REVIEW: THE GREEN INFERNO / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: ELI ROTH / SCREENPLAY: ELI ROTH, GUILLERMO AMOEDO / STARRING: LORENZA IZZO, ARIEL LEVY, AARON BURNS, DARYL SABARA, KIRBY BLISS BLANTON, MAGDA APANOWICZ, RICHARD BURGI / UK RELEASE DATE: TBA
After six years away from the director’s chair (not counting the pilot episode of horror series Hemlock Grove), Eli Roth has returned to give us another dose of grisly violence and morbid humour.
A group of student activists travel to the Peruvian Amazon to highlight the ruthless and murderous activities of industrial companies and their armies of mercenaries. However, a plane crash on the way out leaves them stranded in the jungle and held prisoner by the very tribe they came to save. A tribe whose open attitude to roast meat puts all the survivors on the dinner menu.
You have to hand it to Roth, he’s found a concept he likes and has stuck with it: hot young things first travelling far outside their comfort zone of urban Americana and then revealed to be woefully unequipped to deal with the horrors that await them. However, instead of necrotisation by a flesh-eating virus or torture by psychotic millionaires, this time the terror comes courtesy of a lost tribe of jungle cannibals daubed in crimson bodypaint that clashes vibrantly with the verdant tropical foliage as they come swarming from the undergrowth like a colony of fire ants. Roth has never been the most subtle of filmmakers, and in the space of twenty minutes you’ll be able to list the order in which the characters will die, and that’s not including the half dozen or so redshirts brought along to make up the numbers. To quote the tagline of horror anthology Cradle of Fear, it’s not if they die, it’s how.
Unlike the pointed grotesquery of Cabin Fever or the gleeful sadism of Hostel, the visceral gore of The Green Inferno is all the more gruesome for it being so matter of fact. The tribe aren’t killing, cooking and eating people out of any perverse pleasure or desire to prove themselves, but merely because in the inhospitable terrain of the tropical jungle that’s how they survive. More often than not it’s the attitude of villains that breeds your hatred of them rather than their actions, and as the tribe aren’t truly villainous in the traditional sense of the word, to give us a figure upon whom to focus our contempt we instead have one of the activists gradually reveal just how large his ulterior motives are, as well as his sociopathic self-serving attitude. The tribespeople might be hacking people apart to eat, but he’s the one whose protracted and agonising death you’ll be clamouring for.
Surprisingly, the film is devoid of misogynistic sexual violence (sadly a consistent rarity in gorefest films), but there is eye-gouging, tongue-ripping, limb-hacking, head-severing, blood-drinking, corpse-roasting and flesh-eating, at one point all within the space of five minutes. Amongst other nasty moments we also get an obligatory Day of the Dead tribute shot and a particularly unpleasant tribal ritual that heroine Justine is threatened with, which is bluntly signposted earlier in the film but still makes you squirm at the thought of it being carried out.
With events like one survivor attempting to alleviate his stress by masturbating while still in the open and gore-strewn cage, some quite literal toilet humour, or an escape attempt involving stuffing a bag of marijuana down the throat of a deceased and soon to be eaten comrade to get all the natives stoned and harmless, its clear Roth’s time out from behind the camera hasn’t dulled his twisted love of dark comedy. He’s also ballsy enough about the film’s potential success to include a mid-credits sequel hook.
Predictably reminiscent of associated Italian exploitation flicks of the '70s and '80s such as Cannibal Ferox, Natura Contro (incidentally also known as The Green Inferno) and the notorious Cannibal Holocaust, The Green Inferno is Roth’s most technically accomplished film to date. Granted, he doesn’t have an especially extensive back catalogue from which you can draw a comparison, but his directorial skills are nevertheless noticeably on the rise. If you can believe it, he’s even developed a little restraint. Now hurry up and give us a feature length expansion of that Thanksgiving trailer!
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10
SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW OR ON TWITTER @STARBURST_MAG