Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Green Inferno (Review) - The Not So Italian Cannibal Movie You Should See

I have watched all the major Italian Cannibal movies. I state this because as a person who is a fan of that particular genre, I would want someone who has seen a majority of the Italian Cannibal movies to tell me if The Green Inferno is any good. Full disclaimer: I am a fan of the films of Eli Roth whether he has directed, written, produced or acted in them. I do not hate modern Horror. I do not think Horror is dead, and in general I try to keep a positive mind set about new releases. These are the things you know about me. You know that I’m fairly open minded, that I enjoy practical effects over computer generated effects. You also know that I like to be challenged by movies but that I am a strong believer in being entertained by Horror movies. That means I want to laugh a little. I want to get my mind dirty. I want to feel a thrill or two. I like balance. That’s enough about me. Let’s talk about The Green Inferno, Eli Roth’s new cannibal picture.

Green Inferno is not Italian. It is an homage and a tribute in part to the older films, but it is also a Roth picture. It opens in New York City as most great Italian Cannibal pictures do. It features folks going into the jungle to do something and ultimately they meet up with the legendary cannibals that always seem to be the thing of pure myth. It is brutal. It is violent. It features some nudity though perhaps not as sensual as some of the Italian pictures of the 70’s and 80’s. In the Italian pictures there’s always a guide who seems like he knows what the fuck is going on even when he doesn’t or when life takes the guide out of the equation. There are good guys and bad guys. Cannibals, good and bad and maybe even the question of morality or good and evil when it comes to cannibals in this particular cannibal film is so subjective that an American audience would root against the cannibals on a purely ethno-centric basis. There are little bits and pieces of Italian Cannibal films in Roth’s vision, but really, this is an Eli Roth movie and it is a cannibal movie and it is not a rip off of the greats. It’s not a rip off of Cannibal Holocaust or Cannibal Ferox. It doesn’t pretend to reinvent the genre. It simply plays in the same space as the Italian Cannibal flicks. Sure we have what might be construed as a Giovani Lombardo Radice doppelganger, but I that may be purely coincidental.

Where does it truly shine? Roth’s movies love to develop characters both good and evil and then provide twists and arcs that bend and sometimes break the audience. Never is that more present in Green Inferno where nearly a third of the movie is spent developing characters and conceptions of the Western world. That’s a pretty uncommon trait for movies from the Italian cycle. It’s important. Roth did it in the original Hostel to great effect, taking a full half of the movie to show us who WE are before sending us to slaughter. The same goes for Green Inferno. The mirror is pointed at us. We are those characters you dislike in the movie in part or as a whole. The evolution of characters throughout Green Inferno creates a story that guides you through some messy bits and inspire that brilliant sense of cheering that is ever so important in a Horror picture. I always tell you that you have to have a distinct good guy and a distinct bad guy. Someone to root for; someone to root against; someone to want to see get their just deserts. You have that with Green Inferno. You know who your chief good people are, and your bad Westerners. Then X factor is the cannibals and their ever evolving roles. That’s part of the mind bender and why Green Inferno works in a different way than the Italian Cannibal films that were exploitation films first and foremost. Green Inferno is not an exploitation picture.

Now that we’ve got all the heady shit out of the way, let’s talk about the juicy bits. The special effects team with Greg Nicotero in tow create magical gore. The insides of bodies are impeccable and tactile. It’s just gross, and most likely this will be the kind of thing that keeps away the normal folks while enticing the gorehounds to challenge themselves. The only issue I see with that is that quite a few gorehounds hold strict adherence to the older Italian cycle. They can’t let go of Cannibal Holocaust or Ferox or they find Green Inferno to be a threat. To those folks I tell you the exciting use of splatter and gore and specialized jungle torture is a great reason to see it even if you want to trash the rest of the movie for not being a cookie cutter homage to Deodato or Lenzi or Martino. As a gore fiend myself, I found this quite delightful, feeling enjoyably queasy while wishing I had a nice piece of rare meat for the viewing.

Green Inferno has a strong cast. Everyone acts well and Roth gets the maximum effort out of everyone on the screen. It was striking to be so unfamiliar with the cast in a modern Horror movie. My hope is to see them all again soon. I’d like to enjoy them more. When we finally see a making of featurette on a Blu-ray release, we will understand just what this extraordinary cast went through to create this picture in Peru. Until then we just know that they must truly love being covered in gallons of the red stuff. I kept thinking that I knew all of these people at some point in my life. I’ve known the types, the things they say. The first half of the movie was identifying who they were in my life as I went through my own “save the world” phase. They are as scary as you see them on screen. They are us.

Sit through the credits because you just might see something interesting. I won’t say what. As I sat there waiting for Easter Eggs (which is imperative these days) I was happy to see an abbreviated bibliography of Italian Cannibal movies listed out for the audiences education. This is how you know Roth is a good Horror fan and a man who wants you to understand better his movie. Seek them out. All of them are available on DVD or Blu-ray. Also, you’ll notice a few choice “thank you’s” that are moderately humorous. Perhaps the most striking thing about sitting the credits was seeing the copyright date as 2013. You remember that it hit festivals; that it had limited screening. You remember when it DIDN’T come out last year and the road to get here tonight in the theater. It’s been a long one. Over two years in the can and we are just now seeing a movie that will be as powerful with each viewing as it was with the first.

If I had to find a fault with the movie it would be that I wasn’t keen on the music. Perhaps I too am a movie snob who was looking forward to a new wave band riffing on Riz Ortolani. The score is ultra modern/tribal and while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t my preference. There was however a song at the very end of the credit sequence that I simply must own, will own and can’t wait to jam to as I’m rocking a workout. It sort of reminded me of the Mad Max Fury Road score which I enjoy… for Mad Max.

My recommendation for Green Inferno is to see it, but see it cautiously. While Roth celebrates animals rather than killing them on screen as was common in the Italian era, the gore is very graphic. I recommend it to all Horror fans who enjoy a test, fans of Eli Roth, folks who like the original cannibal cycle and remember that there was another movie called the Green Inferno before Eli Roth’s Green Inferno BUT not those ladies and gentlemen who KNOW that they don’t like it already. You can stay at home and not watch a great movie. That’s most certainly a stab. This is not a rip off of any Italian Cannibal movie, but I’m certain there is a small faction of Horror fans waiting to say it is regardless of the merits of that assertion. I don’t mean to get all negative at the end of this positive review, so I’ll stop there.

Green Inferno is in theaters now. Support it in the theater. Support it when it hits physical media. Get ready to remember why Eli Roth was a founding member of the unofficial ghoul group, the Splat Pack again.

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