With his newest film, The Green Inferno, horror’s current “IT” boy Eli Roth tackles the cannibal sub-genre and delivers what is quite possibly his bloodiest film yet. Premiering during the Midnight Madness portion of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, this dark, disturbing and at times shocking tale pays homage to genre classics like Cannibal Holocaust while still crafting its own identity, one that firmly places it amongst the horror greats of 2013.
To set things up, Roth introduces us to a group of one-dimensional characters in the form of university students who are part of an activist committee that plans to head into a Peruvian rainforest in hopes of stopping a jungle from being demolished. The plan works, surprisingly, but on the way home their plane crashes into the jungle and the young activists are taken captive by a native tribe that lives there. From there, we dive head first into the cannibal flick that we’ve all been waiting for.
As is to be expected, the story here isn’t terribly engaging. In fact, Roth drags his set-up on for far too long. If he had given us the plane crash scene about fifteen minutes earlier, it would have made a noticeable difference in the film’s pace. Instead, he drags out this plotline about the activists as if the audience actually cares when in reality, we’re just here for the horror, a fact that Roth is surely aware of. To stretch out an already thin plot is something that I can’t comprehend why the director would do. Unfortunately, it does knock the film down a bit as we wait for what feels like literally forever for the carnage to begin.
That being said, once the plane does crash and the horror begins, The Green Inferno becomes f**king insane. This is Roth’s most violent and over-the-top film yet. It doesn’t quite have the same authenticity to it as say a Ruggero Deodato film does, thus making the violence less effective, but for this day and age, The Green Inferno is abhorrently graphic. I mean, this is pure NC-17 violence and I cannot see the film entering theatres with anything less than that rating.
Not that I’m complaining. When I go to see an Eli Roth film, I go to see the stupid amounts of blood and gore, and this film delivers on both in spades. Seriously, some of the stuff that Roth depicts here is downright gruesome and even for a seasoned horror vet like myself, I found the violence to be very distressing and uncomfortable.
And it’s not only the gore and blood that defies expectations. Roth brings us a real element of horror as well as some of the scenes are incredibly tense and frightening, even without painting the screen red. Furthermore, the sense of terror isn’t always from what we’re seeing, sometimes it’s what we’re hearing. There’s some incredible sound design at play here and what we hear is sometimes more terrifying than what we see. That’s not to say what’s shown is lacking. The guys at KNB EFX provide some incredibly real looking effects that really do impress and coupled with the sound design, it makes for some truly horrific scenes.
Also present is an unmistakable political commentary from the director, which isn’t too hard to find if you look deep enough. It’s not heavy-handed, not by any means, but it’s there and it does give the film another layer aside from just all the violence.
Giving the film yet another layer is the humor, although unfortunately, it does more harm than it does good, as Roth’s signature brand of juvenile laughter is present throughout. When it pops up once the violence gets going, it’s just more of a jarring tonal shift than anything else. A film like Cannibal Holocaust is so effective because it never let up. Roth’s film wants to scare us, but when the director inserts silly gags or lame attempts at humor, it kind of breaks the tension and discomfort that the violence scenes that preceded it built up.
The Green Inferno marks Roth’s first feature film since 2007’s Hostel: Part II and though it isn’t perfect, he slides smoothly back into the director’s chair, delivering what just might be his best film yet. It shows a definite progress in his filmmaking and marks his triumphant return to directing. A thin plot and some cringe-worthy dialogue make for a rough start but once the madness ensues, horror fans will find themselves on cloud nine. This is easily the director’s most accomplished work and will undoubtedly stand as a favorite for fans of the genre for years to come. It may not disturb as much as Cannibal Holocaust, and it may not be as convincing either, but it’s visceral, unsettling and completely insane at times.
As a horror fan, what more can you ask for?