Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #527
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: September 8, 2013 (TIFF), September 25, 2015 (United States)
Sub-Genre: Extreme Exploitation/Cannibal
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $8,900,000
Running Time: 100 minutes
Director: Eli Roth
Producers: Miguel Asensio, Molly Conners, Nicolás López, Eli Roth, Christopher Woodrow
Screenplay: Guillermo Amoedo, Eli Roth
Story: Eli Roth
Special Effects: Gregory Nicotero, Howard Berger, Ozzy Alvarez, Jonah Levy
Visual Effects: Rodrigo Rojas Echaiz
Cinematography: Antonio Quercia
Score: Manuel Riveiro
Editing: Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
Studios: Dragonfly Entertainment, Sobras International Pictures, Worldview Entertainment
Distributors: Blumhouse Tilt, Universal Pictures
Stars: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Nicolás Martinez, Sky Ferreira, Magda Apanowicz, Aaron Burns, Ignacia Allamand, Ramón Llao, Richard Burgi, Matías López, Antonieta Pari, Tatiana Panaifo, Percy Chumbe, Clara Vázquez, Eusebio Arenas, Sally Rose, Paul Norris, John Mark Allan
Suggested Audio Jukebox:
 Riz Ortolani Cannibal Holocaust
 Eli Roth & DJ Ashba Escape From The Green Inferno
Eli Roth is a filmmaker after my own heart. Never one to forget where much of his inspiration derives, he is hell-bent on making damn sure that we do the very same. While most directors would have been cut down to size by the way their work is misunderstood by the media, Roth isn’t particularly fazed by sticks and stones and rightly gauges his success by the response of his audiences themselves. He makes no odds that he is looking to court controversy and chooses projects that he knows will ruffle feathers. So when he pledged to pay homage to Ruggero Deodato’s notorious nasty, Cannibal Holocaust and supply it with a modern flavor, there seemed no safer pair of hands in the industry and certainly none so intent on getting dirty.
Roth’s love for the cannibal sub-genre is something he has never attempted to conceal and he even offered Deodato a cameo in Hostel Part II as a nod of relevance to one of his personal heroes. The title itself, The Green Inferno was actually the working title for Cannibal Holocaust, while Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox also provided inspiration. Conceived in 2013 and unveiled to shocked festival-goers worldwide, it has spent the last two years in distribution limbo and many of his faithful following feared that it would never actually see the light of day. If he was looking to make an impact then he certainly couldn’t have been disappointed by the bad press that it predictably received as films such as these thrive on that kind of vilification. Folk vacating auditoriums to vomit into their clutch bags is all well and good as, if there is one thing we know about sickness, then that would be that it spreads.
Cannibal Holocaust landed its director in hot water as he was forced to testify in court that his movie was not cleverly disguised snuff. Times have changed a lot since then and Roth hasn’t had to swear any oaths or perform head counts as a result of The Green Inferno. However, the first thing he did was to fly his cast and crew to the Amazonian rainforest and break bread with the natives as he had no intention of wussing out with faux foliage. This is what sets him apart from being some guy with a hard-on for old exploitation movies. He reaches in and grips a film’s bloody heart; finds out how it beats and then replicates accordingly. Other influences such as Werner Herzog or Terrence Malick don’t harm none, particularly with such a ripe green playground at his disposal and air miles still to cash.
“Don’t think. Act!”
Our journey starts deep in the concrete jungle as conscientious freshman Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is suckered into joining a group of young campus activists led by militant firestarter Alejandro (Ariel Levy), much to the displeasure of her cynical roommate Kaycee (Sky Ferreira). The group is preparing to take a trip to Peru in order to stop a deforestation company from destroying a village and grab themselves some media attention in the process. Despite her friend’s best attempts at dissuasion and the apprehension of her UN attorney father Charles (Richard Burgi), Justine signs up for the expedition and the hell raisers set off to make their stand. It is worth noting that none of the activists really give a shit about what is going on in the rain forest, they just want to appear to care. Time for mother nature to teach these punk ass bitches a lesson.
Roth bides his time in lining up the dominoes and the entire first act plays out on home soil before trading towering skyscrapers for the tall trees of the Peruvian rainforest and getting down to business. Indeed, anyone familiar with Roth’s previous work will already be aware of his patient approach as, just like Hostel and Aftershock (which he co-wrote), The Green Inferno is a tale of two halves. This affords us a little time bonding with the group and makes the first sucker punch that much more debilitating. No sooner have they touched down deep in the forest than they realize just how unwelcome they actually are and, after a close call run-in with the militia, Justine begins to question her involvement.
Things only grow more disheartening from there as they board their sponsor’s plane, only to find it tampered with, and en route for a crash landing right back in the thick of it. Roth’s steady approach up until this point ensures that we feel the brunt of disaster as numbers are instantly whittled down to a premium in one fell swoop. The shaken survivors are left up the creek without a paddle and deep in enemy territory, where the language barrier proves to be their undoing as the locals don’t take kindly to the intrusion. Boy, do they not take kindly to the intrusion. At around the 45 minute mark, The Green Inferno turns into an entirely different creature and the first sight of cannibalistic intent atop a rock altar is one which will cause many weaker stomachs to evacuate those garden salads in no uncertain terms. I kid you not, it is way beyond harrowing.
Caged like livestock, pending their public executions, true colors are shown and dignity quickly becomes a thing of the past. Bodily functions are shared with the group, including masturbation and bowel movements, as the locals watch on in amusement. It is here that the tagline from The Hills Have Eyes, “the lucky ones died first”, becomes very much applicable as it appears that “make them die slowly” is the tribe’s slogan. A dash of female genital mutilation is soon on the menu and, while Roth shows surprising restraint here, what you don’t witness is actually just as mortifying. Okay, perhaps not quite. However, it will have ladies clutching their labias like airport luggage.
What is genuinely affecting is the nonchalance of the tribe as they go about their daily routine. Instead of being portrayed as inherently evil, they gossip amongst themselves as they prepare each meal and don’t bat an eyelid as they strip flesh away from bone. To them this is par for the course as they are so detached from civilization that usual etiquette just doesn’t apply. With the lack of a bilingual spokesperson to clear up any confusion, the group are considered as white devil militia and treated accordingly. It is just their way of life and, for all of our best efforts to hold them accountable, in their minds it is just another day at the office. That makes appealing to their better nature totally fruitless and suddenly the enormity of the group’s plight is very much crystal.
Roth has no qualms with introducing a little dark humor to proceedings and uses it to lull us into a false sense of security before reaching for the jugular once more. It is clear that he isn’t intent solely on making a statement and also wants to ensure that his audience be entertained. This may ruffle the feathers of purists and, judging by the response from many critics, has been very much the case. Does it rival Cannibal Holocaust for social commentary? Perhaps not quite, but Roth certainly has something to say. He undoubtedly makes his point but does so in a way that is accessible for those searching solely for sick kicks and this is a tack which we should all be more than aware of by now.
Roth’s significant other Izzo and a number of her Aftershock co-stars return and our leading lady proves, once again, that she can carry the torch supremely well. Meanwhile, Nicolás Martínez, Aaron Burns, Daryl Sabara and Kirby Bliss Blanton make a mockery of the belief that Roth doesn’t know how to write likeable characters with notably affable turns and the rest of the urban meal tickets are no less committed. Ramón Llao and Antonieta Pari are both formidable as the village head hunter and elder respectively and the tribe themselves are entirely authentic. Roth worked closely with the villagers to ensure that they were truly involved in the process and even went as far as to arrange a screening of Cannibal Holocaust which went down a treat. Consequently, they thought it was a delightful spoof. Gulp!
Films such as these are destined to split opinion and that has very much been the case with The Green Inferno. However, this is a Roth film first and foremost, and a cannibal film second so you should be aware of what you are letting yourselves in for prior to engagement. It is an affectionate nod to the kind of films he grew up with and he updates that winning formula decidedly well. It may lack the same kind of emotional clout of the films that inspired it but one scene alone will remain with me until my dying day and, its 100 often harrowing minutes, I have no intention of asking for back. Will it be enough to convince that I convert to vegan? Don’t be ridiculous, my growling stomach would never hear of such blasphemy. But Peru is no longer the holiday hotspot it once was.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Eyes are gouged, tongues severed, limbs chopped, heads carved off, and that is all within five desperately unsettling minutes. Despite this visual likely providing waking nightmares for the foreseeable, it is the accompanying high-pitched scream that will haunt my nightmares perpetually. Aside from that, Roth practices admirable restraint (dagnabbit) although the stellar FX work of Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger and team is put to a variety of uses. Which reminds me, the next time I am offered a visit to the cockpit during a long-haul flight, I’ll be passing thank you very much.
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2015