Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Green Inferno

Eli Roth's reputation precedes him—I think a lot of people have heard of him or have seen him in the handful of movies he has been in—but I’m not sure if it really is for his role as a film director. Certainly, I’ve enjoyed some of his films and have found them interesting if not entertaining.  Whatever the populace knows him best for, I definitely know him for the film that invented the description, “torture porn,” and solidified it as part of the film subgenre vernacular—Hostel.

Not only did that film inadvertently conceive that category, but it also made me never want to travel to a foreign country…ever again.

During many interviews I’ve seen Eli Roth take part in, he usually mentions a movie that he’s very fond of and has said it’s one of his favorites, and that film is Cannibal Holocaust.

As a full disclosure, I will say that I will never watch that 1980 film by director Ruggero Deodato.  I’ve heard enough film talk and discussion about that film to know of its storied history and controversy, mainly about the filmed deaths of animals.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that people hunt and that animals are put down every day for human consumption.  I can’t sit here and say that I’m a vegetarian in any respect of the word.  So I won’t protest if animals are humanely killed for those purposes.  But for someone to go out and have animals killed for entertainment purposes, as Mr. Deodato had done for his film, there’s no way I can condone that.  If it were the case of an actual tribe killing for a ritual, as what was captured during the filming of Apocalypse Now, I can understand it but not like it (I was caught off-guard when viewing that and I don’t think I can watch that film again).  From what I’d heard, the scenes filmed in Cannibal Holocaust took a toll on some of the cast and I can understand that.  It just repulses me to think that the director giddily came up with those ideas to slaughter animals for his entertainment.

With that said, it kind of bothers me that Eli Roth cites that film as his favorite.  So much so, that you can see this film, The Green Inferno, as sort of a love letter to that 1980 Italian horror film.

Let me break this down with the help from the IMDb.com synopsis.

College schoolgirl, Justine (Lorenza Izzo), joins a group of student activists, led by Alejandro (Ariel Levy), and travel to the Amazon to attempt a protest to save the rain forest from destruction.  Soon, they discover that they are not alone and that no good deed goes unpunished.

As this movie began, I couldn’t help but notice the few instances of foreshadowing. As our main protagonist is sitting in class and watching the Amazonian tribe’s ritual that is done to the women, I just knew that we were going to see it—or the threat of it—later in the film.  Also, there was a plot point given to us as Justine’s dad, Charles (Richard Burgi), asks about her necklace which had happened to be made by her grandmother before being given to her.  It’s given so much attention as if Eli Roth was screaming to us, “Hey, pay attention!  This necklace is going to be a huge plot point later in the film!”  And it seemed quite forced as to how the necklace is used later that I don’t know if I’d call it a payoff near the end.

Definitely deserving to be the star of the movie is Lorenza Izzo.  She was certainly the best actor in the flick and held her own quite well, even as she was involved in some uncomfortable situations.  I really can’t say there was any type of connection or chemistry with the other cast members, because they all seemed pretty wooden next to her.  I’d say that probably her roommate, Kaycee (Sky Ferreira), was a little interesting, but she grew very annoying as she was featured throughout.  She was just so one-dimensional as an mad-at-the-world youth and I couldn’t see how these two became friends, even if it was because they had ended up roommates in their dormitory.

As some may predict, there were some situations during the film that were just plain hard to watch and without getting into spoilers (but we all know that this film involves a group of people being captured by cannibals), I’ll just say that the first instance had my finger hovering over the stop button on my remote.  Knowing that there was quite a bit of time left in the movie by this point, I didn’t want to subject myself to another hour of scenes like that.

I don’t know if certain scenes were intentionally set to be funny or ridiculous, but whether they were or not, they just didn’t belong and should’ve been left on the cutting room floor.  As serious a tone as this film was set, you’ve got a girl who gets dysentery and takes a watery shit in front of her fellow prisoners; the leader of the group decides to jerk off to relieve the stress of the situation they’re in; and they come up with a ridiculous plan of getting the tribe high so that an escape can be attempted. All these scenes comes across as ludicrous and laugh-inducing. It may have been intentionally directed as such by Roth, but I think this movie should’ve kept the serious tone throughout.

One aspect of the credits piqued my curiosity, as a lot of the cast and crew had their Twitter handles alongside their names.  I guess if you’re happy/unhappy with the film, you can contact each individual to convey your thoughts on it.  Regardless, that was pretty cool to see.

And speaking of the credits, there was a mid-credits scene that was mildly interesting.  I guess watching all the Marvel Comics movies has trained me to stay in my seat when credits roll, figuring that something may show in between or at the very end.  So that’s what I’d done when watching The Green Inferno.  Even though I was in the comfort of my own home, I sat there as the credits started and noticed something halfway through that would indicate we may see a possible sequel in the future.  I don’t know if that’ll happen—my guess is that it won’t—but I thought it was interesting nonetheless and kind of ties up a loose end at the end of the movie.

As a director, Eli Roth shows some pros and cons.  He definitely knows what he wants when he begins a project, as he shows us that he wanted a group of people stranded in the Amazon and has them caught and eaten by cannibals.  But how he gets them there and their actions during their capture is strange and sometimes boring.  Some of the dialogue is off—and I don’t know if I can blame Roth or the actors—and, at times, there really is no believability behind their words.

Before getting into my final "bit" about the film, I've got to give big props to Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger for their work on the practical special effects.  Though it added to the uncomfortable feeling I had during the first kill, the realism they're able to show, aided with the editing of the film, worked so well in this movie.  Nicotero and Berger are old school special effects artists and deserve a lot of praise, being in the business since the early 80s.  Working on such classics as Day of the Dead, Evil Dead II, Creepshow 2...these guys are idols in the industry.

So, my final “bit” on The Green Inferno is that the movie didn’t really accomplish anything but to take us on a ride to see some violent gore, some unrealistic situations, and some unfunny moments that were supposed to be comical or amusing instances that were not supposed to be funny.  At first, I’d thought Roth was trying to convey a message to save the rain forest, but then there’s a line that’s uttered about how the whole protest they’d staged was to help out another company get the contract to take over the demolishing.  So, I’d mentioned about the mid-credits scene and showing us that a sequel may be possible, but I’ve got issues about the ending that we see before the credits roll.  I don’t quite understand the thinking of it and can’t really get into without spoiling aspects of the movie.

Taking all that into consideration, should you see this film?  Hmmm…well, it keeps your interest and if you’re a horror gore-hound, you may like this film very much.  Can I recommend this to the average movie-goer?  No.  Is this a good divingboard movie to get a normie to start watching horror movies?  No.  The Green Inferno is clearly for Eli Roth fans and not much more.  Watch at your own risk…and well after or before you have something to eat.

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