to work with the MPAA. Nobody sees it from where I’m sitting but all around the world they hack horror movies to pieces, only in the US do they really try to protect the integrity of the film and work with you. We had many long discussions about The Green Inferno but ultimately I was very happy with where we wound up. There’s no director’s cut, this is it. Everywhere else in the world it’s a government censorship board and they never protect violent movies because they want to be re-elected. In the US we have the MPAA which is a self-policing body and they’re all movie lovers and understand what my audience wants to see. Their job is to help make a movie acceptable for theaters but also to warn parents about what’s in it. We may disagree at times but we always have a reasonable discussion about it, not even an appeal. We just get on the phone and talk it out – no one else in the world does that. Everywhere else they just cut it and say take it or don’t release it.