Ginger Nuts of Horror
If there was ever a movie we were going to review at some stage, particularly one from recent years, then this was going to be it. Eli Roth's homage to the Italian cannibal movie was remarkably made as far back as 2013, but financial difficulties for the distributors delayed a wider release until 2015, with the DVD only hitting this year. But what did happen in this time was a great deal of controversy and notoriety around the movie, developing what might have been a beneficial buzz as hardcore horror fans waited and waited for Roth's latest offering. I became aware of the film long before it came out – with a trailer that I thought was pretty effective – and finally got to watch the movie on demand. I must admit, I was pretty excited – to see something this extreme eventually land a mainstream release I took as an encouraging sign for my chosen subgenre of horror. Roth is a director whose work has never completely won me over, in all honesty, but I was more than willing to put that behind me given what I hoped this movie would be.
We open the movie with our lead, Justine, watching a group of activists outside her University dorm, a group she'll eventually become heavily involved with. Led by the charismatic Alejandro, this group of socially-motivated individuals decide to gather together for a sponsored trip to Peru in order to protest against the destruction of the rainforest. Justine is in part motivated by an initial crush on Alejandro, with his protective girlfriend Kara constantly having an eye on the scenario. She has to rather talk her way onto the party, after an initial faux pas, but before you know it there are ten or twelve keen students on their way to try and make the world a better place. It's a jaunt sponsored by a wealthy friend of Alejandro's, Carlos, who funds their journey there and all the equipment they need. In a tense scene, they blow up a couple of bulldozers and chain themselves to the trees, all the while filming to try and get 'their message' out to the world. Dragged away by the police and pushed onto a plane, presumably back to a mainstream airport, the group are flushed with success and celebrate as their efforts gain worldwide media attention.
Well, of course, that's where it all takes a hideous turn for the worse as their plane encounters propellor problems and crashes into the middle of the Peruvian rainforest. Some of their number die in the crash, and the survivors emerge bloodied and wounded with no idea of what to do. The decision is taken out of their hands, however, as a group of tribesmen emerge from the trees, shooting arrows and blowdarts with unerring accuracy into their midst. And it might just be the case that the lucky ones got the arrows...
Because what follows from there is an unremitting nightmare, as our intrepid young activists are spirited away to the tribal village, placed into a wooden cage and subjected to the threat – and in turn realities – of cannibalism and female genital mutilation. The first victim is taken almost immediately, with his eyes and tongue removed by the tribal leader before the hideous black-painted executioner cuts one limb off after another. The group have to debate whether to escape, or wait for rescue, and begin to fall apart to varying degrees under the horrors they are presented with.
That's all I'm going to say plot-wise, and I feel like it's a good idea to discuss what's good and bad about this one. On the upside, there are some fabulous scenes – the moment they first arrive in the cannibal village and are surrounded by the tribespeople is a wonderful, swirling vortex of madness. The horror also comes not only from the violence but also from the fact that what comes after the violence is presented – the victims of the tribe are cooked, the preparation of the meat shown in an unflinching manner.
Unfortunately it's about there where the good points of The Green Inferno end, because this one is absolutely loaded with many of the fundamental problems that, for me, inhabit far too much modern Hollywood horror. First off, the cast of characters are laughably stereotypical – the naïve good girl Justine, the charming but scheming Alejandro, the bumbling fat guy Jonah, the stressed-out, nervous girl whose name never quite sank in with me and many more besides. On top of that, these are characters that it is impossible to care about in the least. For some reason, many horror directors – Roth chief among them – seem to struggle with the core concept of (or maybe even need for?) characterisation. If you want to present me with a series of hideous, awful events, then it'll all be a lot more effective if I could muster the slightest iota of sympathy or liking for them. The impact of everything is dampened by the fact that there was nobody you could really root for amongst the large cast.
What else is there here that doesn't work? There are attempts at humour in a few places, none of which work, all of them feeling forced and actively moronic. One of the character dies after sneaking some wood into the firepit when one of the group is cooked and dies when the cannibals get 'the munchies' and decide to eat him – it's a simply deplorable scene that is an insult to the intelligence of any viewer. And then you factor in the shock value and disturbingness of this film, which was made so much of prior to release – the old classic story of people fainting and being rushed out of screenings lurking around beforehand – which honestly was really disappointing. True, it has a few moments, but honestly there's nothing much here that you won't have seen in other places if you're any kind of extreme horror fan. There's a fair share of blood and dismemberment, but scenes which were so much hyped like 'the ant ordeal' are simply lousy – dreadfully CGI-ed ants crawling over somebody screaming at the top of their voice. It falls a long way short of its reputation, and I can only assume that's because it's a Hollywood movie – yes, if you're a mainstream horror viewer, this could be among the most shocking movies you've seen. If you've watched any of the movies we've reviewed over the last year or so, there won't be anything here you haven't seen before – and probably seen done better on much lower budgets.
Ultimately, I came through the other side of The Green Inferno with a sense of disappointment the likes of which I haven't felt since emerging from the cinema after It Follows. Calling this a homage to the Italian cannibal movie is an insult to that venerable old tradition, which at the time was fresh and edgy – this is tired, cliché and lazy filmmaking that I don't think will satisfy either traditional horror viewers or serious gorehounds. And, if you want to get your cannibal fix, you'd probably be better going back to Cannibal Holocaust or Cannibal Ferox than this more modern offering. This one really didn't go down very well, and left an unpleasant taste in my mouth for a nauseating 3/10.
Come on in, the water's revolting...
Film Gutter Volume 1 is the full collection of 2015 reviews and interviews from Ginger Nuts of Horror's popular Film Gutter series, looking at some of the most bizarre, grotesque and disturbing horror features ever made. With over 50 movie reviews plus interviews with directors and actors including Tom Six, Dieter Laser, Matthew A Brown Jimmy Weber and Phil Stevens. Film Gutter Volume 1 also takes in a host of exclusive content, including the much-requested 'most disturbing movies' list!
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