The Green Inferno, the latest film from director Eli Roth, centres on a group of young student activists who decide to take action and travel from their comfortable life in New York City to the wilds of the Amazon jungle in order to save a tribe from being destroyed and bring their cause to worldwide attention. However, when leaving and having seemingly achieved their goal, their plane crashes and they find themselves stranded without means of communication to find help. Unfortunately for them they are captured by the very tribe they were trying to help, one that indulges in cannibalism as part of their ancient customs.
Roth’s latest spends a lot of time setting up the situation and doing a more than decent job of developing the characters before he unleashes bloody hell on them and, indeed, us as the audience. Some of the characters – played by the likes of Lorenzo Izzo, Ariel Levy and Daryl Sabara – are a little on the generic side and some are more sympathetic than others but they feel real and relatable so it’s not that big of a hindering issue. The film perhaps takes a little longer to get going than is probably needed – suffering from that most common of problems of 15-20 that would have been best left in the editing room – but once it does it’s insanely and gleefully graphic, delivering the sort of exploitation thrills fans of Roth and hardcore horror films want and expect.
It’s indeed a brutal watch that’s often tough to endure, most definitely not for those with a weak disposition and stomach. This is not the type of film to hint at the gruesome details and cut away at the last minute, something other safer horrors have been guilty of in order to obtain that wider audience-friendly age rating. This is helped by some truly terrific gore effects, entirely convincing on-screen and affecting because of the often matter-of-fact way the tribe go about their cannibalistic customs. Roth is obviously taking great pleasure in attempting to gross out his audience and while that can often lead to offense or disgust without substance or reason – indeed I have found that to be the case with some of his previous work, namely his two Hostel flicks – it seeks shock while making a point.
That point is multi-pronged, whether it be its exploration of cultural misunderstanding – taken to the extreme here by throwing privileged white Americans into the deep end with a polar opposite culture – or the idea of people projecting a helpfulness but being ill-equipped when it comes to actually doing something. Roth’s film skilfully approaches these and other subjects without hammering it home, never forgetting that at the end of the day this is an over-the-top horror movie that needs to deliver on that level most of all.
It’s hard not to watch Roth’s latest – and best – film without thinking of Cannibal Holocaust, the seminal horror that influenced so many films since including ushering in the over-used found-footage style. A lot of the imagery found here is practically lifted straight from that classic, chief among them the unforgettable sight of bodies spiked on poles through their mouth. But it comes across as a respectful homage rather than any sort of rip-off, particularly because it’s made by someone who knows and loves their horror movies and is doing his best here to provide that with as much kick as possible and just enough of a weighty message to make it mean something. Roth’s film is ultimately an entertaining, blissfully violent watch for those who like their horrors with a bite as bad as their bark.