The Green Inferno

Year: 2015
Production Co: Worldview Entertainment
Director: Eli Roth
Producer: Eli Roth
Writer: Eli Roth
Cast: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Daryl Sabara, Nicolás Martínez, Aron Burns

Hallmarks of the movement The Green Inferno is an homage to are shoddy scripting and acting, so it's hard to understand why the sub-par script and acting in this film seem not to belong.

Would it be a better movie if the acting and writing were top notch? Maybe, but that might only remove it too far from the genre origins it's so lovingly referencing.

What genre origins are those, you might ask? If you don't know anything about the zombie/cannibal exploitation movies of the late 70s and early 80s, tread carefully – and with a strong stomach and/or constitution.

The films of the movement, mostly by Italian directors, usually involved privileged white environmental activists or researchers penetrating the jungles, stumbling onto a primitive tribe and discovering just how wrong they were about cannibalism being a thing of the past.

Presented as serious dramatic horror films, they're known for scenes of abhorrent sexual violence, exploitative nudity, outrageous gore, animal cruelty and other taboos they leered over with sickening delight.

In Roth's modern update, the privileged American kids are a group who intend to stage an attention grabbing protest to stop logging in the Amazon jungle, and sweet college girl Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is convinced to join them. It's partly the white suburban guilt at how easy her life is that sees her join, but it's also to impress the band's handsome South American leader, Alejandro (Ariel Levy).

After a lot of warnings and pep talks, the group makes their way to the site of the logging by plane and boat and even though Justine ends up with a gun to her head, screaming for mercy and wondering if the others would have sacrificed her life for the stunt, the mission is a success.

But the nightmare is just beginning as their plane crashes in the jungle, miles from anywhere. The survivors have no sooner dragged themselves from the wreckage – dazed and trying to decide what to do next – when natives emerge from the trees, knocking them all unconscious with poison darts.

Taken to a village deep in the jungle, their captors at first just seem kindly and curious, however scary the experience is. After being examined by an elaborately dressed woman who seems to be the tribal chieftain, they're locked in a bamboo enclosure to wonder what fate awaits them.

The proverbial hits the fan fast. Laying Jonah  (Aaron Burns) out on a stone slab where it looks like they're going to tend his wounds, the chieftain instead gouges out his eyes and his tongue, eats them, and then steps back as her minions hack off his limbs and head.

While his screaming and terrified colleagues watch, Aaron's torso is stuffed with herbs and carried to a giant smokehouse, the same place they're apparently all intended for.

It's a race against time to think of an escape plan as the kids' numbers are depleted, alliances and betrayals between them rising and falling according to how desperate they are.

The gore is the selling point of The Green Inferno, but honestly it's no worse than any of the torture porn films that have conquered the box office over the last decade. In this day and age you want your film passed by the MPAA and released, not banned to finally make some money decades later like the work of Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust) or Umberto Lenzi (Cannibal Ferox), so the camera turns away before things get too nauseating, not quite having the courage of its convictions.

The reason the acting and script don't quite sit right might be because from the opening credits seemingly floating in space high above the rainforest canopy, casting shadows of the words onto the treetops, everything about The Green Inferno seems as slickly produced as any good horror film.

It probably wasn't Roth's intention to sacrifice quality as a way of making the movie more like those trashy old classics, but when the actors and writing let the whole thing down, they just don't seem to fit the aesthetic.

The slickness also means it's dead serious in its approach. Those old movies were usually so poorly staged, shot and edited they became unintentional comedies.

The Green Inferno, with more modern technical filmmaking standards, has no laughs... until it does. There's one laugh out loud gag involving the natives eating a body the kids have stuffed full of marijuana and getting the munchies so bad they set upon another guy like a pizza in the middle of a frat party. Even though it will make you burst into laughter, it stands out like a hacked off stump.

Roth's referencing the cinema movement he loves so much, the title of the film was actually the working title of Cannibal Holocaust, his favourite movie. You can see the love of the genre in every scene, it just needed a better script delivered by better performers to really hang together and make The Green Inferno everything it was aiming for.

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