Film Review: The Green InfernoUndigested cannibal yarn for Midnight Madness audiences is politically challenged but will scare.
An Amazonian cannibal yarn tipping its hat to the 1980 cult classic Cannibal Holocaust by Italian director Ruggero Deodato, but showing little sign of understanding of that film’s journey into the heart of darkness, The Green Inferno functions on the level of a scary if scatterbrained story whose wafting smell of baking flesh will draw Midnight Madness crowds. Eli Roth’s return to the director’s chair after Cabin Fever and Hostel 2 is a well-filmed R-rated scream-fest designed to satisfy viewers’ blood lust, though his childish determination to push the politically incorrect button as often and as hard as possible will dim the enthusiasm of a good number of college students who might otherwise have bought the DVD. Even before its bow at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, a sequel was announced in the offing, though Roth will not direct it.
Inferno’s first half-hour takes place on a posh university campus in New York, in a careful build-up that establishes the reason why a group of 15 students concerned about the destruction of the Amazon rainforest embarks on a mission to Peru to raise awareness about the plight of endangered Indian tribes.
On campus, the hunky, charismatic Alejandro (Ariel Levy) attracts the attention of Justine (Lorenza Izzo) when he stages a hunger strike for underpaid janitors. Despite the skepticism of her politically apathetic roommate (played with rolled eyes by Sky Ferreira), Justine buys into Alejandro’s next cause: to save the Amazon. Her father, a lawyer at the United Nations, disapproves but gives her the number of the U.S. ambassador to Peru, just in case. The film mercilessly mocks these rich students who embrace a faraway cause to satisfy their own vanity—not least the lovely, naive Justine whose own motivation seems to be her physical attraction to Alejandro.
Anyone who has seen the poster and buys a movie ticket will anxiously anticipate what happens next: a plane crash and a terrifying encounter with a savage Indian tribe who paint their skin red and practice cannibalism. How ironic, the very people the students have come to save, eating them alive. As for the bloody Amazonian part of the film, one can only recall the closing line of Cannibal Holocaust: "I wonder who the real cannibals are," and hope that the Indian actors here were paid union scale.
Izzo, who co-starred with Roth-the-actor in Aftershock, is a fine genre actress, standing out from a cast of blonde women with her naturalistic performance and signs of courage and initiative. As the group’s ambiguous political leader, Levy unapologetically strikes a Che Guevara pose, giving rise to the final lame gag. Along with Aaron Burns, who plays his comic sidekick with a crush on Justine, the main characters at least have personality traits. The Indians, of course, have no individuality because they have no "civilization."
Tech work is nothing fancy but generally to-the-point, with sweeping overhead shots of the rainforest (where it never rains) establishing the remote setting from which few return.