Sunday, 24 August 2014

[Frightfest - Review] The Green Inferno

Stars; Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns, Daryl Sabara
Director; Eli Roth
Writers; Eli Roth, Guillermo Amoedo
Running Time; 100 mins

UPDATE; The Green Inferno is now available in the UK on DVD, BLU-RAY and VOD

Idealistic suburban student activists travel to the Peruvian jungles in their fight to protect the land and its tribal inhabitants. After a successful campaign resulting in the cessation of mass deforestation the activists fly home only for their plane to crash in the jungle.The survivors are carted off by the indigenous natives where they quickly realise their fate is a culinary one.

Eli Roth's latest foray into the exploitation genre draws on what he has cited were some of his favourite films of the eighties; here it is the infamous and controversial Cannibal Holocaust although there is also some influence drawn from the equally infamous Cannibal Ferox. Both these films with their graphic depiction of frenzied primitives gorging on human body parts, horrific impalements and scenes of torture terrified cinema audiences who believed them to be genuine snuff movies. Roth's latest venture is less a homage but more of a worthy addition to the genre yet never purports to be anything other than a straight laced horror story.

The film spends what feels like half its running time scene setting and establishing characters, like an entre or starter before the much anticipated main course. Given the somewhat uncomfortable nature of cannibalism itself (let's face it most people squirm at the idea of someone feasting upon their person, literally) this probably isn't a bad thing. A slow build up in comfortable middle class setting before relocating to the  the Peruvian jungle where most of us look and feel out of place add to the discomfort. The knowledge that these well dressed, well to do idealists will have their world turned upside down, inside out and weird on top keeps the viewer gripped in anticipation of the inevitable.

There is a familiar theme here from Roth, similar to  "Hostel" also telling of young middle class Americans  venturing to foreign climes without considering the dangers that await them. Here this disdain is aimed at well to do student activists, portraying them as misguided, arrogant and na├»ve almost to the point you get the sense that their fate is a little deserved. Roth and his co-writer Guillermo Ameodo however are more scathing of the relentless uncaring corporations who tear through natures wonders under the protection of ruthless military-trained mercenaries. Only the jungle natives, even with their savage tendencies and gruesomely horrifying dietary preference invoke any kind of sympathy. Once the hotly anticipated scenes of cannibalism arrive it is clear that the audience should share sympathy for the natives (who mistake their captives for the people behind the destruction of their home) at the same time recoiling in revulsion at the activists' final fate.

As well as a taste and penchant for gut wrenching scenes of brutality and gore, Roth once again (as he did with "Hostel" and "Hostel II") gets tremendous performances from his young cast. Far from being consigned to just panicky screams, the players convincingly portray their survivor protagonists with a heady mix of genuine fear, disgust to sheer madness (one member using hand relief to alleviate stress). The script also taps into some of their worst fears come true and the players bring these fears to life with incredible emotion. The characters' reactions coupled with the macabre and at times nausea inducing scenes of body parts hacked, cooked and devoured make for uncomfortable viewing. If you are little squeamish you should steer clear. The inclusion of intermittent bouts of dark humour take some of the edge off the more horrific moments offering some chuckling respite leaving one repulsed yet entertained thus sealing Roth's reputation as one of the genre's revered film makers.

What is often overlooked but is more prevalent with "The Green Inferno" is Roth's talent as a visual film maker. The film features plenty of aerial shots of the luscious green foliage of the Peruvian jungle hence the title. The awe inspiring beauty of this luscious location captured on film quickly masks a dark and desolate land of uncontrollable fear and excruciating death. Roth has certainly crafted an engaging and unsettling film and whilst it does ask (and sometimes answers) some important ethical questions, it never detracts from the core purpose of the film to shock and entertain. Great British Menu will never seem the same again.

At the time of writing this review it was announced that distribution for The Green Inferno had been cancelled indefinitely putting the likelihood of a general cinema release in jeopardy. The reason for this is unknown but it is a shame since the scenery alone makes it a film worthy of big screen viewing.

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