Wednesday, October 7, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: The Green Inferno

The Green Inferno was written by Eli Roth and Guillermo Amoedo, and directed by Eli Roth.

Amoedo also wrote the screenplay for the 2012 disaster movie Aftershock, which coincidentally starred Eli Roth. This is the first film Roth's directed since 2007's Hostel Part II.

The film is a throwback to the notorious cannibal films of the late 1970s and early 1980s. If you like blood, gore and seeing people being eaten alive, then this is the genre for you. If not, then you might want to give this one a pass. This definitely would not be a good date movie.

Many of these cannibal films were banned in other countries, due to their shocking and stomach-churning content. The films generally followed the same basic template, as a group of Americans trespass in the Amazon and are captured, tortured and eaten by a tribe of bloodthirsty cannibals. In many of the films, the white characters start things off by raping and killing the natives, who kill and eat them in revenge.

Notable films in the cannibal genre are The Man From Deep River, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Eaten Alive!, The Mountain Of The Cannibal God and Last Cannibal World. Many seem to think The Green Inferno is a remake of Cannibal Holocaustbut it's actually quite different. Maybe the confusion lies in the fact that the plot of Holocaust features a "film within a film" titled The Green Inferno. Confusing!

Roth shot the film in the actual jungles of Peru, and used members of a real indigenous tribe. The tribe was so isolated that not only had they never seen a movie, they had no idea of the concept. In order to help them understand, Roth screened a movie for them. The film he chose? Cannibal Holocaust. That seems like a very, very bad idea.

Supposedly the natives enjoyed the film, and according to Roth, "thought it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen." They then gave permission for filming to commence on their territory.

Despite the jungle setting, this is pretty much a slasher movie. They just substituted cannibalistic natives for a machete-wielding serial killer. There's even a Final Girl, just like in every slasher film ever made.

The film was scheduled to be released in 2013, but was pushed back to September 2014. It was then pulled a month before its intended release, which caused many fans to believe the delays were due to its horrific subject matter (which helped generate interest in the movie). The real reason for the delay was much more mundane— the film's production company, Worldview Entertainment, ran into financial difficulties. It was finally released in September 2015.

DELICIOUS, FLESH-MUNCHING SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
A young, idealistic college freshman named Justine (no last names, please) becomes enamored with an older student named Alehandro, the resident campus social activist. He expertly manipulates Justine into joining his cause to save the Amazon rain forest. Alejandro plans to use video cameras and social media to stop a logging company from clear cutting thousands of acres and killing the native tribes.

Justine and several other students join Alejandro's group and fly to Peru. During the flight, Jonah, another of Alejandro's followers, makes a clumsy pass at Justine. The group is met in Peru by a drug dealer named Carlos, who transports them deep into the rain forest. Once there, they chain themselves to the logging equipment and film the crew— and the soldiers who protect them— with their cell phones. They manage to stop the logging operation as their footage goes viral around the world.

On the way back, Alejandro and the others are congratulating themselves on a job well done. Just then their plane conveniently malfunctions and crashes in the middle of the rain forest, killing several of the group. The survivors are then captured by a native tribe, knocked out with tranquilizing blow darts and taken back to their village.

Justine, Alejandro, Lars, Samantha, Daniel, Amy and Jonah awaken a few hours later inside a bamboo cage. The Female Elder of the tribe gives Jonah a drink, which he assumes is some sort of medicine. Suddenly the tribesmen hold Jonah down, as the Female Elder gouges out both his eyes and eats them. Fun! She then cuts out his tongue and eats it as well. A bald tribesmen then hacks off all of Jonah's limbs (while he's still alive yet) in front of the horrified students. Jonah's then decapitated, and several women of the tribe stuff his torso into a stone oven, cooking him.

Justine and the others realize the tribe are cannibals, who think they're part of the logging company that's destroying their jungle. They try to escape, but are blow-darted by an alert guard perched on top of their cage. The female students are examined, and it's determined that Justine is the only virgin, which is apparently a big deal to the tribe. She's given a special marking on her forehead.

Justine manages to make friends with a boy from the tribe, playing a tune for him on the tiny flute charm that hangs from her necklace. Alejandro admits that the whole "saving the tribe thing was a ruse," and he was paid to disrupt the deforestation operation by Carlos, who owns his own competing logging company.

Later Samantha manages to escape the cage. A few days later the tribe gives the captives food, and they realize they're eating the remains of the apparently recaptured Samantha. Yum! Amy is so horrified by this that she smashes her clay bowl and uses an apparently very sharp shard to slit her own throat.

This gives the others an idea. They stuff Amy's body with a bag of marijuana (courtesy of Lars), hoping that when the tribe eats her they'll all get high. Amazingly this ridiculous sitcom-like plan works, and the entire tribe start acting like rejects from Reefer Madness. Justine and Daniel escape and return to the site of the plane crash, but are recaptured. Lars also attempt to flee, but is caught and eaten alive by the members of the tribe, who of course now have the munchies (Really! That's not me making a joke, it really happens).

The tribe then tortures Daniel by staking him over an ant hill. Justine is prepared for a traditional genital mutilation ceremony. Just as she's about to be cut, the tribe hears logging equipment approaching. The Female Elder orders the entire tribe into the jungle to attack the loggers, which is an incredibly lucky break for Justine. The friendly native boy unties her and helps her escape. Alejandro sees Justine escaping and pleads for help. She turns her back on him and leaves him.

Justine flees through the jungle and sees the loggers, armed with machine guns, mowing down the cannibals. She waves a broken cell phone in the air to convince them she's not from the tribe and is rescued.

Back in New York, she tells U.N. representatives that she was the only survivor of the plane crash and that the tribe gave her aid and led her out of the jungle. In a mid-credits scene, Justine is contacted by Alejandro's sister, who thinks he may still be alive.

Thoughts:
• Lead actress and Final Girl Lorenza Izo is director Eli Roth's real life wife. They wed a year or so after the film was completed, which means Roth fell for Izo while drenching her in fake blood and gore. I'm sure they'll have many years of happiness together.

• There's some very clumsy foreshadowing near the beginning of the film when Justine attends a lecture on the practice of female genital circumcision in indigenous tribes. Gosh, I'm sure that incongruous bit of info won't become important later on now, will it?

Oddly enough after the professor finishes up the genital mutilation topic, she starts talking about the "ant problem." More ham-handed foreshadowing! By the way, what possible class would ever combine those two topics?

• Daryl Sabara plays Lars, and is likely the only person in this film you've ever heard of. Believe it or not, Sabara played Juni Cortez in the Spy Kids films!

• There's a conspicuous lack of nudity in the film, on the part of the students and natives alike. Even when Justine and the other female students are stripped down and examined by the Tribal Elder, the camera coyly frames their faces only. There are a few very brief flashes of nudity here and there, but the film as a whole is oddly chaste. There's more nudity on display each week on Game Of Thrones.

Such modestly definitely seems odd and out of place in the case of the natives, who you'd think would have no problem prancing around completely nude.

I suppose this is a sign of our strangely skewed times. Dismemberment and beheadings are just fine, but god forbid the audience sees a naked tit.

• For a film about bloodthirsty cannibals, there's really not a lot of blood and gore here. Definitely not as much as I was expecting. Jonah's demise is pretty graphic and grisly, but once we get past that, the film is oddly free of gore. I've seen more shocking carnage on TV on The Walking Dead.

The only reason these cannibal films exist is to shock and sicken the audience, so I expected more from a known gore-meister like Eli Roth. I'm wondering if there's a more graphic unrated cut floating around somewhere?

• Even the most gruesome horror film needs a some comedy to help relieve the tension a bit. Unfortunately this has always been a problem for Eli Roth, as his comedy bits are always horribly integrated and seem like they were spliced in from a completely different movie, which completely destroys the tone. See Roth's Cabin Fever for some particularly egregious examples of this.

Roth includes several of his patented out-of-place comedy scenes in this film as well. As the students are held captive and being eaten one by one, Amy has a massive attack of irritable bowel syndrome and defecates noisily in the corner of their cage. Hilarious! A bit later the other students are horrified when Alejandro begins masturbating in front of them, saying he's "trying to relieve the tension so he can think clearly." Side splitting!

The worst of these comedy bits has to be the "natives getting high" scene. After Amy kills herself, the other students stuff a small bag of pot down her throat, hoping that when the natives cook and eat her, they'll get high. And that's exactly what happens. Somehow this tiny, one ounce bag of pot manages to knock an entire village on their collective asses. This bizarre, cartoonish scene took me right out of the movie.

The natives all begin laughing and whooping it up in an over the top and exaggerated manner, acting the way someone who's never been been high probably thinks it feels.

It was definitely the low point of the film. Maybe Roth should leave the comedy to the comedians and concentrate on the gore.

• Shortly after they're captured, Justine makes friends with a cannibal boy by showing him the tiny flute charm on her necklace. If you didn't think the boy would end up helping her escape later on, then you've never seen a movie before.

• At the end of the film, Justine is back in New York, giving a deposition to several U.N. representatives. She says she witnessed no cannibalism and the natives rescued and helped her.

I don't quite understand why she's protecting her captors here. The only explanation I can come up with is that she wanted to save the tribe and make sure her fellow students didn't die in vain. Personally I wouldn't have been as magnanimous. I'd have been leading the charge to firebomb them back to hell.

• The film ends by clumsily setting up a sequel that I doubt will ever happen.

The Green Inferno is a love letter to cannibal genre of the 70s and 80s, but feels restrained and doesn't go nearly as far as those early films did. If you're gonna make a cannibal film, then you need to go all the way. It deserves a C, but I'm going to bump it up a bit just because I appreciate the fact that a grindhouse movie like this slipped into mainstream cineplexes and give it a B-.

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