Film Review: ‘The Green Inferno’

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Courtesy of the Toronto Film Festival

Eli Roth's cannibal-movie homage hits theaters a full two years after its fest premiere, and wasn't worth the wait.

For anyone who thought the “Hostel” movies were a barrel of laughs but needed more cannibalism and less cultural sensitivity, helmer Eli Roth is finally back in theaters with “The Green Inferno.” This dopey homage to an infamously unappetizing subgenre of grindhouse filmmaking made its festival debut back in 2013 and endured an aborted release attempt last year — apt delays for a project that boasts all the appeal (and aroma) of a carcass rotting in the rainforest. Ultimately unleashed as the first wide release from Blumhouse’s BH Tilt imprint, “Inferno” eked out a modest opening weekend on its way toward cult-item obscurity.

In a way, the prolonged path to theaters works to Roth’s advantage. He’s been absent from the director’s chair since 2007’s underperforming “Hostel II,” and “Inferno” would’ve made for an entirely anti-climactic comeback if not for the imminent arrival of his follow-up, the Keanu Reeves starrer “Knock Knock,” which made the festival rounds earlier this year and hits theaters in just two weeks. Arguably Roth’s most mature movie to date, “Knock Knock” makes “Inferno” look even more like the nadir of an unapologetically lowbrow resume.

Both pics share the same leading lady, Chilean model and actress Lorenza Izzo, who wed Roth in real life last year. (The mind boggles at what point during filming that particular romantic spark was lit.) In “Inferno,” Izzo plays college freshman Justine, the daughter of a United Nations lawyer (Richard Burgi) who wants to make her own mark fighting injustice in the world.

Fired up after a lecture on female genital mutilation and more than a little attracted to alluring campus rabble-rouser Alejandro (Ariel Levy), Justine dismisses the advice of sardonic roommate Kaycee (singer Sky Ferreira, seemingly auditioning for Tim Burton) and signs up for Alejandro’s protest in the Amazon rainforest. In what may be intended as meta-foreshadowing of the literal torture to come, this excruciating setup takes roughly a half-hour to get through and is filled with bon mots like Kaycee telling Justine “Activism’s so f—ing gay” before she boards a plane bound for Peru.

It’s not until after Alejandro’s protest appears to succeed and the self-satisfied gang crash in the jungle on their return trip that Roth arrives at his raison d’etre. We’re at the film’s halfway point when the cannibal tribe finally bare their teeth and one of Justine’s new pals becomes a light snack as his horrified cohorts look on from their communal cage. The village elder (Antonieta Pari, physically striking in a role tailor-made to inspire exceptional Halloween costumes) delights in plucking out eyes and tearing out a tongue, before the victim is torn limb from limb and stuffed into an outdoor oven for everyone to enjoy.

This stomach-churning imagery — extreme enough to make one question the R rating — sets expectations the rest of the film can’t quite deliver on, and gorehounds may wind up disappointed that “The Green Inferno” ultimately isn’t as transgressive as Roth’s “Hostel”-fueled reputation might promise.

Instead, auds are in for relatively perfunctory throat-slittings and survival shenanigans, laced with a hearty helping of juvenile humor. Between one of the captives experiencing a bout of explosive diarrhea and another formulating a plan to get their captors high by stuffing a corpse with a bag of weed, it seems as if Roth was as inspired by Cheech and Chong as he was by Ruggero Deodato (whose notorious “Cannibal Holocaust” provides “The Green Inferno” with its title — the exact same as found-footage forerunner “Cannibal’s” film-within-a-film).

By utilizing stunning practical locations and actual members of Peru’s Callanayacu tribe to play the cannibals, Roth gives the film a veneer of authenticity that belies the trashy banality of his script. At least the eye-popping locales (perfect backdrops for a friendly eye-gouging) allow his creative collaborators — including d.p. Antonio Quercia and production designer Marichi Palacios — the opportunity to strut their stuff.

A queasy sense of xenophobia is de rigueur in a genre noted for its bad taste, and although Roth doesn’t exactly avoid that tradition, his obvious contempt for the American interlopers (mostly portrayed as one-dimensional irritants by the undistinguished ensemble) overrides the lack of meaningful characterizations for the indigenous players. When it comes to young people eager to change the world, Roth appears to be validating Kaycee’s point of view. But empty cynicism isn’t a substitute for well-reasoned critique, and Roth winds up looking more clueless than the so-called “social justice warriors” he’s trying to satirize.

Film Review: 'The Green Inferno'

Reviewed online, Los Angeles, Sept. 25, 2015. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 100 MIN.

Production

A High Top Releasing release, presented with BH Tilt, in association with Worldview Entertainment and Open Road Films, of a Dragonfly Entertainment and Sobras Intl. Pictures production. Produced by Christopher Woodrow, Molly Conners, Eli Roth, Miguel Asensio Llamas, Nicolas Lopez. Executive producers, Maria Cestone, Sarah Johnson Redlich, Hoyt David Morgan, Jason Blum, Michael Joe. Co­-producers, Amanda Bowers, Gustavo Sanchez, Michael Romero.

Crew

Directed by Eli Roth. Screenplay, Roth, Guillermo Amoedo; story, Roth. Camera (color, HD), Antonio Quercia; editor, Ernesto Diaz; music, Manuel Riveiro; music supervisor, Sokio; production designer, Marichi Palacios; art director, Fernando Ale; costume designer, Elisa Hormazabal; sound (Dolby Digital), Mauricio Molina; re-recording mixer, Molina; special makeup effects, Gregory Nicotero, Howard Berger; special effects, Patricio Aguilar, Chiloe Cine; visual effects supervisor, Rodrigo Rojas Echaiz; visual effects, Sobras Digital; stunt coordinators, Wernher Shurman, Jose Luy; line producer, Miguel Asensio Llamas; assistant directors, Pablo Atienza, Chepo Sepulveda; second unit director/second unit camera, Aaron Burns; casting, Kelly Martin Wagner, Dominika Posseren, Moira Miller.

With

Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Sky Ferreira, Magda Apanowicz, Nicolas Martinez, Aaron Burns, Ignacia Allamand, Richard Burgi, Ramon Llao, Antonieta Pari, Matias Lopez. (English, Spanish, Quechua dialogue)

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  1. David E says:

    A complete steaming pile of excrement. This movie doesn’t deserve an eloquent critique. Awful acting, painfully slow plot, utterly stupid parts like the diarrhea scene, and ridiculous gore in the cannibal scenes. Putrid film.

  2. Paul Kersey says:

    I really liked the movie.
    Reminded me of the time I went to Ghana. Not going to say what activist group I was with, but they were attempting to teach AIDS awareness via interpretive dance.

    What I found out was:
    -Everyone of the dancers and group leaders were hard core drug addicts
    -Nobody in Ghana cared for our interpretive dance
    AND…..
    -The group leaders and dancers were having lots of crazy orgies and unprotected sex with the locals.
    A bunch of two face hypocrites!

    Watching this movie was a riot and the gore was very realistic.
    The plane crash was one of the worst I’ve seen.

  3. Ade says:

    An utter pile of discharge. I love bad horror films but this is just awful.

  4. Sal U. Lloyd says:

    The Hostel movies were culturally sensitive???

    I smell a guy who says: “don’t travel abroad.” Funny, he married a Chilean actress! Maybe he just online dated abroad???

  5. The ending says all anyone needs to know about leftist culture. Roth is brilliant!

    • Rogue says:

      Yea left us
      Wandering what’s up wid
      Yet another inaccurate depiction of an ancient cannibalistic tribe!
      I was wandering if John Wayne was gunna rock on in wid a well now here pilgrims!!! But who’s ta say if even those depictions of American tribes we’re or were not accurate right?
      Right left!!!

    • wiles11 says:

      Yeah, “brilliant” like an irritating teenager who just figured something like that out.

  6. Bill B. says:

    Sounds hideous, but knowing me I’m sure I’ll take a peak at least some day in the future.

  7. Tel... says:

    I’m not sure what Roth was attempting to accomplish…I’ve already seen Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox.

    I mean…I get how Roth’s part of a clique with Tarantino that essentially watch 70’s “grindhouse” features then go off and “pay homage” to them…but it’s kind of stale and predictable at this point. Rather than take a cue from braver filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro they take the lazy route and just riff on earlier films that they believe have “cool” and hipster cred. It’s become fan faction at this point..and i”m not being complimentary in using that term.

  8. Dharma Monk says:

    Eli roth follows the footsteps of italian diector Ruggero Deodato’s incredibly realistic movie Cannibal Holocaust. This movie is the ever first to exploit “the found footage format” for marketing purposes. And it really worked well..

  9. Mike Jones says:

    “auds”? Did you mean odds?

    • wiles11 says:

      No, dummy, he meant “auds” just as Variety has used it for decades. Seriously, does ANYONE do any research about ANYTHING before shouting off their smarmy mouths these days? It’s so sickening when ignoramuses think they’ve cleverly “busted” a writer or publication over a grammar issue when in fact they’re WRONG, which only makes them look so woefully lazy.

    • Ben Radtke says:

      you noticed that too? Thats the moment I stopped taking this review seriously. You can’t crap on Roth for pandering to a hipster crowd then try to use “auds” in the same piece.

      • rick says:

        I also could’ve done without all the un needed pretentious french phrases. Bon mots, raison d’etre, de rigueur. It doesn’t make you sound wordly or intelligent, it makes you sound like a pretentious ass.

      • wiles11 says:

        Yes, shame on Variety for using a term they’ve used since the FRIGGIN’ SILENT ERA. You’re a knob.

    • cadavra says:

      Variety-speak for “audiences.”

  10. Luis Garza says:

    Saw the movie and I honestly didn’t like it. It was so boring it was not even funny. Like the whole concept was played out and irritating to say the least. The whole getting tricked to go to this trip, the woman gets to escape by getting helped by one of the tribe members, the bad guy getting left behind. We’ve seen it all before and I honestly just want my time and money back lol

    • Mike Jones says:

      Ahhh, okay. Thank you so much for the clarification! Cheers!

      • Kudos! says:

        Yes, thanks so much for clearing up for me how the film plays out and ends before I’ve had a chance to see it. In the first comment, even!
        So glad you got to be bored for me. Also, “Rosebud” is Kane’s sled. So, if anyone hasn’t seen that one yet, you can thank me for experiencing one of the greatest endings in film for you!

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