Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Green Inferno: I wish a cannibal would eat Eli Roth

Director: Eli Roth

Cast: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Sky Ferreira

Universal / Region A / Rated R / 2.40:1 widescreen (1080p) / English DTS-HD master audio 5.1 / English, Spanish and French subtitles / 101 minutes

Extras: Feature Commentary with Co-Writer-Director-Producer Eli Roth, Producer Nicolas Lopez, and Stars Lorenza Izzo, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton, and Daryl Sabara / Photo Gallery


I know the title of this article would suggest otherwise, but I am actually a fan of Eli Roth. His gory visions of flesh-ravaging diseases in Cabin Fever and lexicon-changing Hostel ("torture porn") and its sequel are fantastic horror movies. They combine the slick look of Hollywood movies and the attitude and graphic violence of the retro genre movies Roth obviously loves. His fake trailer "Thanksgiving" for the Tarantino/Rodriguez co-directed Grindhouse was easily one of my favorites of the lot. He makes guest appearances in other Tarantino films. Acts in over-the-top, fun remakes like Piranha 3D. Has his hand in producing other horror-related movies and TV shows like "Hemlock Grove". All because the guy loves old-school horror and exploitation movies. But can having one foot in the often offensive world of exploitation films and one in Hollywood be a detriment to his art?

In 2012, Eli Roth announced the project at the Cannes Film Festival. The Green Inferno–a nod to the king of all cannibal movies, Cannibal Holocaust–would be shot in Peru and Chile and be co-written by Uruguayan director and screenwriter Guillermo Amoedo. It was supposed to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013 and make its wide theatrical run a year later but financial difficulties from the film's production company Worldview Entertainment would delay it until 2015 when Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures and High Top Releasing picked it up. This three year bump in the road would cool off the heat that Roth had generated and possibly gave people time to think about what he was trying to pull off. The opening weekend gross take was $3,520,626 domestically (1,540 screens)–making up just over half of the film's $6 million budget. Although it ended up making a small profit from its $7,192,291 total box office, it was a failure relative to his other films that were huge money makers.

Roth borrows enough of Ruggero Deodato and Gianfranco Clerici's plot of Cannibal Holocaust for the story of The Green Inferno that it could be considered a remake or at least a "re-imagining". It follows a group of clueless, entitled college kids who fancy themselves "activists". Lorenza Izzo (Mrs. Eli Roth) plays "Justine", one of those brats who decides to go on a trip to Peru with a group to help save a native tribe from an evil company destroying its land. The head of the troop, Alejandro, is a grade-a, self-important douchebag who takes advantage of the naive hipster-doofuses and talks them all into risking their lives "for the cause". Upon arrival and seeing how another country lives, the kids right away look down on the people there. But they finally make it to the construction site and stop the bulldozers (HUZZAH!) but on the way out of the Amazon, their plane crashes and they are quickly taken by the same natives that they are trying to "save". Like most cannibal movies we are familiar with, they are taken to the village, tortured, eaten and then there is some sort of escape. And this, being the homage that it is, the end scene back in NYC is taken right from one of the most notorious Italian cannibal films.

Honestly, the plot isn't really important here. We all know what to expect story-wise. Roth–like Deodato before him–injects social commentary into the basic "Americans go to jungle and get eaten by savages" storyline. These neo-hippies, nay hipsters, have no idea why they are helping anyone. They only know that their pretentiousness forces them to stand for something in order for them to have an identity. Who are these natives? Are they very different from us? "Who are the real monsters"? The annoying, unlikable characters and its narratives of The Green Inferno are not the problem, it's the movie's lack of ability to shock and offend due to its restraints shackled by Hollywood. You're not supposed to like the dumb Americans who think the rest of the world is like U.S. and we are superlative. The most important ingredient to the Italian cannibal movie cycle starting with Umberto Lenzi's Man From Deep River is that they are gritty, offensive and just fucking nasty. A muddy rape with a giant piece of wood! A full-on anal impalement with the pole exiting through the mouth! Real animal killings! Native woman titties!

The Green Inferno is none of that, though it does try... kinda. There are a couple of really great gore scenes with eyeballs gouged out and eaten, limbs hacked off and tongues ripped out. But it tries too hard to offend and fails miserably. Once they are captured and are locked away in a bamboo cage together, Alejandro decides to whip out his dick (not shown, duh) and whack off to relieve the stress of watching people being tortured, killed and eaten. One of the chicks (who cares which one)–who is also locked away in the bamboo cage with everyone else–has diarrhea and has to do it right there, so of course there are ridiculously comical farting sounds. Oh, so edgy! If I had just one complaint about Roth's overall filmography, it's the frat-boy, meat head comic mentality. It's not offensive, it's contrived and lame. And yes, it has some terrible CGI that takes you right out of the scene, most notably the ant torture scene. If you can't make it look realistic, find another way or just leave it out.

That line between classic exploitation grit and slick Hollywood pap is pretty wide. The in-between, much like the Amazonian jungle, is a treacherous place to be and Eli Roth's The Green Inferno is forever there in its own bamboo cage full of jerk-offs and diarrhea.

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