The Green Inferno (2013) Content Warning: Bad Language, Extreme Violence, Disturbing Themes, Nudity
The Green Inferno (2013)
Directed by Eli Roth
Starring Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton
A group of student activists travels to the Amazon to save the rain forest and soon discover that they are not alone, and that no good deed goes unpunished.
IMDb Rating: 5.4
The Green Inferno – Warning Time!
For those of a sensitive disposition, I can assure you that this movie isn’t for you. You might like to read my Note on Movie Musings. Being quite the horror fan, nastiness in film rarely bothers me. It may, however, bother others who visit this site for other categories such as Carer Thoughts.
With the warning’s out of the way, let’s get to it.
You Know What We Haven’t Seen Enough Of? Cannibal Movies!
That’s what I imagine director Eli Roth said when pitching this to investors. The Green Inferno is an updated take on the cycle of Italian-cannibal films that enjoyed some measure of success in the 70s and 80s. In particular, The Green Inferno pays homage to two specific movies. Ruggero Deodato’s infamous video nasty, Cannibal Holocaust, and the slightly less notorious Cannibal Ferox from Umberto Lenzi.
The Green Inferno uses the similar plot device of Western encroachment into the lands of primitive tribes. It updates the premise to the modern issue of construction companies trying to pillage natural resources and the removal of the tribal communities that stand in the way. Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is an idealistic college freshman, who having viewed images of female genital mutilation during a class becomes interested in social activism.
Idealistic Teens Are So Easily Led
She joins up with a group led by Alejandro (Ariel Levy) who plans an expedition into the Peruvian Amazon to prevent logging companies using a private militia to eliminate an ancient tribe. Alejandro is a little lax on some of the details, such as the possibility of being shot. He also keeps some iffy company, revealing that the expedition is funded by drug-dealer Carlos (Matías López). When he mentions “good omens” on the boat ride to the construction site, the characters should realise they have made some poor life choices.
It isn’t long before Justine has a gun pointed at her head by a militiaman, but is saved by Alejandro streaming the confrontation on the Internet and revealing Justine’s father works for the United Nations. Justine figures that Alejandro deliberately used her for her connections, and is understandably pissed off.
While the group celebrate on the plane ride back, Justine is miserable. However, she doesn’t have long to sulk because the engine blows up and the plane crashes into the Amazon. At this point, the very tribe the group aimed to protect show up and take the survivors captive.
Welcome to the Jungle
After meeting with the tribe’s elders, and not understanding a damn thing that is going on, the remaining group are left in no doubt that things will go badly for them. One member is brutally killed in front of them, before being cooked and prepared for dinner. At this point, Alejandro reveals that the entire expedition was a publicity stunt and a fucking waste of time. He also apparently believes that there’s no harm in acting like a complete prick from this point onwards. Whether that’s having a wank while a member of the group sits dead in the makeshift prison, or callously preventing escape attempts to ensure he’s not eaten next.
And so it goes. The survivors of the group are slowly whittled down. Limbs are ripped off. Flesh is torn. People are cooked and eaten. Eyes are gouged. Bones are broken. And to top it off, the nosey village elders perform a virgin test to see whose genitals they’re going to mutilate. Lovely.
The Green Inferno is a strange one. If you’re a fan of those old, often-schlocky cannibal movies, you shouldn’t really dislike this. The high production values may seem strange, and it isn’t quite as powerful as Cannibal Holocaust. It’s certainly no worse than Ferox, Eaten Alive or Deep River Savages, though. Yet, somehow I can see this not resonating particularly well. There are some weak attempts at juvenile humour which seem misplaced in a film like this. For example, the entire concept of getting the natives high to facilitate escape is pulled straight out of a stoned brainstorming session.
At the same time, this film lacks the no-holds-barred sensibilities of the films to which it pays homage. I have to confess, I find it refreshing that rape was not used to emphasise the primitive and savage tendencies of the natives, nor to justify their actions towards the Western invaders. But what we’re left with is a film about naive do-gooders being savagely slaughtered by an ancient tribe. And okay, there’s a reason given for the hostility of the tribe, but it’s near-impossible to sympathise with them.
Thus in the end, while being no worse than the majority of its forebearers, it’s no better. I’m sure you could argue there’s some social commentary on the real motivations of grassroots protest groups. It’s not enough, though. The Green Inferno is an exercise in brutality. And perhaps because it’s no better than what came before, it’s not that shocking. There’s a handful of uncomfortable scenes. A little bit of effective tension is built. Mostly, though, it’s slaughter, and that just isn’t enough.