Monday, December 17, 2018

THE GREEN INFERNO (2013) movie review

The Green Inferno (2013) d. Eli Roth (USA)

Eager to “do something worthwhile,” college freshman Justine (Lorenza Izzo) joins an on-campus activist organization led by the charismatic Alejandro (Ariel Levy). Despite protestations from her politico dad (Richard Burgi) and apathetic roommate (Sky Ferreria), she travels with the group to the Peruvian Amazon to prevent the decimation of the rainforest and the extermination of the indigenous Yajes tribe by money-grubbing developers. Their efforts are seemingly successful, but on the return home their small aircraft suffers a mechanical failure; the ensuing crash leaves several dead and wounded. Worse yet, they are stranded among a particularly nasty group of natives who are hungry for justice and, well, just hungry….

Ugh. I don’t really want to spend any more time on Mr. Roth’s self-described “love letter to the Italian cannibal movies of the 1980s” than I have to, but I feel compelled to say a few things, having finally, grudgingly gotten around to seeing it. 1) Roth does not wink or comment on the subgenre; he simply seems to be (pointlessly and belatedly) adding his own chapter to the list, which is his prerogative, I suppose, except 2) this is/was 2013 and in this day and age do we really need to be perpetuating the mythology of non-white “savages” killing and eating human flesh just because it’s a shocking concept?

The film is surprisingly bold-faced in its racism on this subject – even Cannibal Holocaust was smart enough to cover its exploitation tracks by showing “the real cannibals” to be the whites invading the tribe’s terrain and committing crimes against the locals. Roth merely says, “Hey, these brown people eat human flesh, especially white meat – skeery, huh?” with nothing more to add to the conversation. It’s the same kind of tone-deaf fanboy attitude that has marked much of his work, and I’m sure his defenders will do just that (“It’s just a movie, man!”), but for my money it’s the wrong message for our times.

If Roth had been clever enough to connect the Yajes’ brutality with a desire to punish the interlopers for destroying their way of life, he could at least have had his cake and eaten it too. Instead, it’s just another day in the jungle and that’s the problem.

Predictably, with Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero at the helm, the gore effects are effective and gruesome. Equally predictable, Roth’s characters are laughably one-dimensional and the dialogue painful and trite. (Credit should be given to Izzo for her fully invested and heroic attempts to create something more than the standard victim role, especially since she isn’t given much to work with.) The sumptuous cinematography by Antonio Quercia provides a lush green backdrop for the frequent bloodletting, although whoever created the ultra-fakey digital army ants that march all over one victim’s face deserves a good spanking.

The director’s ham-fisted attempts at reverse social commentary, making the student activists’ efforts futile and/or mere virtue-signaling, add a deeper, even more troubling cynicism to the proceedings. It’s less of the ironic adage “no good deed goes unpunished,” but rather “these idealistic and privileged do-gooders had it coming.” This cold-blooded sentiment, coming from a supremely privileged white male who has been riding the success of his first two films for over a decade now, is grosser than any onscreen splatter he and producer Jason Blum can dish out.


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