Cannibal films have always held a very special place in my heart. These sleazy, gory films always resonated with me and in the early 2000’s I made it a point to hunt down as many as possible. From the great (Cannibal Holocaust, Man From Deep River) to the nearly unwatchable (Mondo Cannibal, Zombie Holocaust), I enjoyed the hell out of them all. Each movie had its own strange charm, mixing old school adventure with extreme violence. I would spend my time and money tracking down any italian movie with the word “Cannibal” in its title and wait for whatever bad VHS rip to come in the mail. Each film had its own take, but they all shared a structure that felt like home. Each would present a situation to get people in the jungle, a reason they would be captured and (most importantly) a reason to be eaten.
The obtuse dubbing and paint-red blood only added to my newly found obsession. But, like all obsessions, you eventually drain the well. I checked out a handful of recent movies that attempted to mine these ideas, but most failed and just presented neutered interpretations of what we had seen many times before. It was only a matter of time before someone was going to do it right and luckily Eli Roth came along and fulfilled my hopes. I am happy to say that The Green Inferno is the real deal! His premise is familiar, but avoids being just a cash in on nostalgia. Mr. Roth contextualizes and updates the subject matter without losing the spirit of those early Italian films. Its not perfect, but neither are those classic Amazon flicks of the late seventies and early eighties.
The movie is set in the modern world of armchair activists and introduces us to Justine (Lorenza Izzo). She is a freshman in college who is looking for where she fits in the world and falls in with a group of activists with big plans. The group’s leader, played brilliantly by Ariel Levy, puts together a plan to go to Peru and defend an isolated tribe that is being threatened by oil companies. Once there, things go awry and the group eventually falls into the hands (and teeth) of brutal cannibals.
The standout of this movie is the unrelenting violence and I was surprised to see this kind of visceral action on a big screen. The kills are brutal and funny, hitting that sweet spot that avoids being too mean-spirited or ugly. The director is familiar enough with the genre to understand what makes it great. You have to be allowed to laugh when presented with such grim situations or it becomes a chore to watch. The gags are nihilistic, but in a way that feels therapeutic and liberating,
With all that said, I do have a couple small quibbles with Roth’s latest movie. The camera work (especially in the first act) is shaky and full of quick cuts that can be a little exhausting to watch. The biggest issue that I had was with some of the digital effects. The realism and complete immersion is interrupted a couple of times by terrible CGI that looks unpolished and sloppy. But like I said, its not perfect but it is a lot fun. I know the horror fanboys love to hate Eli Roth, but The Green Inferno should shut them up, at least for a while. Its been a long time since Hostel 2, but this one was worth the wait. It is currently available in wide release.