The Toronto International Film Festival is in full gear once again and one filmmaker that has earned plenty of frequent flyer points delivering shocks to the rabid fans over the past decade is Eli Roth. TIFF launched Cabin Fever, started the worldwide phenomenon that was Hostel, and helped give a boost to the Roth-Produced Aftershock, so the midnight crowd lined up for blocks to catch the very first glimpse of the Roth-directed jungle cannibal opus The Green Inferno.
It is hard to believe that it has been six years since Roth last directed a film – the 2006 sequel to Hostel. It is not as if Roth has been sitting around collecting profit percentages on his movies – in that time he has acted in major films (Deathproof, Inglorious Basterds), major disappointments (Piranha), and taken a number of turns as Producer (The Last Exorcism, Hemlock Grove). So the big question – after a lengthy hiatus as a director does Roth still have the ability to shock an audience – HELL YES!
As a kid growing up in the 80s on a steady diet of slasher films the cannibal movie was the stuff of legend – anyone that was able to find a copy of Cannibal Holocaust – usually some grainy copy of a copy – realized that this subgenre of horror made most 80s slasher fare seem like a Care Bears movie by comparison. One of the concerns I had going into this film was, given that the vast majority of movie-goers have never seen these films, this may just be a rehash of these old films for modern audiences. Roth – one of the most enthusiastic horror fans working in the genre today – manages to pay homage to these films while delivering his own unique and twisted vision of cannibal terror.
The Green Inferno follows a young university student named Justine who decides to join up with a group of activists to try and make a difference. This is a move motivated by guilt and peer pressure more than a desire to make sacrifices in her life in order to better the less fortunate of the world. After joining up with the activists she gets drawn in by the charismatic leader Alejandro and follows the group into the Peruvian amazon to stop a lost tribe of indigenous people from getting Avatar-ed for the natural gas deposit below their village. The group dress as workers and chain themselves to trees and equipment, armed with streaming cell phones, in order to shame the heavily armed mining company to stop bulldozing the jungle. After the group successfully drives away the workers, their plane crashes in the remote area near the tribe they are trying to save and the tribe is…less than appreciative.
The Green Inferno is an unrelentingly shocking assault on the senses with the most disturbing scenes of horror to be captured on film in almost two decades. This is not some sanitized version of the cannibal films of the 70s and 80s – this is an unblinking look at the most gruesomely violent deaths imaginable. In a post-Hostel and post-Saw world where audiences have become accustomed to levels of gore which were unimaginable in broadly released films even in the 80s heyday, this film takes horror to a level of shock never seen in a mainstream film. KNB provides the make-up effects and Roth really puts them through their paces with uber-realistic old school gore. If this movie is released in theaters in its current cut – which would be the biggest shock of all given how graphic it is – then they better hand out defibrillators with the popcorn!
The movie starts out slowly – and you need to be very patient. There is no typical big scare at the beginning, and Roth takes his time with the story. The pacing is deliberate, and Roth shows a masterful control of the camera with the first twenty minutes of the film looking as if it is some New York-based story about a University student coming of age. Once the plane goes down in the jungle, however, the camera work changes – as if a whole other film has started (and it has). From that moment forth the terror does not stop. Main characters are staked, decapitated, turned into ant-sicles, and are torn to shreds and consumed by the tribe (you may never eat pulled pork again). Being patient pays off, and the slow pace at the start actually makes the onslaught even more effective.
The cast – recycled from Aftershock are good, and Lorenza Izza is fantastic in the lead. The star of the film, of course, is Roth. The movie is expertly executed and Roth does not let up during the most vicious scenes as the audience is forced to witness the brutality just like the characters being held captive in the film. His directing style has improved with each film – hopefully we do not have to wait another six years for him to return to directing. Roth announced that a sequel to the film, Beyond The Green Inferno has already received the green light with Nicolas Lopez at the helm.
This is a must see for any horror fan and I guarantee anyone who sees this film will be shocked. Hopefully the MPAA does not treat this film like one of the cannibal victims and tear it to shreds before it can be released in theaters!