(US/Chile - 2015)
Directed by Eli Roth. Written by Eli Roth and Guillermo Amoedo. Cast: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Sky Ferreira, Richard Burgi, Aaron Burns, Magda Apanowicz, Ignacia Allamand, Nicolas Martinez, Matias Lopez, Ramon Llao, Antonieta Pari, Eusebio Arenas. (R, 100 mins)
For being as ubiquitous a cult horror figure as he is, Eli Roth's filmography has been surprisingly sparse. THE GREEN INFERNO is just his fourth feature film as a director, arriving eight years after his last, 2007's HOSTEL PART II, though he's produced and "presented" several others and co-starred as Sgt. Donny "The Bear Jew" Donowitz in buddy Quentin Tarantino's INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (2009). Part of the delay was beyond Roth's control: filmed back-to-back with AFTERSHOCK (co-written by and starring Roth, and utilizing most of the same cast and crew) in 2012 and shown at festivals in 2013, THE GREEN INFERNO saw its September 2014 release abruptly cancelled by Open Road Films. They sold it to High Top Films and Blumhouse offshoot BH Tilt, who have finally gotten it into theaters three years after it was completed, still sporting a 2013 copyright. A longtime pet project of Roth's, the film is homage to the most vile of Italian horror subgenres, the cannibal film, itself an offshoot of the 1960s mondo craze. The Italian cannibal film was born with Umberto Lenzi's 1972 adventure MAN FROM DEEP RIVER, a more violent ripoff of the 1970 Richard Harris hit A MAN CALLED HORSE. There were other cannibal films that followed--Ruggero Deodato's THE LAST CANNIBAL WORLD, aka JUNGLE HOLOCAUST (1977) and Sergio Martino's foul MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (1978), but it really exploded with Deodato's groundbreaking, found-footage-inspiring CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980), and consecutive Lenzi assaults, EATEN ALIVE (1980) and CANNIBAL FEROX, aka MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY (1981). The latter three, in particular, took the cannibal subgenre as far as it could go and even today, remain so extreme in their content that they still shock and repulse even the most jaded of uninitiated present-day gorehounds raised on post-SAW torture porn and hipster snark. I attended a midnight showing of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST about 11 or 12 years ago and the packed theater was ready for a good time. They wasted no time talking back to the screen, making fun of the dubbing, and mimicking one particularly cheesy synth cue in Riz Ortolani's score. Around 25 minutes in, something happened that quieted down the audience. The discomfort escalated over the next half hour. By the one hour mark, many were leaving. When the closing credits rolled, those who remained exited the theater in traumatized silence. 35 years after it was made, the snark-proof CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST still separates the players from the poseurs in horror fandom, and approaching it with a derisive MST3K attitude won't cushion the blow. You don't just watch CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. You survive it.
image of final girl Lorraine De Selle in CANNIBAL FEROX; and the closing credits feature a list of recommended Italian cannibal movies and end with a "Per Ruggero" dedication to the still very-much-alive Deodato, clearly a huge influence on the director (he also gave Deodato a cameo as "The Italian Cannibal" in HOSTEL PART II). But Roth also can't resist the temptation to play to the lowest common denominator, with comedic detours into a grossout humor involving vomit and diarrhea and a Scooby-Doo plan of stashing a bag of weed into the corpse of a soon-to-be-eaten character in order to make the natives high and allow the heroes to escape. That one character even derisively refers to it as "a Scooby-Doo plan" doesn't get Roth off the hook, nor does the resulting attack of the munchies that thwarts the escape when the buzzed tribesmen start chowing down on one guy like he's a bag of Funyuns.
|Original 2014 poster art when the film was still being handled by Open Road|