By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru
Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: The Green Inferno (2013)
Rating: *** (out of 5)
There is a trend in every subgenre of horror films – make one great one (or a handful of them), let the imitators roll in until the fad dies, and then the tribute films can roll in years later to possibly start the cycle over. We’ve seen it in slasher films, vampire films, and, as of late, zombie films. The zombie trend is particularly painful for a lot of horror fans because that was where we went for something truly gory and disturbing. Now we have teenage zombie rom coms. Thanks for ruining that, “The Walking Dead.”
The last subgenre we have to possibly make a comeback is the cannibal movie. Now, there are different kinds of cannibal movies. There’s the “we did this to survive” cannibal film, like the 1993 drama “Alive.” There’s the “black comedy” cannibal film, like the criminally underrated “Ravenous.” And then there’s the “should I even be watching this” type of cannibal movie, the most notable example being the 1980 (and I’m using this term loosely) “masterpiece,” “Cannibal Holocaust.” It is the latter example that sets the tone for what is either the beginning or end of the new dawn of the cannibal subgenre, “The Green Inferno.”
“The Green Inferno” is the story of Justine (Lorenza Izzo), a college freshman drawn into the world of campus social activism. Her cynical roommate, Kaycee (Sky Ferreira) mocks the campus social justice warriors and the causes they fight for, mostly because their protests interrupt her sleep. Justine becomes enamored with the group’s leader, Alejandro (Ariel Levy) and she is invited to one of their meetings. At the meeting, she is thrown out for making a joke, but she won’t let it go. Alejandro asks her what she is most passionate about and she answers “women’s rights in Africa.”
Alejandro convinces her to join the group and travel to Peru with him, his girlfriend Kara (Ignacia Allamand), and some of his followers to stop the bulldozing of a section of rainforest where an indigenous tribe lives. They make their way to the jungle and pose as workers, chaining themselves to equipment and using their phones to film the guerillas working with the loggers. The guerillas threaten to shoot Justine, but they are convinced to back off. The group is arrested but taken back to their plane to return home.
Before they can make it out of the jungle, their plane crashes and many of the group are killed, along with the two pilots. The survivors try to use their phones to signal for help, but the indigenous tribe they were trying to protect become their captors. At their village, it is made abundantly clear that the tribe has very specific plans for these outsiders – kill them one by one and eat them. With no technology and no way out, they must work together to make it out alive before they natives make them dinner. Literally.
“The Green Inferno” is easily the goofiest cannibal movie since…well…whatever the last cannibal movie I watched was (and it was probably Italian and made for little to no money). The film was directed and co-written by Eli Roth, a man who has just as many haters as he does fans. Roth is a man whose films are seeped in gore and a dark sense of humor. “The Green Inferno” is no different, yet for a film about people eating people in the jungle, it’s somehow not as visceral as his earlier stuff, “Cabin Fever” and the first two “Hostel” films.
This film has had a bumpy history. It was scheduled to be released in September of 2014 but one of the production companies involved had some major financial difficulties, forcing the film to be shelved until horror’s new golden boy, Jason Blum (“Paranormal Activity,” “The Purge”), came to the rescue. Not to mention the tone of the film drew the ire of the same online social justice warriors it was satirizing. (This also could have been part of the marketing campaign, but these days it is really hard to tell.)
“The Green Inferno” is both snarky and silly. At times, it is biting satire aimed at the culture of social activism run amok. The rest of the time it is a laughable film. However, this could be completely intentional. Roth is the ultimate horror nerd and is a huge fan of the Italian made cannibal films of the late 70s and early 80s. If anyone knows how silly those films are, it’s him. The problem is that if this is all tongue in cheek, the joke doesn’t work on those not steeped in decades of bad horror film knowledge. I could pick apart the bad performances, the clunky lines, the obvious special effects, but at the same time I feel like all of that is part of Roth’s ultimate endgame.
In the end, I don’t know if “The Green Inferno” is a new horror classic, or just a love letter to horror fans from one of the ultimate horror fans. Time will tell on this film. I don’t know if this film really work, but I can say I laughed through the entire thing and enjoyed myself immensely. As far as I’m concerned, nothing else really matters.
Follow John on Twitter: @TrapperJohn1210