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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Cannibal DVD Of The Week: The Green Inferno (2013)


Talking of films that have been hyped up too much before you got to see them with an open mind, Eli Roth's long-awaited cannibal flick The Green Inferno crash-landed on my doorstep this week.

What could possibly go wrong? Eli Roth has been very vocal about his love of the OTT Italian cannibal genre and he's not exactly renowned for his restraint when it comes to gruesome horror movies, so I had high hopes for a gory thrill-ride here.

Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed during the interminable opening act, set largely on an American college campus, primarily because of the almost universally painful standard of acting.

Outside of the main character, Justine (Lorenza Izzo), and her father (Richard Burgi), I was pretty much wishing everyone straight into the cannibals' cooking pot the moment they opened their mouths.

The story revolves around a group of student activists travelling to the Amazon jungle to protest the uprooting of indigenous tribes by heartless mining companies, only for their plane to crash on the return journey, and the activists be captured - and eaten - by the natives they were trying to protect.

The film is 100 minutes long and it's 40 minutes before the terrifyingly realistic plane crash that maroons the students in the jungle.

Yes, there's some political satire sown in through the protest leader's less-than-honourable motivation for the expedition, and there's the ridiculousness of the activists getting into a potentially life-threatening situation that they hadn't fully researched (many treating it like an adventure holiday), but I'm sure there would have been ways to trim this first act down to five or ten minutes.

Let's be clear here: anyone watching this is watching it because it's a cannibal film, pure and simple. And that's what they want to see.

But when it comes to the gore there are two main issues: the first is that most of the 'shocking' moments were given away in the trailers before the film (eventually) hit cinemas last year; and the second is that goremeister Roth opts for a lot of suggested horror and off-camera nastiness. Now this has its place in subtle, atmospheric, creepy horror movies, but not in an Eli Freakin' Roth cannibal film!

It's rather unfortunate that Roth tried to make a love letter to the mondo exploitation movies he loves so much, but was unable - or unwilling - to go that extra mile and create something that was genuinely shocking and horrific.

Accentuating the film's unevenness are moments of near-infantile black comedy (for instance, one victim gets the squits, which her captors all chuckle about, but then - not that I'm in any way a coprophile - there's no evidence of this in any of her later scenes, even though there aren't exactly four-star cleaning facilities available) and a sign-posted cheesy twist that leads to Justine's escape (the moment her dad mentions her special necklace in one of the opening scenes you kind of know it's going to play a crucial role in the film!).

The film is also cut strangely, in some ways removing a lot of the tension and threat, and while the activists are supposed to be portrayed as vacuous 'social justice warriors' - who just want to be seen to be protesting - the fact that most are two-dimensional and interchangeable makes it very difficult to care if they are in danger.

Except for Justine and Alejandro (Ariel Levy), the protest organiser, I couldn't tell you the names of any of the other activists, they were all so bland and homogenous.

The best performances in The Green Inferno came from the Peruvian natives who played the cannibals. They, at least, were clearly having fun and getting into the spirit of things.

There's even, during the closing credits, a final scene clearly - and optimistically - setting up a possible sequel, but I really can't see that coming off on the strength of this.

The Green Inferno certainly had promise as a high-octane 'escaping the cannibal tribesmen' adventure movie, but as with the gore that's served up here, the best iteration of the film is in the mind of the viewer before he sees what's actually being offered.

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