The Green Inferno (***)
Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed by Eli Roth
Starring – Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton and Magda Apanowicz
ELI Roth’s latest feature, his first directorial offering in nearly seven years, is a wonderfully blood-soaked love letter to Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust. Dripping with nostalgia for the Italian filmmaker’s seminal ‘video-nasty’, The Green Inferno is a low-budget horror feature that delivers on the gore front, but is let down by its weak, predictable screenplay.
This is Roth’s first time behind the camera since Hostel Part II, having largely worked more recently as a screenwriter and producer on projects such as The Man with the Iron Fists and The Last Exorcism for the past few years. He’s a director very much at home within the horror genre so it’s great to see him returning to the director’s chair once again, The Green Inferno mightn’t be perfect, but it’s probably his best since 2002’s Cabin Fever.
Shot on location in Peru the film’s plot sees a group of idealistic student activists traveling from New York City to the Amazon in an attempt to protect an endangered tribe from extinction. When their plane home crashes into the jungle they find themselves taken hostage by the very same natives they had come to protect.
In a similar vein to his Hostel movies Roth places naïve Americans front and centre of his feature, wandering into a situation they don’t fully understand and have no real apprehension for. Speaking during a Q&A session at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival the director described the film as a send up of the ‘twitter-cause’ generation, who blindly support online causes and campaigns without ever truly understanding them.
Chilean actress Lorenza Izzo does her best in the film’s leading role, giving a strong performance as the film’s central heroine Justine, but the rest of the film’s cast are left as little more than meat for the fodder. Their characters either extremely unlikable or terribly uninteresting, many viewers just won’t care who lives and who dies by the end.
The costumes and makeup for the natives are simply fantastic as they look truly terrifying and ghastly, Antonieta Pari’s character in particular is wonderfully hideous as the tribe’s sinister leader. The decision to shoot on location is also a real masterstroke by the director, the Peruvian Amazon makes a stunning backdrop for this low-budget shlockfest.
Sadly though the film’s biggest downfall is its wafer-thin screenplay, filled with clunky dialogue, weak characterization and predictable plot twists. Throughout the film there are notable tonal shifts as it lurches from an outright gore fest to a pusdeo-teen comedy, with gags about masturbation and stoned cannibals terribly out of place considering what’s going on throughout the rest of the feature.
In the film’s defence as so many filmmakers nowadays use more and more CGI within their films it’s great to see a director who’s still comfortable using old-fashioned practical horror effects. Roth does so to stomach churning effect within the film, with one scene in particular near the film’s finale that will surely leave many female viewers squirming uncomfortably in their seats.
Despite treading a fine line in being nostalgic for Deodato’s seminal video nasty and not descending into an outright remake in all but name there’s still enough going on within Roth’s feature to keep hardened horror genre fans entertained. Yes admittedly it’s flawed, but Lorenza Izzo looks like a promising new talent and the over-the-top old-school effects add some much needed shock value to proceedings.
This mightn’t be the triumphant return to the director’s chair for Roth that some might have hoped for, it’s still great to see him back working behind the camera again. Thankfully viewers won’t have to wait another seven years for his next directorial offering with his next feature, Knock Knock already in post-production.
Review by William McClean