“It has been eight years since Eli Roth has released a movie. Sure, he’s worked on a bunch as a producer/actor/writer/etc during that time period, but Hostel II in 2007 was the last one that was his baby as a writer/director. Since my admiration/fascination/obsession with him only started in the past 5 years or so, Green Inferno would be the first one that I’d get to watch in the theater.
I was certainly more than prepared for this exciting event. Ya’ll might remember, three years back I blogged thru his previous films across his various job titles, and even included a list of films he once called out as favorites (hashtag Rothtober). In that list of Eli’s favorites was Cannibal Holocaust, which was his biggest influencer on Infero. Holocaust is about a group of anthropologists who go down to South America to find their missing colleagues who disappeared while filming a documentary about a native tribe. It doesn’t go well.
In The Green Inferno, a group of bright eyed idealistic college activists go down to South America to protest the deforestation that is occurring which threatens the lives and culture of the natives. On their way back, their plane crashes and they are taken captive by said natives. It doesn’t go well.
In my excitement, my brain has like 5 different directions in which it wants to go next. Let’s stick with the Cannibal Holocaust route. I don’t want to necessarily compare the two, but there is one point that I want to make, which is that both serve an underlyling purpose of providing social commentary. Holocaust posed the question of who really are the savages? Us or them? It also gave a pretty bold statement about sensationalism in film. Yes, I’m pretty much paraphrasing from my previous blog entry since much of the details are fuzzy. By contrast, Inferno was about this current trend of social activism, where you have people superficially supporting causes they don’t really care about to make themselves look good. Roth has explained that the idea was born out of Occupy Wall Street, and the various other hashtag based activism that followed. What happens when you realize exactly what it is you’re risking for a cause you’re not passionate about?
And that level of subtext is what I feel makes Roth stand out from other horror directors today. True, he’s the master of gore and creates scenes that give the audience a visceral reaction. But he pairs that reaction with a message, driving the point home further, even if you’re caught up in the blood and guts. Speaking of which, brilliantly executed effects as well. Old school practical effects made to catch you off your guard and terrify and/or disgust you. Horror god Stephen King has tweeted his enthusiasm and support for the film, saying that it brought him back to the cannibal movies he loved in his younger days. Because oh yes, it wasn’t just Holocaust, there were a whole bloody mess of them in the late 70s-early 80s.
But what would a movie about cannibals be without the natives themselves? For this film, which was primarily shot in Chile, Roth enlisted a tribe that, like the ones in the film, had been isolated from modern society. These inhabitants had never been photographed or filmed, so they didn’t even have the concept of film. In order to get them up to speed on the subject, they screened a movie before asking them to vote on their participation. Now, if you were to show a film to a group of people who had never seen one before, what would you pick? Probably something classic like The Godfather or Wizard of Oz, that is regarded as a timeless masterpiece and shows the beauty of the art. What movie were the villagers shown? Cannibal Holocaust. Of course.
Here’s the funny part, though. They thought it was a comedy. I’m sorry what?!They all enthusiastically agreed to participate, and they also saw Green Inferno as a comedy. Again what?!?! I actually tried to keep this in mind while I was watching Inferno, and I kinda get it. Much of comedy is based on absuridity. The thought than an idea is so unusual and unexpected that it comes off as humor. Think about Charlie Chaplin or the Looney Tunes getting into mischief. Especially here in Inferno, much of the gore is so over the top that it does bring a level of humor, even if you’re cowering into your hoodie. Not to mention the fact that subject matter you’re closer to tends to be funnier. It’s why I tend to find jokes that make fun of Hispanic culture (in a laughing with you not laughing at you way) to be funnier than those poking at other cultures that I’m less familiar with. For these guys, it was that extreme absurdity in their familiar environment.
Much fun was had by all. Roth has said that because they had no frame of reference for movies, they were some of the most natural and easy to work with actors he’s ever worked with. The children in particular were having a blast. He’s shared anecdotes about them playing with the prop limbs and coming to him with ideas (some of which made it into the film). I could see the joy on their faces, and nothing is creepier than happy kids doing something evil.
Blah blah blah, enough with the backstory and trivia and history, etc. How was it? Of course as a Roth groupie (Roth-head?) I loved it. He had a chance to show off what he does best and hasn’t had a chance to do for a while. So what if you’re not on my level of fandom? First off, don’t see this if you think you’re too squeamish to handle it. Secondly, I think there’s a certain brand of folk that enjoy these type of films, and for us, it’s fantastic. For the others, there isn’t likely to be a film in this genre good enough to convert you. It has strengths and weaknesses. The non-native cast, who were fantastic at being scared and emoting terror, were maybe not so good with the dialog that wasn’t given under duress. There were some stretches in the plot, and some events that tested the suspension of disbelief moreso than the bloodfest. However, it had the strengths where it mattered, standing out as a winner in the genre. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting a lil hungry over here….
The Green Inferno – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”